The Norman Transcript

Local news

October 25, 2006

Chicken poop, money key ingredients in AG race

Transcript Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Somewhere in most modern political campaigns, the candidates accuse each other of slinging mud.

In the race for Oklahoma attorney general, the substance being slung is chicken poop -- lots and lots of chicken poop.

Farm groups, poultry producers, the governor of Arkansas and Republican attorney general candidate, James Dunn, all accuse incumbent Attorney General Drew Edmondson of using chicken poop for political reasons.

The groups site Edmondson's lawsuit against Arkansas poultry companies as proof of their claim, and accuse Edmondson of filing the suit solely for political reasons. Edmondson counters, saying the chicken litter from Arkansas poultry companies is fouling Oklahoma waterways and the producers won't do anything to stop the problem.

Recently Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- in town to raise money for Republican candidates -- accused Edmondson of "demonizing" the poultry industry. "Unfortunately, your attorney general is not interested in resolving the situation, he's more interested in headlines," Huckabee said in a published news story. "It's a great political platform for him."

Edmondson's opponent, James Dunn, echoed Huckabee.

Dunn said if he is elected attorney general he would move to immediately dismiss the suit.

"We need to protect our agricultural industry," he said earlier this year. "The attorney general's suit is a threat to that industry."

Edmondson, however, is unfazed.

"The issue is about water," he said. "The issue is simply about making sure Oklahoma has clean water -- nothing more."

Frustrated after several years of failed negotiations, Edmondson said he filed suit against eight poultry firms -- including corporate giant Tyson Foods Inc. -- because the chicken poop used as fertilizer near the Illinois river contains hazardous chemicals, such as phosphorus, which damage the environment and the area's tourism.

"They're not fertilizing, they're dumping," Edmondson said in an interview with the Washington Post. "My concern is for the environment. My concern is for the lake and the river, which I'm watching being degraded before my eyes, literally."

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