UPDATE: The petition to open a meat processing plant was pulled from Monday’s agenda by property owner John Teague, Washington County public information officer Susan Saylor told News Channel 11.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Washington County Commission will vote Monday evening on a rezoning request that if approved could bring the county its first meat processing plant.
Property owner John Abe Teague and the Appalachian Producers Cooperative plan to expand an existing farm on Blalock Road to a meat processing plant.
“We have already had farmers reaching out to us from all other states saying we’re excited that you all are thinking about doing a regional meat processing plant,” Rep. Rebecca Alexander (R) Jonesborough said. “I think it’d be great for our community.”
Not all Washington County citizens agree, some are concerned that the facility would increase tractor-trailer traffic and have an impact on kids’ health at nearby Grandview Elementary.
“There’s a lot of byproducts and chemicals that are produced by the plants themselves, you know they’re released into the air,” Washington County Resident Josh Hill said. “It would affect the kids directly there but also in the water and sewer treatment plants.”
Plans for the facility said it will have minimal traffic impact, and no odor or noise pollution, but still some are skeptical.
According to Appalachian Producers Cooperative documents, the six-million dollar facility could bring over 20 new jobs if approved.
By year five, they hope to process 75-100 heads per week of cattle, swine, goats and sheep.
Jared Fisher, owner of Breezy Hill Farm, said the facility would save him a lot of money on shipping out of state but that’s only the beginning of the benefits.
“The local grocery stores would benefit off of it,” Fisher said. “They could get East Tennessee grown-beef and sell East Tennessee grown-beef right here without incurring huge transportation costs and maybe some of the restaurants would piggyback off of that.”
Keith Toth, owner of Toth Farms, said fertilizer and chemical prices have tripled, and the meat processing facility would ease the financial burden rising prices has placed on farmers lately.
“Every bit is going to help, the more we keep in the community, the more we sell here,” Toth said. “Anytime you know where your food comes from, it’s better.”
Representative Rebecca Alexander said funding for the project if approved will come from local farmers and grants. Alexander said prioritizing agriculture is important in Washington County.
“It has always been one of my concerns that if we don’t continue to support agriculture that we’re going to starve to death as a nation,” Rep. Alexander said.
The commission will meet on Monday evening to discuss and vote on the proposal. If approved, Alexander said it could take one to two years to be built.