PANHANDLE — A proposal by Bowers Land and Cattle Family to move a dairy facility just west of Panhandle was withdrawn Tuesday evening during a public meeting in which hundreds gathered in opposition.
Chandler Bowers stunned the audience when he formally withdrew his family’s request to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to operate a dairy cattle facility a half mile north of County Road J and Highway 60.
“We never intended for this to have any negative effect on our neighbors or the community,” Bowers said. “We continue to believe that a dairy operation in Carson County would be of significant benefit to the area, however, we are fully aware of the concerns by many of you represented tonight … at this time we will be presenting a letter to the TCEQ requesting the permit application for the proposed dairy be withdrawn.”
The audience stood and erupted into cheers after Bowers made the announcement. During a recess, several people made their way to Bowers to extend their gratitude and appreciation.
“It’s humbling, it’s hard — it was a hard decision and it wasn’t taken lightly,” he said. “Agriculture is a very vital part of our well being and we have a lot to educate the public on how these things really work — not in a bad way.
Bowers countered some of the prevailing issues people expressed out the potential dairy farm, including the smell and potential water contamination.
“There wouldn’t have been the flies and the smell that everybody thought,” he said. “I challenge everybody to visit a dairy, the American Dairy Association would be glad to teach you. (Regarding) the water usage and the contamination, the dairy industry does a good job of taking care of both and following the rules.”
Another issue raised by concerned citizens was the recycling of bovine waste into the land’s irrigation system.
“You can only do that to a certain extent,” Bowers said. “If they get it too stout, they can’t grow a crop in it … it’s an all natural way of fertilizing the land. If every farmer had the access to it, they would use it. That’s also a part of the regulation process.”
Bowers said he didn’t know what they would do with the family-owned land they proposed to build on. It has been in use as a farm for nine years.
State Rep. Four Price, whose office asked for the formal meeting, said he was pleased with the turnout and addressed the audience before Bowers spoke.
“I think TCEQ does a good job analyzing information and I think they want to hear from our community,” said Price, R-Amarillo. “(We wanted people) to have an opportunity to voice support, opposition or concerns as a very important part of the process.”
Of the roughly 2,600 people living in Panhandle, about one-fifth showed up to a town hall meeting in June where the TCEQ was not present.
Citizens expressed a range of concerns including water contamination, property values, community growth and traffic safety.
Panhandle Mayor Doyle Robinson said 600 signatures had been added to a letter of comment since Sunday against the dairy farm.
“The prevailing winds will take it right across the community,” said Robinson.
“It” being what Amarilloans sometimes refer to as “the smell of money” that wafts over from Hereford’s feed yards — along with microbes, bacteria and potential contamination.
“We’re not anti dairy or anti farm or ag culture, it’s just a bad location,” Robinson said. “It’s in a place where it would be along Highway 60 and the way it would flow … into a playa lake. Everything about it was wrong as far as wind and so forth.”
Robinson said Amarillo engineering firm Parkhill, Smith & Cooper studied the proposal and found contamination of the aquifer, water wells and the underground water supply was possible.
“We have water wells within one mile of where they’d be putting out manure on the land through sprinklers and so forth,” Robinson said.