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Senate passes bill regulating livestock farms

Thursday, April 11, 2002

The Iowa Senate debated through the night before approving a bill that may slow the expansion of the state's lucrative livestock industry to protect the environment.

The measure was approved early Thursday on a 37-13 vote and was sent to the House, where it was expected to win approval later in the day.

Legislators hope the proposal will ease tension in rural communities, where neighbors have fought with farmers over concerns that a growing number of livestock confinements - holding thousands of hogs or millions of chickens - can harm their health, damage the environment and send property values plummeting.

"The reality in rural Iowa is that 71 percent of the people do not farm," said Sen. Jeff Angelo, R-Creston, who managed and helped draft the bill. He called the bill a "solution for Iowa concerns."

"We are concerned that the state contemplate the environmental impacts and the quality-of-life impacts of this type of structure," he said.

Although farm and environmental groups disagreed with several provisions in the original bill, many have said they support the measure.

The bill "is more workable, and more practical for farmers to implement than where we started a number of weeks ago," Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Lang said in a written statement.

The Iowa Environmental Council said the bill is a first step toward responsible livestock production.

"The livestock bill ensures that this Legislature cannot be labeled 'Do nothing,"' said Elizabeth Horton Plasket, the council's executive director. "They have done something very important: they have put Iowa on a path of responsible and accountable livestock production and helped move us toward greater environmental and public health protection."

The bill establishes new standards for farmers who raise hogs, chickens, turkeys, cattle and dairy cattle in confinements.

The rules include charging livestock owners a per-animal fee to cover salaries for a dozen new Department of Natural Resources workers who will monitor the industry.

Democrats offered several amendments, including one that would give counties absolute power over saying "nay" or "yea" to allowing construction of the livestock farms.

"We should not deny our counties their rights any longer. It's time for the people to have their say, and it's time for us to empower our local officials," said Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, whose home county, Cerro Gordo, has enacted a year-long moratorium on such new farms.

GOP leaders opposed the amendment. Angelo argued that the bill rightfully gives the county a chance to give input and the DNR the discretion to deny or approve an application.

The bill does not give counties absolute control over allowing or rejecting applications to build new farms. Instead, it allows counties to use a set of criteria in a scoring matrix to determine whether a permit should be approved or denied.

Counties then would send their recommendations to the DNR, which would use the same matrix to decide whether to allow construction.

Environmentalists, including Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, have said that provision simply embellishes the current process.

Counties already issue recommendations to the DNR, and the agency has the final word on letting farmers build new confinements.

Democrats also offered a proposal that would repeal the law that protects livestock farms from nuisance lawsuits.

"The constitutionality of it was at least questionable," said Sen. Jack Holveck, D-Des Moines who offered the amendment. "It seems to me the way to deal with this is to strike it from the Code."

Republicans struck it down, saying such a provision would change the intent of the bill and make it less practical for farmers.

Here is the 37-13 roll call vote by which the Senate approved a measure Thursday imposing new regulations on large livestock farms:


Angelo, Boettger, Drake, Gaskill, Houser, Iverson, Jensen, Kramer, Lamberti, Lord, Lundby, Maddox, McKean, McKibben, McKinley, Miller, Redfern, Rittmer, Schuerer, Tinsman, Zieman


Black, Bolkcom, Connolly, Dearden, Deluhery, Fraise, Gronstal, Hammond, Harper, Horn, Kibbie, McCoy, Ragan, Shearer, Soukup


Freeman, Greiner, King, Redwine, Rehberg, Sexton, Zieman


Dvorsky, Fiegen, Fink, Flynn, Hansen, Holveck

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