LINCOLN, Neb. – A coalition of community and environmental groups have launched a petition calling for a moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in Nebraska.

The petition is a response to Costco and it’s Lincoln Premium Poultry business in Fremont, Nebraska, which includes a 75,000-sq.-ft. hatchery, a 250,000-sq.-ft. processing facility, a feed mill and other improvements. Costco is partnering with poultry growers to supply chickens to the Fremont plant, and it’s the prospect of hundreds more poultry barns that has raised concerns in the local community.

The petition states, “Costco’s CAFOs are taking over Eastern Nebraska and changing our way of life. Costco created Lincoln Premium Poultry to build 520 massive barns to supply poultry for its processing facility in Fremont, with each barn holding as many as 47,500 birds per flock, up to six flocks per year. The companies claim to be committed to Nebraska farmers, yet an out-of-state investor has applied to construct ¼ of the required chicken houses. Furthermore, Governor Ricketts has already announced the next mega-Costco project for Central Nebraska. We need to address this statewide issue before it gets further out of the public’s control.”

Jessica Kolterman, a spokeswoman for Lincoln Premium Poultry, said in a statement, “It’s unfortunate that people not familiar with large scale food production have developed fears related to our industry.

“We will continue to educate the public about our farmer partners and our new facility. That’s one of the reasons we have built a viewing corridor in our plant and a viewing room at one of the family operations. We’re hopeful that education can help bridge the gap between agriculture and rural and suburban areas.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Dept. of Agriculture, also issued a statement that blamed out-of-state anti-agriculture groups for organizing opposition to CAFOs while expressing support for agriculture in the state.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Nebraska’s economy, and it is extremely disheartening to learn that there are groups of citizens in our own state that are working to essentially eliminate the livestock industry,” Wellman said. “As the director of the Nebraska Dept. of Agriculture, I strongly support all aspects of Nebraska agriculture and the farmers and ranchers that work tirelessly contributing to Nebraska’s economic well-being through livestock production.

“CAFOs are well thought out and planned operations across Nebraska with plans that work to address environmental impacts, nutrient management and animal health to efficiently deliver a high quality, safe food supply.”