A pair of Kansas legislators are introducing bills that would allow protest petitions and public votes in communities where large-scale poultry processing operations.
The legislative effort follows a situation in 2017 when Tyson Foods announced that it would build a poultry complex in the Leavenworth County community of Tonganoxie. The project was eventually pulled amid public opposition and withdrawn support from local governmental groups.
Sen. Tom Holland, a member of the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, has already proposed such a bill in the Senate, while Rep. Jim Karleskint has revealed plans to introduce a similar bill in the House. Holland, a Democrat, and Karleskint, a Republican, both represent districts that include Tonganoxie.
Karleskint told the Lawrence Journal-World that the bills are not intended to block future poultry projects, but only to give local communities more input in whether they can go forward with plans for such operations.
Kansas already has similar laws for large-scale swine and dairy operations. But there is currently no provision for protest petitions and public votes to approve large-scale poultry facilities.
Holland and Karleskint were among the Kansas legislators to host a public forum seeking citizen feedback about the proposed Tyson complex in in Tonganoxie. Following that forum, Holland, Karleskint and Rep. Willie Dove promised attendees that they would work to prevent the project from becoming a reality.
Tyson Foods eventually chose to build the complex – which is to include a poultry processing plant, feed mill and hatchery -- in Humboldt, Tennessee. That complex is expected to begin operations in late 2019.
Tyson has also revealed that it intends to seek other places to build new complexes.
Two Kansas counties with an interest of becoming the home to a poultry complex have worked with the Kansas Department of Agriculture for proposals to present to Tyson Foods. Those counties are Cloud and Montgomery.