Home Rule-Poultry Regulation
Our Position: monitor
This bill exempts all agricultural operations from regulation by county government. It would remove siting restrictions from county ordinances, including setback requirements from local residences. The bill would allow some protection from new hog operations , but no local protection from poultry, cattle or other CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations).
Bill Number: S.1205
Sponsor: Senators Grooms, Verdin, Hutto, Peeler, Williams, Land, Bryant
Legislative Session: 05/06
Has passed the Senate, and has passed the House Agriculture Committee. Will be considered by the full House during the week of May 16.
For complete copy of the bill along with legislative history click on the following:
Date Published: March 11, 2006
Poultry farms push agriculture plan in S.C. Senate
Local restrictions could not trump statewide rules
Item file photo
A Gold Kist employee sprays water onto a truckload of chickens being loaded in the Wilson community of Clarendon County.
By LESLIE CANTU
Item Staff Writer
The poultry industry is pushing a version of a bill that passed the state House of Representatives a few years ago but stalled in the state Senate.
This time, the bill's been introduced in the Senate, most likely to get the fight out of the way first before moving to the more receptive House, said state Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter.
The proposal, nicknamed the "right to farm" bill, bans local governments from passing more stringent requirements than the state's for most farming operations. Hog farms are specifically excluded from the bill.
So, for example, counties would have to follow state regulations on how far from the property line to place chicken houses, rather than writing their own setback requirements.
"What would be the logic in having state regulations if local governments could come in and say, 'OK, thanks, but we're going to have our own set'?" Smith said.
Opponents say the bill wrests home rule from counties and uses a sledgehammer approach to fix genuine farming issues.
Gold Kist and the South Carolina Farm Bureau have come out in support of the bill. Gold Kist division manager Dennis Gordon wrote a letter in support of the bill earlier this week, but could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Gary Spires, state legislative coordinator for the Farm Bureau, said restrictive regulations in one county affect more than the county in question.
"An action in one county is jeopardizing jobs in another county," he said.
When Orangeburg County passed restrictive ordinances that vastly reduced the amount of land available to poultry houses, it affected Gold Kist's operations in Sumter, he said.
Gold Kist and other poultry operations must spread out their business throughout the state per S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations, he said, so Gold Kist needs to be able to operate in multiple counties.
"They need growers in Orangeburg County, and now they're not going to get any," he said.
The current law states that local ordinances cannot make operation of an agricultural facility a nuisance. The bill would change the wording of the law so that, "notwithstanding any local law or ordinance," agricultural operations are considered in compliance with local law if the facility complies with state law.
Local ordinances that are not identical to state law are null and void, the bill states.
State Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, said current regulations that are more stringent than the state's would effectively be wiped off the books because they would be unenforceable.
"Everyone wants to help agriculture and agribusiness, and I certainly am in that group," he said. And some counties have gone overboard in enacting regulations, he said. But, he added, this bill isn't good public policy.
"I think things can be done and should be done to help the Gold Kists of this world, but this bill isn't it," he said.
Leventis suggested that defining which parties have standing to protest an agricultural operation would help by preventing people who don't like chicken houses, but aren't directly affected by them, from blocking a new chicken house.
He also suggested agribusiness work with county councils to amend laws that affect their business.
State Sen. John Land, D-Manning, though, said he supports the bill. He is one of seven sponsors of the bill, introduced March 1.
"The sitting of chicken houses has become a big problem for Gold Kist," he said.
If agribusiness isn't protected from overzealous local laws, businesses such as Gold Kist could start losing employees, he said. Nor does he believe this bill unfairly exempts one industry from local regulation.
"I don't think we're singling them out or treating them differently than anyone else," he said.
Both Land and Smith pointed out that Gold Kist is one of the largest employers in Sumter.
"They are getting zoned out of business," Smith said.
It's simply not fair for local governments to pile regulations on top of existing state regulations, Smith said.
City-County Planning Director Bill Hoge looked at the bill Friday at Leventis' request. Hoge said the bill would slightly affect current poultry regulations in Sumter.
Sumter has longer setbacks than the state requirements, Hoge said, and establishing a chicken house requires a public hearing before the board of appeals.
He also noted that changing the current law would have consequences beyond poultry operations. The current law includes slaughtering and processing operations within the definition of agricultural operations.
Under Sumter's zoning, Hoge said, those operations are confined to industrial areas. If Sumter couldn't keep slaughterhouses in industrial areas but had to allow them in all agriculturally-zoned areas, because its laws couldn't be more stringent than the state's, subdivisions in the Dalzell area or off Patriot Parkway that are within agricultural zones could find they have a slaughterhouse for a neighbor, he said.
Contact Staff Writer Leslie Cantu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-774-1250.