Nashville, N.C. — Sanderson Farms Inc. announced Tuesday that it no longer plans to open a poultry processing plant in Nash County, citing ongoing legal challenges to the project.
The Mississippi-based company in August unveiled plans for a "poultry complex" on 26 acres the company bought in December near the intersection of N.C. Highways 97 and 58, a few miles north of the Nash-Wilson county line.
The prospect of a poultry plant has divided area residents for almost two years, however.
Supporters argued that the plant would create more than 1,000 jobs in an area with high unemployment. Opponents maintained that the county risked contaminating area water supplies and creating an environmental hazard by allowing the plant to open.
Two Nash County residents filed suit in September to block the plant, alleging that county officials secretly voted to spend $1.2 million to buy land for the plant to recruit Sanderson Farms to the area.
The City of Wilson also sued to block the proposed plant, alleging that it could threaten the city's drinking water supply.
"While we are disappointed that Nash County will no longer be considered for this project, we understand the need for certainty with respect to Sanderson Farms' ability to move forward with construction in a timely manner once the other contingencies are met," Robby Davis, a member of the Nash County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, various legal challenges will not allow us to meet Sanderson Farms' schedule without the possibility of delay."
Company Chairman and Chief Executive Joe Sanderson Jr. said construction of a new processing plant in a different location would remain on hold until market conditions improve, including the supply and price of corn and other feed grains.
"We remain committed to our growth strategy and, toward that end, have been evaluating and will continue to pursue alternative locations that will enable us to continue our pattern of steady growth," Sanderson said in a statement.