Koch Foods, a national poultry processor and distributor, announced Monday that it is investing $20 million to expand its chicken production operations in Calhoun, Randolph, Cleburne, Clay and St. Clair counties. The expansion was made possible through a partnership with state officials and agencies, which will provide $108,000 in federally-required environmental waste management plans for area chicken farmers involved in the expansion.
State agencies, elected officials and Koch representatives gathered at Clearview Farm in Randolph County Monday to celebrate the deal. Koch Foods' expansion in the area began in September 2012 and will continue into 2014. The Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, based in Oxford, received the $108,000 in state grant money and is contracting with several private firms to produce the federally required environmental plans.
"This is a great day for poultry and a great day for the citizens of this state," said John McMillan, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.
Greg Daniel, owner of Clearview Farm, said the expansion means a better life for him and his family.
"When you look behind you, that's my American Dream," Daniel said, referring to the partially completed chicken houses made possible by the Koch expansion and a state-funded environmental plan.
Daniel said that once complete, the two structures will house 98,000 chickens. He already has two coops that house around 45,000 chickens.
"It's more income, which is always a good thing," Daniel said of the expansion.
Keith Martin, live operations manager for Koch Foods, said the environmental waste management plans were needed for every area chicken farm associated with the company before any expansion efforts could begin. Koch's expansion calls for the contruction of between 120 and 150 chicken houses.
"By law, a comprehensive nutrient management plan is required before the farmer can get a loan to construct a chicken house," Martin said. "They are specialized plans for every farm and they indicate how everything on that farm is handled - from dead birds to taking soil samples."
Eddie May, executive director for the Coosa Valley RC&D, said the plans require specialized training to produce and are costly, ranging between $4,000 a $10,000 each. May said his agency typically does projects like this for farmers, but not on this large a scale.
"We only do something like this once every five years," May said.
According to the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, poultry has a $15.1 billion impact on Alabama's economy, generating more than 65 percent of agricultural sales and employing more than 86,000 people. Also, there are about 2,775 poultry producers in 48 Alabama counties.
"And this has been a good year in the poultry industry, so we're maximizing our efforts through this expansion," Martin said.
David Perry, chief of staff for Gov. Robert Bentley, said the governor was excited about the cooperation between private industry and state government to make the expansion a reality.
"What state government can do is create an environment conducive for job expansion," Perry said. "A $20 million capital investment in rural Alabama and $6 million in revenue, that helps put food on the table for families."
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.