FREMONT – Dodge County is a member of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s “Livestock Friendly County” list, and today it made good on that standard when the Dodge County Board of Supervisors approved a much-contested application for a chicken barn operation near Nickerson.
Case and Joscelyn Camenzind applied for approval on a 10 barn operation, but that proposal was denied in January. That action caught the attention of Governor Ricketts and other lawmakers, who began to consider legislation that would limit or even remove a county’s right to reject large farming operations like the one in that proposal.
Meanwhile, the Camenzinds came up with another proposal. This time, an eight barn facility that would raise more than 380,000 chickens for Lincoln Premium Poultry and the Costco Kirkland brand. That proposal went before the Dodge County Board of Supervisors for a final vote today. A crowd of attendees spoke to the Board, one by one. Of course, the Camenzinds themselves spoke, and were backed by many supporters who spoke to encourage approval on the proposal.
Others in attendance included Walt Shafer and Jessica Koltermann from Lincoln Premium Poultry, who once again spoke about LPP’s commitment to “doing the right thing” for the water, land, farmers and community, hoping to allay the fears of pollution, land values and immigration that have hounded every meeting relating to the project for years. Shafer promised that whatever regulations come, whatever new technology is available to safeguard the land and water, LPP will be ready. “We will always be on the leading edge of whatever it takes,” he said. “Working with the farmers here, they own the land – they respect the land. They have a lot of vested interest, too.”
Overall, there were more proponents of the plan in attendance than opponents. The Board of Supervisors heard from both sides, though, and also mentioned that they each had been contacted outside the meeting with opinions from both camps. “Got a lot of phone calls and emails from both sides. I have not been bullied from either side,” stated Board member Doug Backens as the hearing began to draw to its close.
“In the end,” noted Bob Missel, another Board member, “This is a very public process that speaks to the heart of our local governance. Everybody that resides in our neighborhoods gets to speak.”
Lon Strand, Supervisor for the district in which the chicken farming operation would be located, made the motion to approve the Camenzind’s permit after the hearing was closed. It was seconded by District 4 Supervisor, David Saalfeld. The motion carried, 6-0 in favor of approval.
The eight barn operation will be built.
“To not promote agriculture in Dodge County is a problem,” said Strand. It’s not about chickens, he stressed. “This is about agriculture.”
H/T to Aaron Sanderford and the Omaha World Herald for their contributions to this report.