NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - It's been almost two months since former Pilgrim's Pride poultry growers began federal civil litigation against the producer that supplies the world with chicken products. On Wednesday, in Marshall, another settlement offer will be presented to Arkansas growers. East Texas plaintiffs are watching the proceedings closely as their court date approaches.
Steve White of Nacogdoches used to raise thousands of chickens at time at his poultry houses for Pilgrim's Pride. The shelters stand vacant. White is left holding high bank notes on the investment. White and 53 other east Texas growers say they've been forced out of the industry.
"Because we wouldn't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars, to modify our houses to save pilgrim's money on the cost to feed that they use to raise chickens," said White.
Pilgrim's pride has said plant closures and grower reductions are necessary during bankruptcy reorganization.
Pilgrim's first offered an .80 per square foot offer to growers. Growers left in disgust. Recently, a mediator proposed raising the ante to $1.25 per square foot.
"There's no way the $1.25 a square foot we can accomplish the damages that's been done to us, pay the debts that we owe," said White. "And pilgrim's claim they can't pay that. That it's just too astronomical."
White can't speak for all plaintiffs. On Saturday, the majority of the East Texas plaintiffs showed interest in the settlement offer they learned about at a meeting held to update them on the court proceedings.
"About two-thirds are receptive to the offer, but they say it out of frustration. They're worried. They're tired. They're hurt," said White.
The trial is in four phases as three cities in Arkansas and Louisiana present their arguments. Each result will have an impact on Nacogdoches.
"We don't want to be controlled by 'put up, shut up, and get out'", said White.
The plaintiff's attorney said today that El Dorado, Arkansas negotiations or a court decision may be completed in the next couple of weeks. Farmersville, Louisiana will be next, followed by more Arkansas plaintiffs. Nacogdoches and Center growers could be heard some time in the next two months.