PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As a corporation works to build poultry farms and bring millions of chickens to the Scio-Stayton area near Salem, residents and farmers are making their voices heard that they don’t want them anywhere near their land.
On one side, neighbors say that one of their biggest worries about poultry farms is the impact on nearby water systems, but a local business getting in on the industry says it has little-to-no environmental impact. However, resident concerns stretch well beyond that.
From smells to waste, residents from Scio to Stayton and Aumsville to Jefferson say the last neighbors they want to see move in are poultry farms and the millions of chickens that will come with them.
“There’s a lot of question marks here,” said Roger Porter, a fifth-generation resident. “Now they’re going to put this there and impact all these relatives and family and friends around the area.”
Around 50 area residents showed up in support of Farmers Against Foster Farms in a meeting and presentation at the Stayton Community Center. They also had the opportunity to learn more about Foster Farms’ three proposed locations in the area in Scio and Aumsville and what the potential impact could be, especially with waterways and natural habitats nearby.
Craig Watts is a former contract chicken farmer. He Zoomed in from North Carolina with his own experience, eventually becoming a whistleblower for the poultry industry.
“They own every part of it. They own the feed mill, they own the trucking, they own the processing plant, they own the hatchery. But they don’t own the farms that actually raise the birds. That’s a red flag,” said Watts. “There’s a reason for that and it’s because there’s no money in it. They found it was much cheaper to talk a farmer into it and to get that farmer deep in debt, then they’ve got that farmer under their thumb.”
Still, some locals are getting in on the action. Eric Simon is the owner and operator of J-S Ranch, a facility that would contract with Foster Farms at a proposed location near Jefferson and Scio. He says it’ll be a boost to the community with jobs. In response to environmental concerns, he says they will be 100% export with no pollution and will produce and store manure and fertilizer inside. Pending final permits, they hope to begin construction by late May.
Another proposal would contract through Eugene-based Hiday Poultry Farms in Aumsville. It’s a project close to home for Roger Porter, a fifth-generation resident whose family moved here in the 1840s, recently selling around 80 acres to the poultry farm.
“I feel like we didn’t really know what was going on in there,” said Porter. “I’m sure it goes under the radar.”
With concerns for family and friends, he plans to continue the fight to lawmakers and beyond. “I need to speak up for them,” said Porter.
When KOIN 6 talked to Foster Farms in 2021, the Northwest Chicken Council responded on their behalf, saying these growers are often family farmers and small business owners who care about their birds and communities. KOIN 6 News did reach out again to Foster Farms for an updated comment but has not yet heard back.