Proposed livestock bill
Proposed livestock bill seems to be right on the money (Mason City Globe Gazette Editorial)
When Iowa Rep. Mark Kuhn, D-Charles City, was at the "Smell of Money" livestock forum hosted by the Globe Gazette and KIMT-TV in January, he predicted that this would be the year when the Iowa Legislature considers enacting more controls over livestock confinement operations.
Kuhn — a farmer himself — last week sponsored a bill that would increase the separation distances for new confinement buildings from homes, public use resources, water sources, businesses, schools and churches.
The law would extend new protections to cities, tourist destinations, planned housing developments and farrowing operations, according to coverage of the proposed law by the Globe Gazette’s Des Moines Bureau.
Under the proposal, confinements could not be built within one mile of a tourist destination or within two miles of a "high-quality water resource" such as a tourist destination like Clear Lake.
The plan would also reduce by half — from 2,500 hogs to 1,250 — the size of an operation that is required to have a state construction permit.
The bill passed its first major hurdle Thursday night when the House Environmental Protection Committee, of which Kuhn is a member, OK’d it on a party line vote and kept it safe from Friday’s first "funnel" deadline.
In arguing for the bill, Kuhn said livestock regulations passed in 2002 have not been effective, pointing to a pile of statistics, including one that shows the vast majority of livestock producers are building confinement buildings closer to someone else’s home than to their own.
"We’re not protecting our air and water and community like we thought we would," Kuhn said.
As expected, opposition to the bill is fierce, with most arguing that the rules would limit livestock growth in the state and prevent some farmers from starting or expanding livestock operations.
We have said many times that we agree the livestock industry, especially including pork, is important to Iowa’s economy. We have said that there is room in the state for the industry to expand safely.
But that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to expand everywhere. And it doesn’t mean that every farmer has an inalienable right to raise livestock just because he’s a farmer. We tell other businesses and industries where they can and can’t locate all the time, based on the environment and the neighbors. Livestock operations should be treated no differently.
Kuhn’s bill stops short of giving local governments or local residents veto power over livestock confinements. He says flat out that he doesn’t have enough support this year to go that far.
Still, Kuhn’s plan looks like it would make significant progress in protecting the environment and protecting neighbors, and we urge the Legislature to pass it and Gov. Culver to sign it.
The best way to solve livestock industry problems long-term is through continued research on ways to minimize the negative impacts of the industry. That means making sure that farmers aren’t adversely affected by working in the confinement buildings, making sure the environment isn’t fouled by either planned or unplanned practices that affect the land, air or groundwater, and making sure neighbors aren’t unreasonably affected by nuisance aspects such as odor.
Until those problems can be solved through new practices or technology, it’s prudent to make sure the law allows confinement operations to be placed only where they are appropriate and least likely to hurt the environment or the neighbors.