Pros and cons of Iowa livestock legislation

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Senate File 2293 is considered the hallmark of the 2002 Iowa legistative session. The lengthy and technical piece of legislation can be divided into five basic areas — fees, input, manure, construction, and dates.

According to the producers, environmentalists and others who lobbied on the bill, each of those areas has pros and cons. Here’s a breakdown of those items:

Fees
Livestock confinement owners will be charged a fee based on the animal capacity of their facilities. The money will pay for 12 more environmental inspectors in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Pros: Environmentalists say that for years the Iowa DNR has lacked the money to adequately safeguard Iowa's environment. They say the livestock industry should pay for the cost of regulation.
Cons: Farm and producer groups argue the fee is similar to an extra tax that future Legislatures could increase. Farmers can't pass on costs like other businesses because they have little control over market conditions and commodity prices.

Input
A new scoring system that takes into account environmental and community factors will be used to help county and state officials evaluate proposed confinement sites. The decision on site approval is made by the DNR.

Pros: Counties are given a bigger voice, but statewide standards will be used so there won't be a patchwork of regulations from county to county. The DNR is given some discretion.
Cons: Counties cannot veto a proposed site. Critics worry the committee developing the scoring system won't do it fairly. Standards could be interpreted differently.

Manure
Limits will be placed on the phosphorus content of manure from livestock confinements that is applied on land. More land could be required for spreading manure.
Pros: Water quality will be improved because phosphorus feeds algae blooms in lakes and other bodies of water. Supporters say the requirement will lead to less concentration of confinements.
Cons: Farmers could incur additional costs using more land to apply manure to comply with the new rule. Critics say the regulation doesn't get at the whole phosphorus problem because it doesn't deal with crop fertilizer and fertilizer used on lawns.

Construction
Requirements for construction permits will apply to smaller animal-feeding operations. The change is retroactive to April 1, but producers with documented building plans that are already under way can proceed under current rules.

Pros: Supporters say this provision boosts enforcement of environmental laws by requiring permits for the building of more confinements. They say many facilities were being built just below the current threshold.
Cons: Critics say lowering the threshold imposes more costs on smaller producers. Some farmers may decide to build bigger confinements to make it easier to recoup their costs.

Dates
Many regulations will not take effect soon. Enforcement of air-quality standards starts in December 2004. Increases in the minimum distance that a confinement must be built from neighboring homes, businesses and water sources take effect March 2003.

Pros: Producer groups argued forcefully that farmers need a transition period. It will take time to write detailed rules. Producers who have already made plans should be allowed to proceed, they said.
Cons: Pushing back new regulations will delay efforts to protect the environment and frustrate rural neighbors and local officials looking for help. Some environmentalists worry there will be a rush to build under the current rules.

Des Moines Register



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