Kansas Legislature lets down public on regulations
That is a famous quote from Drew Edmondson, the former Atty. Gen. of Oklahoma who sued Tyson for polluting the scenic rivers of eastern Oklahoma. Tyson responded by helping to elect an attorney general and a governor who were less concerned about regulations and pollution. Tyson now wants to expand their business into Kansas, and the Kansas Legislators seems amenable to "letting them".
The Kansas Legislature recently passed HB 405, which changes the animal conversion rate ( i.e., the number of chickens whose manure weight equals that from one cow) from 0.008, the previous value, to 0.003. That small change has big consequences. The result is that now a chicken farm may house 330,000 chickens, and it may be placed within 1/4 of a mile of neighboring houses and within 100 feet of neighboring property lines.
Some Legislators were unconcerned about the effect on property rights. Representative John Whitmer, who voted for the bill, justified his vote by saying, “local councils and county governments will still have to change current zoning and planning maps.” That may not be the case. The September KC Business Journal suggested that some Tonganoxie residents think Tyson “may have reason to believe they can declare their operation an agricultural rather than an industrial use to avoid rezoning."
Also, 51 counties have no zoning laws. SB 405 needed an amendment for home rule, where county residents could have the right to file petitions against industrial-agricultural chicken barns and have a county-wide vote. That amendment failed. Apparently, our Legislators are for local rule and property rights when they ask for our vote, but not when they pass legislation.
This was published in the Kansas Times Sentinel on April 5, 2018.