Predators are a concern for anyone raising animals, and with a recent ruling from the National Appeals Division of the Farm Service Agency, more farms may be entitled to compensation for attacks from one particularly notable (and patriotic) aggressor: bald eagles.
White Oak Pastures, whose 3,200 acres makes it the largest USDA certified-organic property in Georgia, estimates that bald eagles have destroyed nearly 160,000 chickens over the years, resulting in over $2,200,000 in losses. The farm was famously the subject of a 2016 Audubon feature article titled, “An Organic Chicken Farm in Georgia Has Become an Endless Buffet for Bald Eagles,” which explored the impact of the nearly 75 eagles living at the farm. It made the farm a focal point of the debate over animal welfare and of the differences in health and safety of pasture-raised and barn-raised poultry.
Thursday’s FSA ruling means that White Oak can be compensated for the loss and destruction of its poultry. The decision followed years of disputes between the farm and the FSA, the organization responsible for compensating producers and farmers under the Livestock Indemnity Program.
In a press released put out by White Oak, they said that the ruling determined that the FSA failed to follow its own rules for compensating farmers in its previous denials of White Oak’s claims, and that the FSA’s decision to deny benefits was erroneous.
“We are extremely grateful that the National Appeals Division ruled in our favor and recognized our right to fair compensation for our losses,” said Will Harris, White Oak’s owner and a fifth-generation rancher. “We are proud to be a working farm, committed to doing what is right for the land and our animals, and appreciate the recognition that the FSA acted improperly when it denied our claims.”
With the ruling issued on Aug. 21, the FSA was ordered to work with White Oak to resolve the claims and issue a new decision.