Animal

Chicken Plant Rejected by Kansas Town Finds New Home in Gibson County

A chicken plant originally planned and rejected by a Kansas town has found a new home in Gibson County, reports The Tennessean. Tyson Foods, the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, has announced that the plant will be located at the Gibson County Industrial Site with close proximity to rail and Interstate 40. As part of the deal, Tyson has been awarded $18 million in incentives through the state's FastTrack grants that will go toward additional infrastructure, and the county has offered a tax abatement deal estimated to total $16 million over the next 20 years. 
 
Gibson County Economic Development Director Kingsley Brock says he and other local officials were aware of the Kansas pushback and vetted Arkansas-based Tyson accordingly. "I knew we had something good. It was just a matter of time," said Brock. "It turned out we were at the right place at the right time." Tyson said it was drawn to the available workforce in Gibson County, proximity to grain and available infrastructure. Jobs will have wages ranging from $13 to $20 an hour, plus benefits. Many management and administrative jobs also will be offered. 
 
One of the biggest complaints about the Tyson project in Kansas was the infrastructure needed to accommodate both the plant and an expected to be an influx of new residents taking jobs there. Roads would need upgrades to support the heavy trucks, the sewer system would need to be extended and schools could be overwhelmed, residents said. The county had planned to issue $500 million in industrial bond revenue to support the facility, along with $7 million for utilities and another $1 million for sewer lines. Residents also objected to the perceived secrecy surrounding the project prior to the announcement and raised concerns about smells associated with chicken farms, possible exposure to ammonia and the potential for water pollution. The debate came to a head at a crowded town hall meeting in September, drawing about 2,000 people, according to media reports.
 
Other concerns raised involve reports of the company releasing more than 20 million pounds of toxic chemicals into U.S. waterways in 2014, more than any other agricultural company, according to a 2016 report from Environment America Research & Policy Center. Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman disputed the report as inaccurate and misleading. Water from plants is returned to streams after it is treated by government-regulated systems and most farmers raising animals are required to follow nutrient management plans, he said. Tyson was also among chicken companies sued in 2005 for polluting the Illinois River with chicken waste. In 2015, the company settled a case in Missouri for chemical releases that killed more than 100,000 fish in a Missouri creek. 
 
Regarding water concerns, Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon says he has full confidence in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to regulate the chicken plant and contributing farms. But, under new legislation signed into law in February, chicken farmers raising poultry for Tyson will no longer be required to obtain TDEC permits. TDEC spokeswoman Kim Schofinski said the state can still enforce against water quality violations, mostly identified through complaint investigations or TDEC's routine sampling. "Our investigative process, as well as routine water quality monitoring, can potentially identify a link between an impact and a specific activity or source," she said in an emailed statement.
 
Having watched what unfolded in Kansas, Witherspoon said local officials sought to engage the community and involve them in the process early on. They held meetings with area farmers and talked with community leaders about the Tyson prospect ahead of the announcement, made in November, and the project has been well-received by farmers and the business community. Any pushback Witherspoon said he has received has been from a handful of residents who fear the jobs will attract an influx of immigrants to the area, a concern he brushes off. "Anybody who wants to come to Gibson County, get here legally, get up and go to work every day, pay their bills, provide for their families and obey our laws and keep their yard picked up, they are welcome," he said.
 
Tyson currently maintains a plant in Obion County, employing 1,000 people in Obion County's Union City and is adding 300 more jobs as part of an $84 million expansion “They have been a blessing to Obion County and surrounding counties with their employment," Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said.  “The company's presence has sustained Obion County’s tax base, paying for schools and roads.” In Gibson County, officials are optimistic the plant will trigger new business creation and help them lure more companies to the area and to the industrial site, once Tyson is established.
 
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Proposed Legislation Targeting Animal Abuse

Since the inception of the state's Animal Abuser Registration Act in 2015, Tennessee continues the mission to address prevailing concerns in defense of animals. Lawmakers have further taken aim at animal abuse, with several bills addressing areas of importance to advocates. Here is some noteworthy legislation to keep an eye on this year.
 
HB1713/SB1698 Expands the requirement that sellers of dogs and cats be licensed to include sellers who sell to individuals and not just sellers who sell at flea markets, who sell for resale, or who sell for research purposes; establishes application and renewal fees of $125 for sellers of dogs and cats who sell to individuals. Amends TCA Title 44, Chapter 17, Part 1.
 
HB1909/SB1689 Applies the criminal offense of animal cruelty to the restraint of a dog with a chain, cord, tether, cable, or similar device while a disaster is imminent or occurring. Amends TCA Title 39 and Title 44, Chapter 17.
 
HB0265/SB0282 Requires registration with the department to operate as a commercial dog breeder; creates inspection requirements for commercial dog breeders; creates Class A misdemeanor offense for a person to knowingly operate as a commercial dog breeder without being registered. Amends TCA Title 62.
 
HB0635/SB0624 Increases from 90 to 100 days the length of time that a licensed dog and cat dealer must wait before applying for reinstatement of the dealer's license following suspension. Amends TCA Title 39, Chapter 14, Part 2; Title 40, Chapter 39, Part 1; Title 44; Title 47, Chapter 18; Title 56 and Title 63, Chapter 12.
 
HB1581/SB1704 Expands the list of animals recognized as state pets to include any animal adopted from an animal shelter or rescue facility instead of only dogs and cats so adopted. Amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 3.
 
HB2288/SB2154 Changes licensing classification from veterinary technician to veterinary nurse. Amends TCA Title 38, Chapter 1; Title 44, Chapter 17 and Title 63, Chapter 12.
 
Click here for up-to-date progress on each.
 
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Considering Pet Trusts

Estate planning is a complex, nuanced process, so great care must be taken in dealing with the many critical decisions involved. An often-overlooked aspect of this process is considering care for a pet in the event of the grantor’s disability or death. As animals almost completely rely on a caretaker for their basic needs, this is a truly important designation. 
 
Pet ownership helps aging humans maintain an active lifestyle and overcome feelings of loneliness and depression. Including a pet trust in one’s estate plan allows persons at every stage of life to enjoy the benefits of pet ownership while overcoming the concern many caring pet owners express, “but what if something happens to me?  Who will care for my pet then?” A pet trust can answer these questions and help assure quality care for the lifespan of the pet.
 
Animals with especially long lifespans, such as horses (average lifespan of 30 years), birds (15-60 years, depending on species), tortoises (40-100 years, depending on species), and certain other reptiles (tuataras – a type of lizard native to New Zealand –  can live more than 100 years), can benefit from having an estate plan in place that includes care of these animals.
 
When constructing a pet trust, it is important to provide funding for the long-term care of the pet. It can be wise to designate a trustee to oversee the trust funds designated for the care of the pet and a different person to serve as caretaker of the animal. In this way, sufficient checks and balances may be put in place so that adequate care of the animal is assured and the possibility of malfeasance is minimized.
 
A pet trust may be an appropriate estate planning device in any number of situations, from elderly folks with one lap pet to large animal owners who want to provide long-term care. By keeping these arrangements in mind, we can better serve our clients and the animals that depend on them.
 
Esther L. Roberts is an East Tennessee Delegate of the executive council and served as inaugural chair for the Tennessee Bar Association's Animal Law Section. Roberts is the CEO of Global IP, a law firm specializing in intellectual property and IP mediation and founder of Tennessee Pet Trusts. She holds degrees from Lipscomb University and the University of Tennessee College of Law. Roberts can be contacted at 865-607-9780 or esther@globalipam.com

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