Delta County to Appeal Cease-and-Desist Order for Hen House

Sep 17, 2013

Tom Kay, a farmer who supplies Western Slope Layers with feed, said the decision to close the facility could force him into bankruptcy
Credit Marty Durlin/KVNF

After a closed-door session with county attorney Christine Knight, Delta County Commissioners on Monday announced they would appeal the decision by District Court Judge J. Steven Patrick that forced them to issue a cease and desist order to the Hostetler hen laying operation on Powell Mesa earlier this month. 

Commissioners will also ask for a stay from the District Court until the matter is taken up by the Colorado Court of Appeals. This would allow the chicken farm to continue operations, at least for the time being. KVNF’s Marty Durlin has more.

As if on cue, a group of farmers and ranchers came before the Delta County commissioners to ask the county to appeal the decision that forces the closure of the controversial hen laying facility. Neighbors have sued the county and the Hostetlers, saying the 15,000 hens kick up dander and contaminants making the facility incompatible with the rural neighborhood and damaging to the health of nearby residents.

Among the ag producers at the meeting, one familiar face was former commissioner Olen Lund, speaking in his capacity as president of Delta County Farm Bureau Board.

“We’re concerned about the precedent this might set for agriculture,” Lund said. “My concern is Delta County, but obviously it’s bigger than that. It goes to the state and even to the federal level.”

Steve Shea, who owns Shea Feed Lot, voiced a similar concern, as did Hugh Sanburg, who said he was representing the Colorado Farm Bureau, which has 23,000 members.

Tom Kay owns a 250-acre farm that supplies the Hostetlers with organic feed for the free-range operation. He said the cease and desist order affects him directly. 

“If pursued to its conclusion the closing of this facility will force me to terminate all contract employees working for the North Fork Organics,” Kay said, adding that the closure could also force him to shut down all his farming operations in the county. Kay also claimed the closure has a “very high likelihood” of bankrupting his farm.

“I’m here before you and implore you to rescind, not just appeal, but rescind the cease and desist order you issued on behalf of the court,” Kay told commissioners.

“Allow this issue to be resolved in future court reviews, as undoubtedly there will be,” he said.

Finally Steve Schrock spoke, saying the implications of the ruling would be “far-reaching.” Schrock added that the decision in the Hostetlers’ case would affect any poultry facilities in the area.

When contacted for a response to the ag producers, plaintiff Travis Jardon described their comments as a “chicken little scenario.” He said the issue is simple.

“A facility is having a major adverse health impact on neighbors. It requires more set-back. Move it.”

The county will likely file the stay and the appeal today (September 17.)