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Ag board bans poultry expansion on flood plains


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State agricultural officials have enacted an emergency rule aimed at preventing a group from building chicken houses on a flood plain.

The state Board of Agriculture unanimously passed the rule Friday prohibiting registered poultry feeding operations from building within a 100-year flood plain or within 300 feet of state waters.

The rule is aimed at preventing Simmons Foods' planned construction of 90 proposed chicken houses on a floodplain in Narcissa.

Prosper Farms, Simmons' local contractor, said it did not intend to build on a floodplain. Prosper Farms said earlier this week it may scale back operations to include fewer chicken houses.

Agriculture Secretary Dennis Howard said maps obtained from a rural water district in Ottawa County showed 20 of the poultry houses were to be built on a floodplain.

Howard said Gov. Frank Keating has instructed the board to do everything possible to protect the waters of eastern Oklahoma.

Residents in the area are concerned about water and air pollution from the poultry operation.

Prosper Farms' original proposal called for 90 barns on 490 acres. The $17.1 million operation would produce 1.9 million chickens every six weeks.

Howard expressed concern the proposed poultry operation would be ``vertically integrated,'' meaning chickens would be raised and processed from start to finish with no participation by contract farmers.

He said the majority of the poultry houses in Oklahoma are operated by contract farmers who supply chickens to food companies.

Howard said many of the contract farmers are concerned that vertically integrated operations will put them out of business.
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