Federal judge grants Oklahoma additional time to reach agreement with poultry growers

A broiler hen sips water inside a chicken house owned by Gene Pharr in Lincoln, Ark., in this photo from Thursday, June 23, 2005.
A broiler hen sips water inside a chicken house owned by Gene Pharr in Lincoln, Ark., in this photo from Thursday, June 23, 2005.
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A federal judge has agreed to extend the length of time Oklahoma has to reach an agreement with 11 poultry companies and subsidiaries over damages they caused to the state's scenic watersheds.

On Friday, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said U.S. District Court Judge Gregory K. Frizzell agreed with his request to extend negotiations for 90 days.

Frizzell previously had told Oklahoma and the defendants to have an agreement before him by March 17. Without one, the judge indicated he would craft and order his own remedies to address the issue.

"We have had lengthy and productive discussions with the poultry companies about a resolution that both looks to the future and mitigates past damages," Drummond said as part of his announcement about the extension.

"The poultry industry has made significant improvements over the years in its litter abatement process, and I am hopeful we can craft a plan that protects Oklahoma's natural resources without placing unreasonable burdens on the companies," Drummond said.

The negotiations involve a case that has been before Judge Frizzell's bench in the Northern District of Oklahoma's federal courts since 2005.

In January, Frizzell ruled that poultry companies operating across parts of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma generated chicken manure used as fertilizer that caused excessive phosphorus runoff polluting Lake Tenkiller, the Illinois River and other scenic waterways in Oklahoma.


Defendants in the case include Tyson Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Cargill Inc., Cargill Turkey Production, George's Inc., George's Farms Inc., Peterson Farms Inc. and Simmons Foods Inc.

In his ruling, Frizzell found that each defendant grows chickens in the Illinois River watershed, controls growers operations, generated and still generates significant quantities of phosphorus-rich poultry waste, applies that waste on lands within the watershed and has known or should have know land applications of litter create a threat to those watersheds.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: State, poultry growers incubate talks with additional time from judge