The state of Oklahoma faces a different kind of chicken fight

Tuesday, January 18th 2005, 10:38 am
By: News On 6

Just when you thought they'd made chicken fighting illegal in Oklahoma, there is a good sized one developing between chicken producers and the state.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells says the group "Save the Illinois River" has joined in.

This chicken fight isn't so much about the chickens, but what the chickens leave behind. In the interest of good taste we'll call it chicken litter. Run off from too much litter affects the good taste of our drinking water in Oklahoma, and beyond that it can affect the health of those who drink it.

The folks from the group "Save the Illinois River" say the run off is adversely affecting the health of our scenic rivers and lakes. Gerald Hilsher with Save the Illinois River: "Too much litter too much phosphorous too much runoff of phosphorous into the creeks that lead to the rivers that lead to the lakes."

He says the phosphorus leads to too much algae and that eventually could ruin the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. For the past year the state and the poultry industry have talked about how to deal with the problem, but the talks have broken off and Attorney General Drew Edmondson told the News on 6 last week it may all end up in court.

The Farm Bureau has begun a series of ads attacking the Attorney General's position, claiming a forced settlement will cost Oklahoma farmer jobs. Steve Kouplen with the Farm Bureau: "There always a possibility of them pulling up stakes and no longer contracting with these growers, when they do that their income is basically gone."

Gerald Hilsher: "I think it's a money issue and not a jobs issue.” Cleaning up the chicken litter or processing it differently will be expensive, but Hilsher says the pollution in our scenic waterways is getting worse. "It's spreading chicken litter on fields in over abundant amounts that's caused the problem.”

Many fear it will take an expensive, time consuming legal battle to resolve it. The Attorney General says it's not too late for a negotiated settlement but the next step really belongs to the poultry industry.