A bill that would give county commissioners the authority to approve or deny large-scale livestock production systems has passed the Kansas House of Representatives. While the legislation is not exclusive to pork production operations, they generated the main focus during the debate.

The Kansas House passed the bill on a vote of 106 to 8. It allows a 60-day public protest period, allowing citizens to collect signatures to force a vote at the next county, state or special countywide election, according to a report on Kansascity.com. The number of required signatures would equal 5 percent of the voters in the county who voted for the office of secretary of state in the last general election. Earlier the bill contained a 10 percent threshold. 

Large-scale dairy production systems also are addressed in the bill, with language clarifying procedures for both dairy and swine facilities.

Previously, establishing large-scale animal-agriculture production facilities within a Kansas county had required an election in that county.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture reportedly requested the legislation revision. The bill was first introduced on Jan. 23. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing last week and voted on the measure. It now moves to the Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration.

Rep. Brian Weber (R-Dodge City), who serves on the Kansas House Ag Committee and supports the measure, said it provides “a nice combination of options for counties.” He said it allows commissioners in counties that want to encourage pork production a way to proceed without the expense and time delay of a referendum; yet the protest petition requirement allows the opportunity for objections.

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Kansas is seeing activity in terms of new pork production units entering the state. In early January, Seaboard Foods received approval to build facilities in Greeley County.

Reports are that the company plans to build a swine complex that could include 120 finishing barns, housing up to 144,000 hogs, an investment estimated at $30 million.