Poultry exec: Didn't check if rules were followed

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 5:41 PM

A Cargill executive testified Thursday that he did not check to see if company farmers were following an environmental handbook he helped compile in 2002 that warned them not to spread excess chicken manure on their land because the runoff could pollute area water.

Timothy Maupin, vice president of agricultural operations for Cargill Turkey Production LLC, also said in court that his company developed a pilot program in 2002 to haul excess chicken waste from a sensitive watershed shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas to Kansas.

The company abandoned those plans after just two years, he said, in part because it wasn't turning a profit.

Maupin's testimony appeared to bolster Oklahoma's federal pollution case against nearly a dozen poultry companies that claims they knew about pollution from the tons of chicken manure produced in the Illinois River watershed over the past several decades but did nothing or very little about it.

Oklahoma sued the industry in 2005, saying the companies are responsible for the manure their chickens produce. The companies say the waste is the responsibility of their contract growers.

Thursday marked the 21st day of the trial, which has been mired in delays and bickering lawyers. Testimony could run through January.

Richard Garren, an attorney for Oklahoma, sought Thursday to portray Maupin _ chosen by Cargill as a representative to testify for the company _ as an out-of-touch executive who had trouble recalling relatively simple facts like publications and projects he worked on, or meetings he had about how to reduce chicken manure in the watershed.

When Garren asked him if he remembered one 2005 meeting concerning poultry waste that was piling up on some growers' farms at the time, Maupin replied, "Not specifically, but it's possible."

Next, Garren quizzed Maupin about the environmental manual the executive helped put together in 2002, warning farmers about the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in excess poultry manure that could run off fields and into the watershed.

Garren asked him if he had done anything to ensure the handbook was being followed; Maupin said he had not _ but that he wasn't aware of any incident where pollution was getting into area waters.

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