A Kansas Senate bill, which is reportedly receiving widespread support, would set boundaries on concentration of chicken houses in the state and the number of birds at each site. The legislation was introduced with the goal to help improve recruitment of companies interested in making investment in the state and potentially opening the state to new poultry operations.

Under Senate Bill 405, introduced in the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee, poultry barns in Kansas could not be closer than a quarter of a mile from an occupied home, excluding a homestead located on the same property with the chicken barns. The bill also would require farms with more than 125,000 broilers or 82,000 layers to obtain a federal permit. Under the bill, the density of confined poultry operations and proximity to residential units would be a matter of state law. In addition, production barns operating under the Senate bill would have to deploy a dry-manure system to limit objectionable smells from the chicken houses.

Kansas has a modest poultry footprint lacking sizeable broiler operations, compared to surrounding states. The need for laws pertaining to poultry production became more relevant in the state in 2017, when Tyson Foods experienced a public outcry after it announced plans to build a $320 million new poultry complex that included a poultry plant, feed mill and hatchery in the northeastern Kansas community of Tonganoxie. Tyson Foods ultimately backed away from those plans to build in Tonganoxie as a result of public opposition and elected officials withdrawing their support., Tyson Foods announced plans to build in Humboldt, Tennessee instead.

The Senate bill was endorsed this week by two of the state’s largest agricultural industry organizations, Kansas State University faculty and county development groups. “Out of all animal production, it is the one industry that is expanding and will probably continue to expand,” said Scott Beyer, associate professor of animal science at Kansas State University.  The  Kansas Farm Bureau and  the Kansas Livestock Association also endorsed the bill.

Jackie McClaskey, secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, supports the bill.  “If we’re going to grow the economy, we have to grow agriculture. This bill is not designed to do anything to weaken our environmental standards.  It is not designed to change the role of the state or locals in deciding what kind of business they want to recruit to their community,” she said.

Cloud County, which is located in north-central Kansas, is one community that has expressed an interest in attracting a broiler complex.  “The minute this becomes statute, you will be putting an open sign at our borders,” said Ashely Hutchinson, executive director of Cloud County Economic Development. “Give us the tools we need to bring in agriculture economic development in rural America.”

The Sierra Club expressed opposition to the bill. “The new bill will allow poultry giants like Tyson to cram many more chicken production barns into the suburban and rural area immediately surrounding their slaughterhouses,” said Craig Volland, chair of the Sierra Club’s agriculture committee.



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