- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PARKER, S.D. (AP) - A Sioux Falls-based company hopes to more than double the number of egg-laying hens in South Dakota by opening a large chicken operation near Parker.

Sonstegard Foods hopes to put 6 million birds on a farm in Turner County. Supporters say the project could employ as many as 150 people, give farmers a steady source of fertilizer and boost grain prices.

“We take a significant amount of our corn out of state,” Keith Alverson, president of South Dakota Corn Growers, told the Argus Leader. “Anything that can keep that grain in our state is a good thing.”

Some area residents worry about odor, traffic, noise and other potential problems. The chicken farm would be 2½ miles from Parker and only half a mile from the city golf course.

“That’s too close to too many people,” Mark Joffer told KDLT-TV. “You’re going to negatively impact too many people.”

Some area residents also question the farm itself.

“It isn’t true farming as we think of farming in South Dakota,” John Chicoine told KDLT. “It’s a 6 million chicken factory. It’s a concentration camp for chickens.”

Sonstegard Foods says it understands the concerns and will work to be a good neighbor.

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback,” Peter Sonstegard, the company’s vice president of sales, told the Argus Leader. “We’ve gotten some positive feedback. Yes, we’ve gotten some negative, as well. But we’re taking the time to do this right. You don’t just jump to do an $85 million project without doing some legwork.”

Opponents are circulating a petition to present to the County Commission, which must permit the project. Sonstegard Foods also must get easements from landowners within half a mile of the proposed facility.

There currently are about 3.8 million chickens at permitted feeding operations in South Dakota, according to the Argus Leader.

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