Poultry litter case turns focus to application of fertilizer

by Bryan Salvage
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TULSA, OKLA. – Oklahoma state agencies are taking opposing positions about the use of poultry litter as fertilizer in the million-acre Illinois River watershed, according to 13 Arkansas poultry companies. The companies made their argument to a federal appeals court that is weighing whether the waste should be banned as a public hazard from being spread on farmlands in the eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas watershed, according to The Associated Press.

The new filing at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver claims some state agencies approve of spreading chicken and turkey waste at the same time that Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson wants it stopped, the Tulsa World further reported from Denver in its Friday editions.

Tyson Foods, Cargill Turkey Production and George's Farms are among the poultry companies and their filing is in response to arguments Mr. Edmondson and Secretary of the Environment J.D. Strong submitted to the court in December.

Representatives for the poultry companies are asking the court to affirm a September ruling that denied a request for a preliminary order barring the companies from spreading the litter, which is manure and bedding materials. Mr. Edmondson and Mr. Strong are appealing the ruling of U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in which he denied the issuance of a preliminary injunction they sought. In the companies' argument about purportedly conflicting positions, the firms stated that the litter is being applied as fertilizer consistent with regulations set by both states.

Although Mr. Edmondson and Mr. Strong "allege a burgeoning public health crisis in the [watershed], the state of Oklahoma actively promotes the [watershed] as a pristine watershed and a premiere outdoor vacation destination," the companies said. "Water quality in the Illinois River watershed is similar to water quality statewide, including areas where there are no poultry," the poultry companies added.

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