Jack will continue “slop” program in a different way

Close to 200 local farmers and interested community members fill the gymnasium at the Jack Daniel Employee Resource Center on Thursday to meet with distillery officials about the proposed phase out of the Feeder Cow Program. (Lynchburg Times Photo)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — They rolled in looking for a fight but left with a compromise.

On Thursday, nearly 200 area farmers filled the gymnasium at the Jack Daniel Employee Resource Center eager to face off with distillery officials to discuss the phase out of the Feeder Cow Program. Instead, they learned that the sky might not be falling after all.

After spending the past couple of days talking one-on-one with employee farmers and members of the Moore County farming community, Jack Daniel’s General Manager Larry Combs stood in front of a capacity crowd and explained he’d changed his mind.

“It’s been an interesting few days on social media,” Combs joked with the crowd. “But after meeting with many of you in this room, we’ve decided to continue to the slop program in a different way.”

Combs went on to explain that the distillery will continue to offer slop to existing customers at the current capacity until the proposed anaerobic digester plant comes online in around 18 months. Then capacity will be at about half until JD II comes online.

“The digester needs a minimum amount just to function, so once it comes online the total available stillage will decrease temporarily. Once JD II comes online, we’ll bring that level back up to about 70 percent of what it is today.”

Combs told The Times after the meeting that his team reconsidered after talking to employee farmers. Of the 106 total slop haulers that participate in the Feeder Cow Program currently, around 56 of them are from Moore County and 38 work at the distillery.

“We thought we had some good ideas,” Combs told the crowd. “But after talking to employee farmers one-on-one, we realized we needed to tweak some of them.”

During the Q&A session, one audience member asked how keeping the slop program would help improve the local water quality.

Combs explained the the amount of available slop “likely would not be back to where we are today.” He also explained that the distillery would take a more active role in helping farmers utilize best practices.

“Less slop and improved practices should have a positive effect,” Combs said.

At one point, one local farmer stood up and thanked Combs for considering the input of the community. His comment received a round of applause from all four corners of the room.

As Combs finished his statements, he expressed his commitment to keeping an open dialogue with local farmers as production changes happen at the distillery.

“I’d like to see us all meet together just like this at least once a year to share and discuss,” he said.•

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned newspaper in Lynchburg and also the only woman-owned newspaper in Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}