After weeks under wraps, legislators finally had a public debate of the plan to toughen livestock regulations. The Senate Ag Committee took up the bill last night, discussed it for awhile, and then voted to send the proposal to the full Senate for debate. The plan was drafted in private by a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers, and sets up stricter standards for livestock operations. For example, farmers who spread manure on cropland would have to adhere to new rules that’ll limit how much phosphorus, which is in the manure, would be applied per acre. The bill also sets up new “per-animal” fees that’ll pay the salaries of a dozen new state inspectors who’ll oversee the industry. Republican Senator Jeff Angelo of Creston says it’s a pragmatic response to public outcry. He says it’s is a volatile issue that’s leading to a lot of conflict across the state. Angelo says it would be easy for the legislature to do nothing in this election year, but he says they’ve taken the “courageous” step of moving forward on this issue.” Angelo says the bill’s still a work in progress. He says there continues to be disagreements, and they continue to work on them. Democrat Senator Betty Soukup of New Hampton says the public is demanding change. Soukup says they need to remind Iowans that the state has been fined by the E-P-A, they need to remind Iowans that there are 159 impaired waterways, and that not one lake would meet national phosphorus standards. She says they also need to recognize the counties that’re passing moratoriums.Soukup, though, objects to the republican idea of delaying implementation of most of the new regulations ’til March of next year. And Soukup says the bill doesn’t give county officials any more say over where livestock facilities may or may not be built. She says Iowans have been telling them that they want say or control over what goes on in their county.Democrat Senator Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg says the bill needs some tweaking, but he calls it a good start. He says it will be “landmark” legislation and he says the legislature’s getting calls from all over the country about what they’re doing.If the bill becomes law, those who plan to build new hog confinements will need state construction permits if a building houses more than 25-hundred hogs. Today’s per-building limit is almost 42-hundred hogs. Senate leaders expect to bring the bill up for debate sometime today. Lawmakers hope to conclude their 2002 session this week.
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