US Industry Supports Responsible Use of Litter

US - The latest Appeals Court ruling confirms the lack of evidence in the Oklahoma poultry case. A press release from Tyson Foods says that poultry farmers and companies fully support responsible use of poultry litter.
calendar icon 15 May 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

The US Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has affirmed a district court ruling denying a motion by the Oklahoma Attorney General for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the use of poultry litter as a fertiliser in the Illinois River Watershed. Below is a statement from Tyson Foods about the decision:

This ruling is additional proof the Attorney General lacks the evidence to support his claims against the Oklahoma and Arkansas poultry industry. The appeals court agrees that the Attorney General has "failed to link land-applied poultry litter and bacteria in the IRW (Illinois River Watershed)".

Mr Edmondson has spent more than $25 million on this case over the past four years and yet has failed to prove that bacteria in the Illinois River or in groundwater comes from poultry litter or that the use of poultry litter as a fertilizer has endangered public health.

According to the ruling, "It is undisputed that humans, various wildlife, and numerous farm animals, including pigs, sheep, and cattle, rely on the IRW lands and waterways and harbour the various bacteria at issue in this case", however, the Attorney General "did not account for these alternative sources of bacteria".

Mr Edmondson's claims against the poultry industry are largely based on the work of paid experts whose opinions are unpublished, untested and not peer reviewed. Their methods and conclusions were deemed unscientific and unreliable by the district court in Tulsa and the appeals court agrees.

According to the ruling, "We do not find that the district court abused its discretion in according Dr Harwood's testimony scant weight. The same can be said about Dr Olsen's expert testimony".

The court noted that Dr Harwood admitted her scientific methods are "novel and untested" and that "Doubts were raised regarding Dr Olsen's sampling procedures and possible flaws in the data presented".

Contrary to the claims of the Attorney General, the poultry companies and poultry farmers involved in this case fully support the lawful and responsible use of poultry litter as a fertiliser on farm land. Poultry litter has substantial economic value as a fertiliser and its use is regulated by the states of Arkansas and Oklahoma. All litter that is applied in the Illinois River Watershed is done so under a permit issued by one of the two states.

Mr Edmondson has failed to come forward with any evidence poultry producers are in violation of state regulations. In fact, the state of Oklahoma continues to authorize the land application of litter as a fertiliser.

Poultry litter belongs to independent poultry growers, not to the poultry companies. The growers decide whether to use it on their own land or sell it to others. Up to 50 per cent of litter produced in the Illinois River Watershed is used by farmers other than poultry growers.

The people an injunction would have harmed are the hard-working, independent farmers and cattle ranchers who depend upon poultry litter as an economical and beneficial source of fertilizer for land. These farmers and ranchers would have had to resort to expensive, chemical or commercial fertilisers, and the additional financial burden on them would be substantial.

Further Reading

- You can view the appeals court ruling by clicking here.
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