Indiana Senate considers blocking local limits on large livestock facilities

Local governments would be prohibited from placing restrictions on large livestock facilities in most rural areas of the state under a bill being considered in the Indiana Senate.

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The bill would prevent county or other local officials from adopting any rules that go beyond what is required by state law regarding the construction of livestock structures in areas zoned for agricultural use.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, said she submitted her bill in response to steps taken by various counties to keep out large facilities that can house thousands of hogs or cows.

"Animal agriculture has been a big part of Indiana, and so the state needs to at least know this is going on," Leising told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1sdbXDH ). "As far as I know, there hasn't been any discussion on the state level about the fact these counties are doing this."

Some environmentalists and local government leaders say the proposal would wrongly strip away local authority.

Kim Ferraro, the Hoosier Environmental Council's water and agriculture policy director, said the bill could block any local oversight of what she calls factory farms.

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Residents in some counties have fought the construction of large animal operations, citing concerns such as declining property values, additional odors and possible health problems from increased water and air pollution.

The agriculture committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Monday.

In rural eastern Indiana's Jay County, officials discussed blocking the construction of such facilities but decided last fall not to do so, said former county commissioner Milo Miller Jr., who stepped down Jan. 1 after 24 years on the board.

Miller said he disagreed with Leising's bill.

"They say they want the counties to have local control, but it's 'Do it our way,'" Miller said. "What kind of local control is that? Who knows what's best in the county? The state legislature or county officials?"