Kansas lawmakers approved legislation on Monday aimed at attracting chicken-processing plants to their state. The bill would allow larger poultry houses within a mile of residential areas.  The House passed it on Monday by a vote of 84-37, the Senate approved it last month on a vote of 29-10. The bill now goes to Republican Governor Jeff Colyer next, who is expected to sign it.

The law would take effect in July and triple the number of chickens that could be housed in poultry barns three-quarters of a mile or less from a home. Kansas law currently limits poultry barns within a quarter mile of a home to 100,000 chickens or fewer, depending on how the waste is handled.  Barns with fewer than 30,000 birds can be closer.  It would allow barns with up to 330,000 chickens a quarter mile away.  The bill also allows farmers to use dry manure processing systems to raise up to 300,000 birds before they would need a state health permit.

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 Kansas in 2017 when Tyson Foods announced plans to build a $320 million new poultry complex that included a poultry plant, feed mill, and hatchery in Tonganoxie, Kansas.  Tyson Foods ultimately backed away from its plans as a result of public opposition who withdrew support of Tyson’s plan

Officials in Cloud County in north-central Kansas and Coffeyville in southeastern Kansas still hope to attract a Tyson plant. Their legislators and other state officials argue that revising state standards will encourage Tyson or other companies to bring new jobs to the state.

State Rep. Susan Concannon, of Beloit, whose district includes Cloud County, said chicken-processing plants represent “economic development for our rural areas.”

State officials have argued that new standards still would protect the environment. But environmentalists and some legislators are skeptical.