The Iowa House has overwhelmingly voted to let livestock operators close barns, be rebranded as a small-scale livestock producer and no longer have to file “manure management plans” with the state.

Representative Lee Hein, a Republican from Monticello, said under current law, livestock farmers have to destroy barns if they want to downsize.

“This bill allows you to notify the DNR that you will no longer have animals above the 500 animal unit that requires the manure management plan,” Hein said, “simplifies it and allows those buildings to remain intact in case, say, for instance the next generation comes along in a few years and wants to enter back into the hog operation.”

Representative Chuck Isenhart, a Democrat from Dubuque, said it’s a new loophole that lets large-scale livestock producers store manure in vacant buildings.

“Those folks who have not taken care to make sure their own capacity is sufficient to take care of their own manure…they’ll seek this option as a fall-back to making the investments in their own facilities,” Isenhart said.

AUDIO of House debate of HF512 (mp3 runs 7 min.)

Isenhart argued the manure could pose an environmental hazard as it’s transferred to abandoned manure pits by the closed-down barns. Hein said those empty barns could be used to isolate animals if there’s an outbreak of disease in a swine herd.

The bill passed the House on an 83-16 vote. A similar bill is eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate.