The fight over the chicken factory near Fort White continues. The Gainesville Sun has an article by Cindy Swirko Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. OSFR has spent many hours exposing the incompetency of the several agencies which should have acted on this project, but which failed the community and its springs and rivers.
Opponents hang hopes on future hearing over chicken farm
By Cindy Swirko
Published: Saturday, December 26, 2015 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 26, 2015 at 6:00 p.m.
Opponents of a proposed chicken farm near Fort White now have a sliver of hope, after state officials agreed to hear arguments about whether the operation’s permit should be revoked.
At issue is a Suwannee River Water Management District permit issued to the owners of JTC Farm, who are already building a sizable chicken farm near the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers in southern Columbia County.
The decision to hold an administrative hearing is a preliminary victory for opponents of JTC Farm. They fear manure and other waste from the operation will pollute the aquifer, springs and rivers. A hearing date has not been set.
“The residents, the citizens, do not want this chicken factory here,” said Betsy Thomason of Fort White, who filed a petition requesting the hearing. “The main reason is environmental. This is just not a good place to have it because of the springs and the aquifer. We are in a really important environmental area.”
SRWMD issued a permit that covers construction issues such as the setback between buildings and wetlands. It requires that “Activities shall be conducted in a manner that does not cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards.”
Thomason contends in her petition to the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings that the permit should be revoked on several grounds.
For instance, Thomason contends JTC Farm did not disclose the full scope of work that will be done at the farm and all information regarding environmental and geological features of the property.
Thomason also contends the criteria needed for permitting under the Florida Administrative Code were not met.
Opponents believe permit conditions have been violated by work being done at the site including contouring, grading and changing the elevations of the property, which were not disclosed in the permit.
It’s also claimed JTC Farm has violated Florida law regarding protection of gopher tortoises.
In addition to environmental concerns, opponents fear the farm’s impact on traffic and property values.
Work crews for JTC Farm, a company owned by Land O’ Lakes residents Larry Huynh and Terry Nguyen, have begun construction along Wilson Springs Road just outside Fort White and within a few miles of the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee rivers.
Twelve chicken houses are planned, each expected to hold some 22,000 to 26,000 birds.
Up to 312,000 chickens will be on the site at any time, raised to a weight of 5.5 to 6 pounds and then sold to Pilgrim’s Pride, the second-largest chicken producer in the world.
The chicken farm is expected to house five to six flocks annually, so more than 1.8 million chickens could pass through the operation each year.
For each flock, each chicken house is expected to produce 15 tons of “litter” — poultry lingo for the mix of chicken waste, feathers and soiled or fallen bedding.