Topeka Gov. Jeff Colyer on Tuesday signed into a law a controversial bill that is aimed at luring large-scale poultry processors such as Tyson Foods to set up shop in Kansas.
Senate Bill 405 would greatly expand the number of chickens that growers can house in facilities known as confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, before they would be required to obtain a state environmental permit.
The bill was strongly supported by the Kansas Department of Agriculture and other agribusiness groups who argued it would enable Kansas farmers to produce more "value-added" meat products for consumers.
But it came in the wake of a recent controversy in northeast Kansas where Tyson proposed building a large-scale slaughter and processing plant near Tonganoxie, sparking widespread public opposition.
Tyson, which is now said to be looking at other locations in Kansas, would rely on large-scale CAFOs such as those provided for in the bill to supply its plant with chickens. Those facilities are owned by individual growers who buy and raise chickens on contract with Tyson.
Under the bill, growers using what's known as a dry manure processing system could house up to one-third of a million birds at one location before they would be required to obtain a permit from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Such a permit would impose a number of requirements, including minimum set-back distances between the barns housing the chickens and other inhabitable buildings or property lines.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29-10 on Feb. 22. It passed the House March 12 by a vote of 84-37.
Democratic Reps. Barbara Ballard, Eileen Horn and Boog Highberger of Lawrence, along with Republican Reps. Tom Sloan, of Lawrence, and Jim Karleskint, of Tonganoxie, all voted against the bill.
Democratic Sens. Marci Francisco, of Lawrence, and Tom Holland, of Baldwin City, also opposed the bill.