This time we met at the Justice Center in Lafayette. We would like to thank them for allowing us to use their facilities for this meeting. Our keynote speaker, A.T. Terry, had to cancel due to a family emergency. A.T. spoke at our last meeting too. An agricultural economist who was a contract farmer for Tyson for several years, he follows industry developments and talks about the financial and ecological realities never mentioned by the company to potential contract farmers or the communities they live within.
That left me to fill the 2 hours myself. We were able to show a (4 minute) YouTube video of a Cobb pullet house filmed by America’s Heartland, a PBS series that focuses on farms and farming, but clearly has a bent toward industrial agriculture. Cobb put their best foot forward in this segment- what appears to be a brand new chicken house, all clean and everything, is the location for this tour. You do get to see the biosecurity signs, the procedures, and the vast difference between this type of operation and what most Americans think of when we think chicken farm.
The main goal for me was to get people from the community to start talking to each other and their neighbors, as silence is considered tacit approval of industry methods and practices by the industry. Being passive is no longer an option if Macon County residents truly wish to keep the industry out of their backyards.
Once the conversation started, it was clear that people have plenty to say, despite their tendency toward passivity and silence in the past. Emotions were running high as people heard stories of Histoplasmosis, a lung disease contracted around bird or bat droppings that can be lethal, horrible odors, and contaminated streams and waterways.
I was hoping Cobb would send an official representative to speak to the community, but no one showed up, or if they did they sat in silence to observe. There was a man, whose attire and style seemed to stand out from the crowd, who slipped in and stood by the doors listening, and then literally ran off. When someone tried to talk to him he ran faster. No one ever positively identified who this guy was, but his behavior leads me to believe he was reporting back to either the corporation itself, or an advocate for the industry such as the mayor or a commissioner.
What is now clear is that the community overwhelmingly is against the industry, despite their reluctance to make waves, noise, or enemies amongst their neighbors. People are now talking more openly than ever, and have accepted that their only chance to achieve their goal of keeping the industry out of the county is to be involved and be vocal. Thank all who attended.