Hatchery Plant 1

Feedmill, Hatchery and Processing Plant that will be part of the Costco-owned chicken processing operation in Fremont. Provided by Lincoln Premium Poultry.

What’s going on with Costco’s chicken plant?

So far: Costco said this spring it would build a network of producers in eastern Nebraska to raise and slaughter chickens to sell in its stores. The company touted Nebraska’s central-U.S. location and large supply of grain to feed the chickens.

Agriculture leaders said the project would create jobs and provide new sources of income for Nebraska farmers. Opponents said the project would bring pollution, noise, disease, problems for farmers and unwanted immigrant workers.

Fremont city officials this summer laid the groundwork for the plant by approving zoning and opening the door for financial incentives for the project.

What now: Costco has applied for a site development permit in Fremont. Lincoln Premium Poultry, the company that will operate the project for Costco, met this month with farmers to confirm their interest in raising the birds, and with area banks about lending money to the farmers. Lincoln said interest from farmers is strong.

Lincoln said its initial plans to open the plant in August 2018 were “optimistic” and opening day may not come until 2019.

The company also said its investment in the project is likely to grow, to up to $300 million from $180 million. Site preparation is more expensive at the south Fremont location, the company’s second choice after the Nickerson Village Board nixed a location north of Fremont.

And more of the work will be done by machines, which are costly, but which will save the plant on payroll. The project now is expected to generate 800 to 1,000 jobs, fewer than the 1,100 originally projected. Lincoln executives traveled to Europe this past week to make decisions about machinery purchases.

What’s next: The City of Fremont still faces legal opposition from residents who say it should not have designated farmland where the plant will locate as blighted, a condition of the financial incentives.

Costco faces a permitting process that will include approvals from Fremont and from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. Individual farmers would need local and in some cases state approval for permits to build chicken barns.

And Costco executive leadership needs to make a final decision about whether to proceed with the plant.

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