Panhandle Area Development District’s board of directors recently took action to unanimously oppose a bill currently in the legislature that would put a state board in the drivers seat for decisions about where livestock operations could locate. It is one of 3 livestock bills currently being debated in the unicameral that were described by the Center for Rural Affairs as wolves in sheep’s clothing. This bill, the Livestock Operation Siting and Expansion Act, or LB 106, would allow the state to preempt county zoning for determining where livestock operations could be sited or where it is allowable for current operations to expand.
This would be done by judging new siting and expansions on a matrix of criteria which are typically considered for siting and expansion of livestock operation. Only for larger operations (over 300 cattle, for example), could counties require their own siting and expansion permits. However, this bill would also create a 7-member state Livestock Operation Siting Review board, appointed by the governor, which could overturn a county’s permit denial if it decides the county made the wrong decision. The only recourse for counties then would be to challenge the board’s decision in district court. This siting review board would consist of:
- 2 members selected from a list of names provided by the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO);
- 2 members representing livestock farming interests, selected from a list of names submitted by statewide agricultural organizations, and;
- 3 members representing other economic development, planning, chambers of commerce, small business, or environmental interests
At best, this bill is unnecessary. At worst, it is an overreach of one industry’s interests and erodes the ability of residents and local boards to determine what is best for their community. County boards in Nebraska aren’t searching for ways to discourage business, but they do understand that business works best when proper considerations are taken in respect for residents and the land. Counties are in a better position than a matrix or state level, hand selected board to make these decisions of what is best for their residents, land, and water.
This is the message our board made loud and clear on Wednesday. One county commissioner called this bill a ‘bad idea’. Another asked if he could vote against it twice. Our board agrees the Livestock Operation Siting and Expansion Act is not good policy for Nebraska.
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