The Iowa Senate has endorsed legislation that would let livestock producers downsize their operations, without having to tear down the barns.
Supporters like Senator Dan Zumbach say it will help older farmers who don’t want to raise as many cattle or pigs, but want to keep the vacant barns in case a young relative decides to get into the business later.
“This is really about helping young, small farmers,” said Zumbach, who farmers near Ryan, Iowa.
Critics say manure stored in vacant barns — and liquid manure stored in lagoons nearby — would pose an environmental hazard. If a livestock producer downsizes to the point where he or she can be rebranded as a small-scale livestock producer, they’ll no longer have to file “manure management plans” with the state.
Only six senators voted against the proposal and none of them spoke during today’s short debate of the legislation. Senator Joe Seng, a Democrat from Davenport, said he didn’t understand the opposition.
“I know manure seems like a bad word in Iowa anymore, but…that manure is very good fertilizer for our land,” Seng said. “It’s organic nitrogen rather than processed nitrogen.”
Seng sang the praises of manure, reminiscing about his mother’s tomato patch.
“I was only about five years old and we had the best tomatoes that year and she put chicken manure on those tomatoes,” Seng said. “From then on, she always was trying to find chicken manure.”
Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Grinnell, called the bill a “common sense” proposal for the nation’s number one pork producing state.
“The best approach is rather than take the defecation, the residue from these animals, spread it at a time that conceivable with heavy rains in the spring could move it to the creeks, the rivers…to allow it to be stored,” Black said.
The House had already approved of the move to do away the current requirement that livestock producers tear down the barns if they downsize, but Senators made a small change in the legislation, so that change must be reviewed and approved by the House before the bill goes to the governor.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has lobbied against the bill, calling it “lipstick on a factory farm pig.”
AUDIO of Senate debate of HF 512 runs 10:00.