Poultry processor plans to hire 1,100 workers for NC plant

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ROCKY MOUNT (AP) — A Mississippi poultry processor has selected a site in Nash County for a new chicken plant that will employ more than 1,000 people, but it’s unclear how soon it will be constructed.
Sanderson Farms said Tuesday it has purchased land for the plant near Interstate 95 and N.C. 97 southwest of Rocky Mount.
The company will hire 1,100 employees when the plant is completed, said Joe F. Sanderson Jr., chairman and CEO of the company.
“The timing of building that complex remains on hold until market fundamentals improve, including sufficient confidence that the global supply of feed grains will be adequate to meet world demand at reasonable prices,” Sanderson said.
Chief financial officer Mike Cockrell said the prices of corn and soybeans, keys to providing a high-protein diet for the chickens, are up more than 25 percent this year compared with last year.
Land purchased on N.C. 97 will serve as a hatchery. The company also has options to buy property for a wastewater treatment operation. Nash County owns the 142-acre tract that would be used for the processing plant.
Other issues to be resolved include obtaining the needed permits to construct and operate the plant, as well as getting economic incentive packages from the state of North Carolina and local government, Sanderson said.
The city of Wilson has been fighting to halt the plant, saying the construction of chicken houses near the plant could jeopardize the environment.
Sanderson’s announcement comes a week after the North Carolina Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit that Wilson officials and local residents had filed in an attempt to derail the project. The courts have said Wilson lacks legal standing to sue Nash County.
Sanderson also has faced questions from state officials and local governments about the environmental risks of waste runoff into the Neuse River Basin.
Opponents have said they will take their fight to the state Department of Natural Resources, which would have to approve a permit for Sanderson to use spray fields to handle wastewater.
The plant would process about 50 million chickens a year.
Sanderson Farms is the nation’s fourth-largest chicken processor with 1,400 employees in Kinston and other operations in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.