Topeka Kansas lawmakers advanced a bill that would allow industrial chicken farms to house more birds closer to homes and communities, despite a public outcry last year over a proposed Tyson Foods chicken plant.
Senators on Thursday passed the bill that would increase the number of chickens a producer could have in a concentrated area by changing the formula for determining the number of birds allowed, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported . The measure advanced on a 30-9 vote.
Support for the bill was driven by lawmakers wanting to bring in large-scale poultry producers and the jobs that come with them.
Opponents argued that the facilities harm the environment and communities. The bill came after residents in northeast Kansas counties successfully defeated a plan proposed by Tyson to build a $320 million facility processing 1.2 million birds per week in Tonganoxie.
Democratic Sen. Tom Holland, an outspoken critic of the Tonganoxie project, voted against the bill. Holland tried to amend the bill to give local residents a say when poultry producers build barns in their area and would have allowed residents of neighboring counties to file petitions against large chicken barns.
"Some in this body may want to worry about what's good for industrial interests," he said. "I'm going to worry about what's good for our citizens who are in Kansas and pay their taxes and send their kids to our schools and die in this state."
Republican Sen. Bud Estes said treatment and handling of livestock has improved in recent years.
"You do not get those smells of animals," Estes said. "You do not get travelers coming into Dodge (City) and taking a big whiff and saying, 'Oh my gosh, let me out of town.' It just doesn't happen anymore, so the assumption that these coops, that these chicken farms are going to be smelly, dangerous, disease-riddled operations is just absolutely not correct."