by Mel Griffith
As a member of the planning commission, I frequently hear people make unfounded arguments in an effort to present their neighbors from doing something. Usually it is something that would do them no harm anyway. However, a group that recently appeared to complain about some chicken houses in their neighborhood deserves an award for sheer gall. Their argument in a nutshell was this; we moved out into a farming community and built expensive homes. We knew full well when we moved out there that people were farming in the neighborhood, but now that we are there, we want to make them stop farming because it might inconvenience us. The farmers around us need to find another way to make a living because we are important people who have expensive homes and they don't matter.
This crowd is upset because a perfectly normal, ordinary chicken farm is being developed in the neighborhood. Nothing unusual or strange or untried, just a chicken farm like dozens of others in southeast Tennessee. Well, duh, what did you expect? An orange grove? A cotton field? According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Bradley County ranks ninth in agricultural production among the 95 counties in Tennessee. Therefore, no one should be surprised to find a lot of farming going on around them if they move to the country here. More than 95% of the farm products in Bradley County are livestock and 75% are chicken and eggs. Few crops are grown in Bradley except for livestock feed. Since our largest single farm product is chickens and the industry is constantly updating to take advantage on new technology, no one should be surprised if some new chicken houses appear.
Practically everything the group said in opposing chicken houses was untrue, perhaps due to sheer ignorance instead of deliberate deception. They started out claiming that the owners of the poultry operation weren't going to live there. This was refuted by the owners. They claimed there would be 120,000 chickens per flock, when the actual number was 88,000. The rest of their "facts" were no more accurate. They claimed that chickens are a health hazard. That's untrue. How many chicken growers did they ask if they were having health problems? If there were a problem (which there isn't) it would affect those who are in the chicken houses every day much more than those who happen to be in the neighborhood. They claimed that there would be a pollution problem. Did they check with environmental officers to see if pollution complaints are being received about the dozens of chicken houses in Bradley County?
They did mention a pollution lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma attorney general against some Arkansas chicken companies without mentioning that it is a frivolous lawsuit filed by a grandstanding politician. They also mentioned an outfit called Farm Aid without mentioning that it has nothing to do with aiding farmers, but is a scam operated by left-wing fanatics bent on destroying the free enterprise system and replacing it with a government controlled economy.
I understand that there are some people who don't like to smell livestock. That's perfectly all right just stay in the city where you belong. We won't bring our livestock there to bother you. But if you insist on intruding into our farming communities remember that you don't own the neighborhood just because you bought five acres, so mind your own business. Remember, we may not be any happier to see you show up next door than you are to see chicken houses going up.
Actually, the folks protesting are lucky they are getting chicken houses instead of another subdivision. Chickens make much better neighbors than people. They don't steal, cut fences, shoot dogs, vandalize mailboxes or race recklessly down the roads.