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Judge Extends Settlement Date for Oklahoma Poultry Lawsuit


A federal judge is giving Oklahoma and nearly a dozen poultry companies, including the world’s largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods, another 90 days to agree on plans to clean up a watershed polluted by chicken manure.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell scheduled a status conference in Tulsa on Friday, June 16, saying both sides had requested an extension. The state and the poultry farms must submit a joint status report by June 9.

Frizzell reigned in January that Arkansas-based Tyson, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. and other companies were polluting the Illinois River, causing public nuisance and trespassing by spreading the litter or manure on land in eastern Oklahoma, and then leaching it into the river’s watershed. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma in 2005.

“We have had lengthy and productive discussions with the poultry companies about a solution,” Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement.

“The poultry industry has made significant improvements to the litter control process over the years, and I am hopeful that we can create a plan that protects Oklahoma’s natural resources without imposing unreasonable burdens on the companies,” said Drummond.

Lawyers for the companies did not immediately call back for comment on Saturday.

January statement had ordered the companies and the state to present an agreement by March 17 on how to remedy the effects of the pollution, including low oxygen levels in the river, algae growth and damage to the fish population.

The other defendants named in the lawsuit are Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC, George’s Inc., George’s Farms Inc., Peterson Farms Inc. and Simmons Foods Inc.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.