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Ag Board toughens poultry requirements


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ New regulations approved by the state Board of Agriculture would require that poultry houses not be allowed within a half-mile of an occupied home, unless the home is owned or leased by the poultry company.

At its meeting Thursday, the board adopted new rules for poultry farms' registration, building and waste disposal.

Gov. Frank Keating and the board ``felt new rules were necessary to determine when poultry can be raised in a confined environment and where poultry litter can be applied,'' said Michelle Sutton, administrator of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Poultry Program.

``We want development, but we also want to our drinking water to be safe,'' Sutton said.

One restriction approved Thursday would force companies to get the Agriculture Board's approval to build 15 or more chicken houses or keep a minimum of 300,000 birds.

The rules will become effective on an emergency basis immediately if Keating approves. It will be up to the Legislature to decide whether the rules should become permanent. That process will include public hearings.

The proposed rules are designed to deal with the issue of water quality by restricting where poultry litter may be applied to the land as fertilizer.

The idea is to try to keep the chicken houses far enough from homes to cut down on odor and to keep runoff from chicken litter from getting into waterways.

``Chicken houses are not the problem,'' said board member Virgil Jurgensmeyer of Miami. ``Too heavy a concentration of houses or houses located in the wrong areas are the reason they are viewed negatively by the detractors of the industry.''

About 2,750 chicken houses are in Oklahoma, mainly in McCurtain County and along the state's northeastern fringe. The chicken houses have been blamed for damaging water quality. In December, the city of Tulsa sued six chicken companies and demanded a cleanup of city water sources.

Last month, plans to build a large confined poultry feeding operation near Miami were dropped after area residents protested. The proposal prompted the Board of Agriculture to ban such construction in flood plains and within 300 feet of bodies of water.

Among the new regulations awaiting Keating's approval, no poultry house may be located within:

_ One-quarter mile from any real property boundary line.

_ One mile beyond the outside boundary of any area or facility owned or operated as a camp or recreational site by a nonprofit group.

_ One mile of a state park or resort or national park.

_ One mile of the incorporated limits of any city.

_ 300 feet of a public drinking water well.

No poultry litter may be applied on land within 300 feet of a drinking water well or a designated scenic river area.
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