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New oversight for large poultry and pig farms

New oversight for large poultry and pig farms

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 16, 2010
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
Author Image
March 16, 2010

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) could get the authority to manage poultry and swine feeding operations. Current state law gives oversight for those animals to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), but a proposal from Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, to switch supervision to ISDA cleared the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee unanimously Tuesday. ISDA already manages Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) for other animals. The move comes as a large chicken plant is scheduled to come to Burley in southern Idaho.

“Logically, intuitively, we want all our animals in the Department of Agriculture,” Corder said, “so that we can be consistent with our CAFO regulations.” Corder said his proposed language is almost word-for-word with the current regulations for DEQ. “We’re not talking about a new concept or inventing anything new in our handling of CAFOs. What we are trying to do is provide some clarity.” One of the changes is removing old language that measures farms in terms of “animal units.” The new regulation lists the number of turkeys, laying hens, broilers, chickens, ducks, geese, and large and small swine that would make a small, medium, large, or extra large facility. “Now we’re simply referring to the number of animals themselves… so that we can be clear about the animals that we’re talking about,” Corder said.

The proposal would continue the decade-old hurdles to building and running an extra large swine operation, which would be a facility with more than 50,000 pigs weighing more than 55 pounds. Corder said those regulations, including getting approval from city and county officials, make it all but impossible for extra large pig farms to come to Idaho. “It was the policy of the state that extra large swine operations not come to Idaho,” he said. “The Legislature did that by making the requirements very onerous.” Corder’s legislation currently extends those hurdles to extra large poultry farms, but Corder said he will remove that change with an amendment.

Burley economic development director Doug Manning said he’s fine with the legislation, as long as Corder’s amendment is included. Burley currently has one large chicken operation, and another one in the Magic Valley is in the development stage. Manning said a few more could come to Idaho, but he doesn’t see a flood of new chicken CAFOs. “I don’t believe there will be huge droves of poultry operations coming in from out of the state.” Manning said a recent voter-approved proposition in California intended to limit animal cruelty could lead more companies to look at leaving that state.

DEQ deputy director Curt Fransen told lawmakers Tuesday his department has agreed to the changes. “We believe it is consistent with the existing division of responsibilities between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environmental Quality."  Fransen said DEQ would still have authority to deal with issues of air and water quality that could result from CAFOs and other farming operations.

The regulatory change now faces a full Senate vote. The text of the legislation is available here.

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