Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rancher wins legal battle after bald eagle attacks kill 160,000 chickens

A Georgia rancher’s battle against bald eagle attacks on his pasture-raised chickens continues, but he’s won a skirmish against the federal government. Bluffton rancher Will Harris, who’s led a crusade for a more ethical treatment of livestock from his fifth-generation farm in southwest Georgia, said he now expects to receive compensation for some of the 160,000 chickens he’s lost in recent years to America’s flying, and hungry, symbol of freedom. The 63-year-old rancher said he’s lost more than $2 million in poultry to the eagles, who now live year-round on his 3,200-acre property, White Oak Pastures, the largest USDA certified-organic property in Georgia. Reached by phone, Harris said he will likely receive the maximum compensation allowed, $125,000, for each year he proves he suffered losses, and may also recover an estimated $100,000 in legal fees. Harris said the compensation won’t “make or break” his $20-plus million-a-year in revenue operation, but the ruling may prove critical for smaller farms. “The ruling is a win not just for us – but for all small farms everywhere. At White Oak Pastures, we are committed to animal welfare, regenerative farming and empowering and supporting our local economy,” said Harris. “To survive at a time when conventional producers dominate the market, independent ranchers rely on equitable treatment by laws often written for big agricultural operations.” Harris started letting his chickens roam freely in 2010 and by 2012 had a flock of 100,000 birds, mostly chickens but also smaller numbers of turkeys, guinea hens and ducks. It didn’t take long for the eagle-eyed eagles to notice. Soon, the federally-protected raptors were destroying up to 30 percent of his flock. After numerous, unsuccessful efforts to divert the birds of prey from preying on poultry -- noise machines, tarps and other measures were tried -- White Oak Pastures applied for Livestock Indemnity Program benefits from the Farm Service Administration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Years of disputes” followed, said Harris, and, in 2017, the FSA denied White Oak Pasture’s claims, saying the losses were not proven. White Oak Pastures appealed the decision. Following an extended period of appeals from both FSA and White Oak Pastures, a ruling issued in August said the FSA acted improperly when it denied White Oak Pasture’s request for compensation...MORE

The decision is embedded below or you can view the decision here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Someone's gotta feed those eagles...and then pay for it. I guess that despite the loss the operation is making a profit? That's surely a good sign that the owner knows his business. Maybe he could hire some enviros to chase the eagles away and save us taxpayers some money. Seriously, use of livestock guardian dogs such as Akbash or others might make a huge difference. My dogs chase away ravens from the sheep flock. But the dogs will need training before use because, like eagles, they do like to eat chickens. They can be trained to see chickens as other than a snack and they are fast learners. This is opposed to the enviros who never learn and are no trainable.