OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Representatives of nine poultry companies will meet with Attorney General Drew Edmondson in two weeks to try to avoid a lawsuit over water quality issues that have fouled Oklahoma lakes and streams.
Edmondson said he will meet with the companies in Tulsa beginning on June 7. He said the meetings will be mediated by Judge Thomas Brett, a retired federal district judge in Tulsa.
The attorney general has threatened to sue the poultry industry over the use of poultry litter in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas watersheds.
Edmondson has been negotiating with Arkansas-based poultry companies for three years. He has alleged that Oklahoma lakes and streams are deteriorating because of runoff from excess chicken litter applied as fertilizer on land, giving the water a foul taste and smell.
Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune and other northeastern Oklahoma officials have expressed support for Edmondson, who canceled meetings with poultry producers in January and accused them and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau of collaborating in an advertising campaign against his office.
The Farm Bureau then backed legislation that would have restricted the attorney general's ability to file lawsuits. The measure was approved by the Oklahoma House but died in a Senate committee.
The attorney general said there was ``an absolute connection'' between the legislation and his threat to sue poultry producers. The Farm Bureau said the measure would stop Edmondson from using lawsuits to set public policy.
Edmondson said he received a letter from poultry producers in April reiterating their interest in negotiations. The letter said some producers were partnering with other companies to convert litter and other poultry byproducts into a commercial fertilizer and to produce energy.
The attorney general said the upcoming negotiations will be conducted in closed meetings and that both sides will sign a confidentiality agreement. All public statements will be jointly approved.
Companies involved in the talks are Aviagen, Inc., Cargill Turkey Products, LLC., Cobb-Vantress, Inc., George's, Inc., OK Farms, Inc., Peterson Farms, Inc., Simmons Foods, Inc., Tyson Foods, Inc., and Willowbrooks Farms, Inc.