Two adjacent plots of land about 5 miles south of Monroe will eventually be home to 32 broiler barns housing birds for the recently opened Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry processing facility in Fremont, LPP External Affairs Spokesperson Jessica Kolterman confirmed.
One approximately 160-acre segment of land has 16 broilers nearly intact in one stretching line and another comparably sized piece of land is in the process of having groundwork completed.
Unofficially, machinery is expected to be moved into the 16-barn facility by the end of September, according to one out-of-state subcontractor working while on-site Wednesday.
Kolterman said that most of LPP's barns will be built by the end of 2019 and operational sometime within the following year. QC Supply, the company serving as general contractor for barn building activity, was not immediately available for comment regarding the projected time frame of getting barn structures erected.
Lee Rupp, who was a District 22 state legislative representative from 1982-1988 and currently lives about a mile-and-a-half northwest of Monroe, noted that he saw work being completed on the site sometime this spring.
Each completed broiler barn will be approximately 62-by-600 feet and house about 42,000 birds. This means that on about 320 county acres, 1,344,000 chickens could be raised simultaneously.
The site itself sits fairly equidistantly between Duncan (approximately 5 miles west), Silver Creek (approximately 6 miles northeast) and Monroe. While on its outskirts, the projects fall into Platte County boundaries. Platte is one of a handful of counties in the state that doesn’t require rural land outside of corporate city limits to receive zoning approval from the county board of supervisors, and because of this, these two large scale operations have remained largely quiet.
Although the zoning process and matrix work don’t go through Platte County’s governing body, Kolterman said that very specific standards are set by the state and Lincoln Premium Poultry. All operations must be at least 400 feet off a main road, the barns must meet at least a quarter-mile setback from residences and public buildings unless a signed waiver is produced and all operations must take proper steps through the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
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Across the county, Kolterman said she’s aware of several barns being erected. The entire grow operation for Costco spans about 20 Nebraska counties and four to five counties in Iowa. When fully underway, the plan calls for 432 broiler barns, 24 pullet barns and 64 breeder barns, for a grand total of 520 barns in the region. Each four-barn setup costs between $2 and $2.5 million with about a 15-year rate of return on average.
Although the processing facility itself calls for about 1,000 employees when fully staffed and is expected to have a $1.2 billion economic impact annually in Nebraska, there have been people in Fremont and its surrounding areas who are against the project, citing environmental concerns and smell, among other things.
Rupp is not among this group. He said that he believes producers should get the best bang for their buck and that growing traditional crops isn’t always cutting it for Nebraska farming families.
“Highest and best use of land is what farmers need to go for,” Rupp said. “When I see soybeans out here in the field that are selling for cost of production - $7 per bushel, or whatever, that certainly isn’t the highest and best use …
“Some people wish things were like they are in the old days, which is pie in the sky, or you can go with the flow of moving forward and improving as much as you can along the way, but accepting progress, not fighting it.”
Kolterman said that each projected 16-barn setup is sizable, but not anything incredible in relation to the big picture.
“In our world, there are setups that go from four barns to 24 barns,” she said. “Every family has to look at what is best for them and what their needs are."
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.