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First round of approval given for poultry operation

September 23, 2018

Another poultry feeding operation in southern Madison County to help supply chickens for a Fremont processing plant received tentative approval Thursday evening.

The Madison County Joint Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval for a conditional-use permit for Melcher Poultry, in care of Randy Melcher, for a poultry feeding operation.

The operation includes four barns that would raise as many as 190,000 broiler chickens at once. The site is on about 6 acres that is located 1.5 miles north and 6 miles east of Newman Grove.

It is anticipated that the chickens will be turned over six times a year, so more than 1 million chickens likely will be raised annually.

The conditional-use permit has been forwarded to the Madison County board of commissioners, which is expected to have a public hearing and consider it for final approval next month.

At Thursday’s public hearing, four people spoke in favor of it. Nobody spoke against it.

There are no homes within the setback requirement, with the closest residence more than 3,000 feet away. The land is zoned AG-1, which is designated for the county’s most intensive ag uses.

Randy Melcher said he lives about 2 miles from the site. Melcher said he might have to put in as many as four wells for the operation as the water isn’t plentiful in the area. About 80 gallons a minute are required for the proposed operation.

Melcher said the county roads should be sufficient. There is only one bridge that will need to be crossed from the highway, and it is a steel bridge that is adequate for trucks.

Andy Scholting of Nutrient Advisors in West Point, which has been working with growers through the permitting process, said no Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality permit is required for the site because there will be no waste storage.

Nevertheless, Lincoln Premium Poultry, which is helping to contract growers for Costco, has internal standards that growers need to voluntarily apply for the state permit.

Scholting said the permitting process will be started after the county approves the conditional-use permit.

Scholting also described the manure handling.

The manure in the barns is sprayed after each flock of chickens is raised, and that spray then binds the ammonia to the clay in the barns. The manure is spread out and stabilized in a compost, so it does not become airborne and thus does not create an odor.

Once a year, the barns are cleaned and the manure is spread to fields where it is used as fertilizer, rich in nitrogen.

Richard Grant, chairman of the joint planning commission, said it looks as though the applicant has done his homework. Other commissioners agreed.

It is anticipated that the county will get at least one more application for a conditional-use permit for a large-scale poultry operation this year.

In May, Mark and Tom Olmer’s application to build and operate broiler barns on 78 acres they own about 5 miles south of Madison was approved by the county.

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