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Project Rawhide: Secret Corporation Uses City of Fremont’s Government as Mouthpiece

Project Rawhide…a name that sounds like an old Western movie in reality is a plan hatched by elected officials in Fremont to dump 160 acres of chicken barns on the small town of Nickerson, Nebraska.

What really got local folks angry was the fact that this corporation’s name is being kept a secret.

Unless you sign a non-disclosure form, you don’t get to know the corporation’s name so you can can do research on their practices and reputation.

Nickerson citizens punched above their weight on April 4 and voiced their concerns to the town Board.

The elected officials stood with the citizens to unanimously vote DOWN the proposal to rezone land that would have allowed this massive, unnamed corporation into a town of about 360 people bringing unmanageable traffic, bird flu, water pollution and no taxes paid by the secret chicken corporation for 15 years.

This was a HUGE citizen victory. No question about it!

One of the lead landowners said this after the vote happened:

“Last night, April 4, Democracy was on display as over 70 concerned citizens voiced their opinions over the prospect of a major chicken processing plant being placed in our area. These concerns were voiced to the Nickerson township planning committee that was hearing a proposal to change 300 acres of  farmland to industrial land. The board heard our concerns and in a 5-0 vote elected not to allow the rezoning. This was a major  first step in trying to stop more CAFO operations from destroying the wonderful state we live. I can grantee that this battle is far from over and we at Nebraska Communities United will continue to try and bring clean healthy  business to our state.” -Randy Ruppert

nickerson_chickens

Packed room in Nickerson of citizens standing up and speaking out.

As with all critical issues where money is on the table, the side that lost (the Big Unnamed Corporation) is not giving up.

In fact, AFAN and the Fremont Development Council sent out marching orders from the Fremont Mayor to not attend a meeting tonight and to use these talking points when talking to “opinion leaders.” Their email is a perfect example of a group that is supposed to be standing up for family farmers and is instead doing the bidding of elected officials and unnamed corporations…all under the name of family farmers when in reality nothing about Project Rawhide supports the values of family farming and ranching.

Let’s give some background on Project Rawhide for those who might not have heard about this issue that has largely gone under the radar…

The folks in Fremont over a year ago were approached by international consulting firm Deloitte to submit a proposal on behalf of an unnamed, secret corporation to bring massive amounts of chicken barns and a processing plant to Nickerson, a town a few miles from Fremont.

A nonprofit called Greater Fremont Development Council started a website Project Rawhide to try and get their word out and recruit farmers to borrow $1.5 million from a bank to get the prescribed equipment to raise chickens on their own land for this unnamed corporation. If you take a look at their FAQ you will quickly see they are not being forthright with the smell and risks of bringing 1,300 new people to a town of less than 400, let alone the additional trucks, pollution and smell of hundreds of thousands of chickens.

For a year, Fremont backers–many paid by taxpayer dollars as they are elected officials–worked behind the scenes for this unnamed corporation, greasing the wheels and getting politicians to sign “non-disclosure” forms if they wanted to know the name of the corporation that wanted to take over a small town in Nebraska. It is unthinkable that a politician, elected by the people, would sign such a form. But they did, and we hope many of them now regret it, tear it up, and tell us who this corporation is once and for all.

For me, the biggest slap in the face was all the backdoor planning and scheming that went on and the audacity of Greater Fremont Development Council, AFAN and the Chamber to think Nickerson’s board would roll over and hand the keys to their town over to an unnamed corporation. Thank goodness We the People stood up and spoke out.

We said to Keystone XL and we say to this unnamed corporation the same rallying call, “Not in Our Land, Not in Our Water, Not in Our Country.”

ACTION:

Please sign up for emails from the citizen group Nebraska Communities United, they will need more hands to ensure this project never happens in our state and in their community.

If you are a member of the Chamber, AFAN or the Greater Fremont Development Council, we suggest calling or replying to the next email you get from these folks and ask what the heck were they thinking. It is one thing to encourage businesses to start factories and project in our state. It is completely another to have a secret corporation telling Nebraskan elected officials to do their bidding and to hatch a plan to take over a small town all in the name of money.

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Email from Willow Holoubek, Director of AFAN to show you just how they think of citizens standing up and how much in coordination they are with the Mayor of Fremont:

Dear AFAN Partners,
As most of you know we have been working on project Rawhide since last July.  Many of you have heard that last night’s meeting in Nickerson went badly, with a unanimous vote against the project.  Many outlandish quotes were made and misinformation abounded.  It may have been the best that not a lot of support was voiced or it could have gotten worse.  Many times, if left to keep talking, the opposition will dig their own hole.  And then it is time for reason to be voiced.  That is where I need your help.
Please use the attached talking points as they follow the information listed on the Greater Fremont Economic Development Council website.  There is a meeting planned for this evening at the Fremont Chamber meeting for a discussion session.  The mayor has decided not to have discussion on this project tonight.  So, I encourage all supporters to NOT ATTEND, to follow the wishes of the mayor, and to not get pulled into an all out war.  There will probably be a lot of opposition there, and they will not be happy about not being able to voice their concerns.  If they dig themselves in deeper, we MUST be the ones that act in RESPECT!  We do not need to get pulled into their unmanaged war.
We are hoping to build respectful support of Project Rawhide throughout Nebraska, but especially in the area around Fremont.    It will also be very helpful  for everyone to have sensible conversations around the talking points in your everyday conversations, with influencers and elected officials.  When support is needed in numbers at a hearing you will be notified.  Fremont Development is developing a strategy and  I will keep you updated as to how you can help support project Rawhide.
If you have any questions, PLEASE contact me!  My phone and email have blown up today, so you will not be able to leave a message on my cell phone.  I will take messages on my office number.  THANK YOU for your support.
View Talking Points for Project Rawhide Here

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