Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and representatives from eight poultry companies plan to resume talks today in Tulsa regarding water quality and poultry litter issues.
Representatives of farmers will be allowed to participate in informational sessions prior to negotiations, said Charlie Price, a spokesman for Edmondson's office. Talks are planned for today and Wednesday.
Price said Edmondson still hopes to avoid a lengthy court battle.
The lawsuit names poultry companies, including the world's largest poultry company, Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, and six subsidiaries of those companies.
At issue is the phosphorus levels in the Illinois River watershed. The Illinois flows into Oklahoma, where it is listed as a scenic river, and eventually into Lake Tenkiller near Tahlequah, Okla., about 60 miles southwest of Fayetteville.
Tahlequah uses Tenkiller for its drinking water supply.
Representatives for Poultry Partners Inc., a group of 350 area farmers, will be in Tulsa at the science and education meetings prior to the negotiations, Bev Saunders, the organization's manager, said.
The actual negotiations will still be closed to the farmers.
"Any agreement behind those doors will fall back to the poultry producers to implement. We should be involved in the entire process," Saunders said.
A spokeswoman for the poultry companies has said they are hopeful for a resolution to the dispute with Edmondson.
Chicken litter contains high levels of phosphorus. Farmers spread the litter on their fields as a fertilizer. The lawsuit claims runoff from the fields during heavy rains can carry phosphorus into a river as an indirect pollution source.
Poultry companies have agreed to a number of steps to reduce the impact of land-applied poultry litter on streams, but have resisted Edmondson's prior calls to pay monetary damages.
Edmondson said the steps taken so far by the poultry companies and their growers have not been enough to clean up the river and reservoir.
Researchers and poultry farmers pointed out other sources contribute to the high levels of phosphorus in the Illinois including development in Northwest Arkansas, wastewater treatment plants and commercial fertilizer applied to lawns and fields.