How a Kansas Town Held off a Tyson Foods Plant

This post originally appeared at Civil Eats.

It has been a rough few weeks for Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest poultry producer.

On Sept. 5, the company announced that it was planning to build a $320 million poultry complex outside of Tonganoxie, Kansas — a relatively well-appointed bedroom community in Kansas City with a population of 5,300. The plant was designed to be a first-of-its-kind, fully integrated operation that would have included everything from a hatchery to slaughter and processing. It would require 1,600 new employees and process 1.2 million birds a week.

The Tyson plant was also a long-kept secret with the code name Project Sunset. Local lawmakers were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements when considering welcoming it to town, and the company is said to have worked through intermediaries when negotiating with the landowner over the 300-acre lot it would occupy.

But once the deal was done and the plan was made public, word traveled fast, and residents of the town started a group called Citizens Against Project Sunset (CAPS) and threw up a “No Tyson in Tongie” Facebook group that swelled to over 5,000 members. By last Friday, 2,500 people had gathered in a city park to oppose the development.

Then, on Monday, the Leavenworth County commissioners had rescinded its offer to pledge $500 million in revenue bonds for the facility. The next day, Tyson sent a letter to the county announcing that it had put the plans for the plant on hold.

In its letter, the company wrote: “We still have interest in Leavenworth County, but will prioritize the other locations in Kansas and other states that have expressed support.”



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