Iowa House supports new rules on downsizing farms
DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa House lawmakers on Monday approved legislation that would make it easier for livestock producers to downsize, drawing swift criticism from environmentalists who said the measure could mean those farms would avoid environmental oversight.
Legislation passed the House 83-16 that would allow some livestock producers to close barns and be reclassified as small operations. Then they no would longer need to file plans for manure disposal with the state.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement argues that the measure will allow farmers to store manure in those idled barns, which could lead to water-polluting spills either when the waste is transported or while it sits in an unsupervised facility.
Supporters say the bill would help farmers who want to temporarily shutter a barn, perhaps because a child who was helping on the farm went off to college.
"Say for instance the next generation comes along in a few years and wants to enter back into the hog operation," Rep. Lee Hein, R-Monticello, said in support of the measure.
Under current rules, producers who want to deactivate a barn must remove equipment and render the facility unusable. Supporters of this legislation say it can be an expensive process to start using the structure again.
Iowa has roughly 8,000 livestock operations and is the leading hog-producing state in the U.S. The legislation would apply to an estimated 6,100 operations that confine livestock in roofed structures. Currently, if those producers have a certain amount of livestock, they must have a plan for disposing manure and cannot spread the waste on frozen or snow-covered ground in the winter months.
The legislation now moves to the Senate, where a similar bill has been proposed.