The Idaho Senate Tuesday approved new regulations for large and small farms and feeding operations for poultry and swine. The regulations would shift oversight for the animals and their waste from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), which monitors similar operations for other animals.
Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, called the switch to ISDA logical and intuitive. He also said the new regulations are crucial. “We don’t have any regulations on the books to regulate poultry,” Corder said during debate on the legislation. He said those regulations are needed because more large chicken farms, called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are expected to come to Idaho. “We would have 10 million chickens in Idaho with no regulations,” he said.
“These farms are coming to Idaho,” said Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell. “We must have regulations in place so when they do arrive they can operate, and operate in an environmentally responsible way.”
The new rules would clarify the number of animals that would make a small, medium, large, or extra large CAFO and require operations to get permits with ISDA. It would also continue existing state law that discourages extra-large swine CAFOs, which would be facilities with more than 50,000 pigs, from coming to Idaho.
“I don’t think this goes far enough,” said Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum. “But I think some regulation is a better option than no regulation.”
Eleven senators opposed the plan. Some Republicans said no because of opposition from some pork producers on the fees related to ISDA regulation. “This country needs economic growth,” said Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, who is a farmer. He also called the regulations too strict. “A vote for this bill will be punitive to agricultural economic growth.”
Democrats opposed the plan because the CAFOs’ nutrient management plans, which includes how much animal waste is created and how it is disposed, would be kept secret. “I cannot support confidential nutrient management plans,” said Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise. “Neighbors need to know. People need to know.”
“These are large industrial facilities,” said Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise. “Neighbors and regulators should have access to this information.”