With apparent approval of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, WTVF-TV reports a Macon County husband and wife split their chicken production property in half to avoid the need for a permit and the stricter regulations that go with it.
The farm’s owner Ryan Russell applied for a permit to house up to 70 thousand chickens, but a farm that size required annual inspections and regular oversight. So Russell divided his property between the barns — putting two barns in his wife’s name — and two in his name.
Suddenly both were small enough to avoid the stricter regulations.
(The four chicken barns provide chickens for a Cobb-Vantress, a subsidiary of Tyson Chicken.)
… Sierra Club Attorney Brian Paddock was shocked when we showed him how the husband and wife operations were able to get around regulations… “They’re doing everything they can to avoid regulation and they probably know that the cop waves them through,” Paddock said.
The cop in this case is the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation — which is supposed to make sure tons of manure from the barns doesn’t pollute surrounding streams.
Our investigation uncovered e-mails in which an executive with Cobb – Vantress laid out plans to split the farm to the state.
The executive writes “just wanting to make sure we are on the same page before Ryan spends the money to have his two farms split up. If he has two farms split up to where one is in his name and one is in his wife’s name will that make it so that he doesn’t have to apply for a CAFO permit.”
After the state gave the split their approval, the Cobb – Vantress executive forwards the e-mail to farmer Ryan Russell… with an FYI and an explanation point.
TDEC would not do an interview about the situation. But their spokesperson said the land owners may have taken advantage of the situation, but insisted the state never advised them to split their property.
…Cobb-Vantress said in a statement… “The email you have referred to is a communication to clarify a request about information regarding the farms’ operation status. Our complex manager asked TDEC a question and TDEC responded. Our manager then provided the information to the farmer.”