Bill allowing large-scale poultry operations passes House, now goes to governor

Members of the Kansas House, including Rep. Jim Karleskint, right, R-Tonganoxie, watch an electronic tally board as the final vote is recorded on a bill allowing greatly expanded factory poultry operations to do business in Kansas. Senate Bill 405 passed, 84-37, sending it to Gov. Jeff Colyer for his signature or veto.

? The Kansas House gave final passage Monday to a bill that would allow large, factory-scale poultry feeding operations to do business in Kansas.

Senate Bill 405 is intended to pave the way for companies such as Tyson Foods to operate large-scale processing plants, such as the one it proposed last year near Tonganoxie.

It would allow farmers who use dry manure processing systems to raise up to one-third of a million birds in what are called confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, before they would need a state health permit. Those CAFOs would, in turn, supply the processing plant.

The 84-37 vote in the House sends the bill to Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer for his signature or veto.

Tyson’s proposal in September to build a processing plant near Tonganoxie fell through amid widespread public opposition. But Tyson is now reported to be looking at other potential sites in Kansas, including Coffeyville.

Rep. Jim Karleskint, R-Tonganoxie, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill during floor debate Friday by adding a provision that would have allowed for protest petitions and public votes in counties where such plants are proposed.

In addition, Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to reduce the number of birds that could be housed in a facility before requiring a permit.

Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson, cited the failure of those two amendments as his reason for voting against the bill.

But Rep. Les Mason, R-McPherson, said the bill would be good for the Kansas agriculture industry.

“We in Kansas take considerable pride in the fact that our farmers feed an ever-increasing share of the world’s population, improving the quality of life thereof,” he said in a written explanation of his vote.

“We also have become accustomed to being able to walk into our corner store and find a nearly limitless supply of food, fiber and protein to feed and nourish our own families,” he said. “It’s unrealistic to believe that either of those is sustainable if we limit the means of production.”

Karleskint and Rep. Tom Sloan, of Lawrence, were among only seven Republicans who voted against the bill. Lawrence Democratic Reps. Barbara Ballard, Boog Highberger and Horn also voted no.