Next steps? Work continues to replace Tyson Foods plant

Published 2:32 am Monday, October 30, 2023

When Tyson Foods closed its processing plant in Glen Allen on May 12, it affected 55 farmers in 13 counties. But the impact stretched beyond the farmhouse. Dozens of other businesses in Prince Edward, Cumberland and other counties, groups that provided supplies and resources for the plant also took a hit. Local and state officials are continuing to search for a solution, hoping to potentially bring in a replacement. 

The latest change came earlier this month in neighboring Charlotte County, where the board of supervisors adopted changes to their zoning ordinance Oct. 10. The idea is that by lowering the acreage requirements and the number of poultry required, it brings Charlotte County’s zoning more in line with Prince Edward and other neighboring jurisdictions, Charlotte County Administrator Dan Witt said Monday. 

“The amendments allow for smaller parcels to be used for commercial scale poultry farms if other requirements are met, which is more in line with regulations of adjacent localities,” Witt said. “The number of animal units was revised for consistency with Virginia DEQ’s (Department of Environmental Quality) permitting requirements.”

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The ordinance did require a minimum of 100 acres for the first 300 animals at a confined poultry feeding operation, but this has now been reduced to 15 acres for the first 200 animals, according to the ordinance. It also changed the minimum for each additional 10 acres to 200 from 300 animals.

Witt explained it also changed the time frame for developing a commercial poultry structure to allow up to 36 months for its completion.

“Normally, zoning permits require that a building permit be obtained within 12 months,” he said.

According to information in the Oct. 10 supervisors’ meeting packet, the amendments won the county planning commission’s approval Aug. 17 on a 8-0 vote after there was no public comment on the changes at its public hearing.

“After discussing impacts of the recent closure of Tyson’s Hanover County processing facility, the board of supervisors voted unanimously at their June meeting to refer zoning regulations for poultry operations to the planning commission for review,” the hearing report in the packet stated. “The planning commission evaluated regulations for adjacent localities and obtained input from DEQ and DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) regarding state permitting requirements and nutrient management plans and recommended several changes to the ordinance…”

This won’t replace Tyson Foods plant

Witt noted these changes aid producers, but can’t help bring a Tyson Foods plant or anything similar into Charlotte County.

“The changes were not aimed at attracting a new processing facility to the county but at improving opportunities for producers to locate in the county in the future,” he said. “Our industrial sites do not have the water and wastewater capacity a poultry processing facility of this scale requires.”

There is, however, one county that does have the water capacity a plant like that needs. And it happens to border Charlotte. 

“We continue to work with the producers, Virginia Department of Agriculture, and neighboring counties to identify options for them moving forward,” said Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley. “The quantity of water needed for a new processing plant to locate in the region is one of the hurdles communities face in attracting a new facility.”

Prince Edward officials are in the process of increasing the storage in the Sandy River Reservoir, which could provide the needed water there, Stanley said in an interview earlier this year. 

For such an effort to succeed, he said the county would need to partner with the Town of Farmville to provide sewage treatment, if they find a prospect.

“The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors remains committed to supporting our agricultural products and providing assistance in this process,” Stanley said.

Work continues on a state level 

Officials at the local and state level are continuing to work on a solution for the region’s poultry producers.

“Many levels of state government, all the way to the Governor’s office, are involved in addressing this issue,” Witt said Monday. “They are working with producers and localities and, ‘yes’ they are doing enough at this point.”

He said Charlotte County also is working with a newly formed Regional Poultry Growers Association.

Witt explained that the association of counties and government representatives from the state level down are well organized in this common effort.

“Implementing the plan they have in place will be challenging, but is very achievable,” Witt said.

Michael Wallace, director of communications with Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agreed with Witt’s assessment.

“Since Tyson Foods announced the closure of their processing facility in Glen Allen, staff from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and other state agencies have met with employees, growers, industry stakeholders and county officials to provide resources and aid in determining next steps,” Wallace said. “The state is still actively pursuing prospective poultry processors and related industries, and may utilize grant opportunities to encourage a business to locate within the area.”

In the meantime, Witt said some of the poultry producers there have found some other opportunity.

“But it involves changing their production focus,” he explained. This would be for eggs instead of processed chickens.