Potential dairy farm outside Panhandle stirs up controversy

Potential dairy farm outside Panhandle stirs up controversy. (ABC 7 Amarillo - Kendra Hall) 

Residents in Panhandle, Texas say they are upset over a potential dairy farm. The main concerns residents have are air pollution and water quality from the dairy farm.

ABC 7 spoke with one of the land owners where the farm could potentially be built and he says residents have nothing to worry about.

The potential dairy farm would be built outside Panhandle city limits about three miles west of the city.

"If you put anything there with the prevailing winds, it's going to cover our town with any type of air that will cause disease," said Terry Coffee, Panhandle City Manager.

Coffee says he and most residents in the city do not want the farm to be built.

"With the amount of water that they're going to use every day plus what our farmers are using, we're going to drop that table on our aquifer," said Coffee.

He, along with other residents, have two main concerns: air pollution and water contamination.

"I understand the fear of what it could bring, but it's the same token," said Chandler Bowers, land owner. "America's a growing world. Us as farmers and ranchers and dairymen and feed yard operators have to keep the food rolling for the demand of the growing population and this is part of what happens in order to make that happen."

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the agency that will issue the permit for the farm. Residents are concerned the dairy yard will negatively affect the water, but Bowers says the TCEQ regulates it very closely and as far as air pollution, Bowers wants residents to know it is a dairy farm and not a feed lot.

"A dairy farm does not have the smell day to day that they're thinking whenever they're comparing it to a feed yard," said Bowers.

He says this will have many benefits and there is not anything like it in the area.

"It just opens up another window of opportunity for selling grain," said Bowers. "The use of manure and compost, which is something that we as farmers and ranchers both use all over."

But residents in Panhandle say they will not see the benefit from it.

"They're concerned about their property values dropping and the economic value of our city going down," said Coffee.

On Tuesday the town will have a meeting with the TCEQ. During the last meeting, about 500 residents showed up to argue against the dairy farm so the city manager thinks even more will show up tomorrow.

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