Tyson Meets Second Wave Of Kansas Resistance

Citizens in a second Kansas community are organizing against the prospect of a new Tyson Foods, Inc. chicken processing facility. The Wichita Eagle reports the group, #NoTysonSedgwickCounty, has scheduled its first public meeting for Saturday morning.

In September Tyson announced plans to build a $320 million chicken processing facility near Tonganoxie in northeast Kansas. Local residents, however, objected and Tyson scrapped those plans, saying it would seek alternative sites. Last week, the Kansas Department of Agriculture said three Kansas communities were finalists for the new Tyson plant. The three communities are Cloud County, in north-central Kansas, Montgomery County in southeastern Kansas and Sedgwick County in south-central Kansas, near Wichita.

While #NoTysonSedgwickCounty organized, the Greater Wichita Partnership, a coalition of business leaders involved in economic development, announced it is evaluating the project and will share findings with government officials and the public.

Tyson says the proposed plant would employ 1,600 workers and the economic impact to the state would be $180 million annually. Critics, however, believe the facility would damage the environment and reduce air quality. They also claim the facility would produce low-paying jobs and poor working conditions.

“Nobody is going to want to keep those jobs for long, because they’re nasty, dirty, smelly, icky, so there’s a real high turnover,” Lori Lawrence, co-founder of #NoTysonSedgwickCounty, told the Wichita Eagle. “Do we have enough people that will want to keep taking those jobs over and over again?”

Opponents of the plant are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at Linwood Park Recreation Center, 1901 S. Kansas, Wichita. Their keynote speaker will be Don Stull, a retired University of Kansas professor whose career research focused on the impacts of the meat and poultry industries in rural areas. Also addressing the meeting will be representatives of the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, a nationwide group that assists local activists in resisting factory farming operations.

A statement issued by the Greater Wichita Partnership says it is in the process of evaluation, and is not at present endorsing or opposing the project, said spokeswoman Jaimie Garnett.