Feeling that state environmental regulations aren't doing enough, county officials in some states are passing their own rules. Instead of calling them environmental regulations, counties are looking to county health boards to pass laws they say are need to protect public health.

In reality, most of the new rules are attempts to control "large" farms, particularly pork operations. For instance, officials in Norton County, Kan., are implementing strict new regulations on confined-animal-feeding operations that extend beyond environmental protections in existing state and federal regulations.

Supporters say these laws protect groundwater safety and quality, but opponents contend it will drive the county's pork producers out of business and impact the state's livestock feeding industry if other counties follow suit.

The new rules, implemented on March 1, would increase separation distances between CAFO's and require covers on all manure lagoons to control odor and protect groundwater. The rules also require increased deep-soil testing to monitor potential contamination.

Producers have four months to apply for the county permit and two years to comply with the new regulations.

Some counties in Iowa are passing similar laws. Worth and Palo Alto counties have passed health regulations intended to stifle large pork operations. Cerro Gordo and Franklin counties have passed one-year moratoriums on all livestock confinement-building construction. Those moratoriums also were prompted by a large egg company's attempts to build in the counties. Many other Iowa counties are looking into passing health ordinances and/or construction moratoriums.

It's possible that any or all of these new ordinances could face lawsuits claiming that they violate state laws that oversee the livestock industry.