Turner Co. Residents Learn More About Proposed Chicken Farm

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Nearly two weeks ago, landowners concerned about a large egg-laying operation planned near Parker sued its developers and the Turner County Commission.

Now, area farmers and citizens are finally getting a chance to get their most pressing questions answered.

Sioux Falls-based Sonstegard Foods Co. hopes to put six million birds on a farm about two miles from Parker.

Opponents believe that’s too close, and it will create problems such as odor.

That’s why South Dakota AG United put on a lunch meeting Wednesday, so crop farmers and citizens could learn more about the proposed farm from Mr. Sonstegard himself.

For some, the idea of bringing six million chickens near the city of Parker is a scary proposition.

“I guess there’s always the fear of the unknown that we don’t have anything like this around or close by,” said Richard Vasgaard, South Dakota AG United President. “So you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.”

But for others, it’s one that can bring significant benefits to the area.

“For me, it’s economic activity,” said Vasgaard. “It provides jobs and it also provides products.”

Centerville farmer and AG United President Richard Vasgaard says the potential chicken farm has many in Turner County talking, which is why Sonstegard Foods Co. is speaking up.

“Anyone can pull information off of the internet and try to say it’s fact but as we all know there’s a lot of stuff out there,” said Peter Sonstegard, Sonstegard Foods Co. Vice President. “So we want to address some of those questions and concerns and get good information out there and tell what our operation is about and what we plan on doing.”

Sonstegard Foods Vice President Peter Sonstegard says the last couple of months have been challenging with a lawsuit and a constant target on his back.

But he’s grateful for the support of Turner County farm families.

“They’ve been in the Turner County farming for multiple generations, whether it’s three, four or five generations,” said Sonstegard. “And this is what has built Turner County and most of South Dakota to where it’s at today.”

Allen Merrill’s family has been farming in Turner County for generations. And he says the proposed chicken farm isn’t just agriculture production, it’s economic development as well.

“It creates an opportunity for farmers, especially the farmers who are growing a lot of corn,” said Merrill. “When you’re talking about another six million bushels being used and X amount of bushels of soybeans, it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come along all of the time.”

KDLT News did reach out to a member of the “Concerned Citizens of Parker and Marion” Facebook group about Wednesday’s “Know Your Customer” meeting, and was told that most of the members cannot publicly comment because they’re involved with the lawsuit against Sonstegard Foods Co.

As for what’s next, Peter Sonstegard says his company needs to figure out how to deal with the lawsuit before moving onto the chicken farm project.