Broiler chickens operation puts Linn Co farmers in action

Oregon

The owner of the possible operation is waiting to hear back from state officials

SCIO, Ore. (KOIN) — Christina Eastman looks out to her 160-acre farm in Scio, south of Salem, and points out the North Santiam River that runs behind her property while her other hand motions next door.

Christina Eastman points towards a property next to hers in Scio, south of Salem. A possible poultry operation could open up next door. (KOIN)

Eastman, 56, is a part of group of farmers protesting a possible poultry operation called J-S Ranch, which would sit adjacent to her property. The possible operation has ties to a big-name poultry company that works with local farmers — Foster Farms.

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, J-S Ranch plans to raise up to 580,000 broiler chickens and produce approximately more than 4,000 tons of manure per year.

“Stayton is going to smell horrible,” said Eastman. “Scio is going to smell horrible. It’s going to be horrible for everybody.”

Eastman and others created a website to protest the facility. She said they have distributed about 400 signs in the community.

Eric Simon, the owner and operator of J-S Ranch, confirmed to KOIN 6 News that his locally owned facility would contract with Foster Farms. He described the property as “isolated.”

“We have a good clean operation,” Simon said. “It’s a dry operation. It’s 100% export, so we’re not going to be polluting the area.”

The farmers protesting Simon’s operation are concerned about how close the facility would be to the North Santiam River.

A map showing how close the North Santiam River is to J-S Ranch and Eastman’s property. (KOIN)

KOIN 6 News reached out to California-based Foster Farms for comment. The Northwest Chicken Council responded on the company’s behalf.

“Chicken contract growers are family farmers and small business owners who have often grown chickens for generations,” said Ali McIntyre, the council’s executive director. “They care about their birds, their communities and producing locally grown affordable food.”

Simon’s application with the state dated in August 2020 indicated that the wastewater will be added to the manure of the chicken to promote composting. The composting will take place in closed buildings and then sold as organic soil fertilizers.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture partners with other state agencies to review the application to make sure manure doesn’t pollute ground and surface water.

Simon’s permit will only be approved once the public has an opportunity to be heard, according to the ODA. There has yet to be a public comment period for the facility.

The North Santiam River located behind Christina Eastman’s property. Eastman and other farmers are concerned about a chicken operation possibly opening up in the area.

“We’re not going to pollute their area – their community. I’m a local person,” he said. “I grew up in Albany. I live in Brownsville for the last 20 years. We’ve been doing this for a long time. We know what we’re up against.”

Andrea Cantu-Schomus, spokesperson for the ODA, said J-S Ranch also submitted a land use compatibility statement signed by a Linn County planning official.

LUCS is used to determine what permits are needed from the state’s agricultural department and other approvals that impact land use.

KOIN 6 News also reached out to the Linn County Board of Commissioners for comment. Commissioner Will Tucker said that the board can’t get in the middle of it because they might have a future land use issue hearing regarding the property.

For Eastman, she wants people to get involved in the process sooner rather than later.

“Let the people know that this is what’s happening and you gotta look into it. You gotta write some letters,” she said. “Each of us has a responsibility to keep these people out.”

With plans up in the air for the facility, both parties hope to have their voices heard.

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