Leave land-use decisions to local authorities

Local governments would be prohibited from placing restrictions on large livestock facilities in most rural areas of the state under a bill being considered in the Indiana Senate.

The bill would prevent county or other local officials from adopting any rules that go beyond what is required by state law regarding the construction of livestock structures in areas zoned for agricultural use.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, said she submitted her bill in response to steps taken by various counties to keep out large facilities that can house thousands of hogs or cows.

“Animal agriculture has been a big part of Indiana, and so the state needs to at least know this is going on,” Leising said in a media interview. “As far as I know, there hasn’t been any discussion on the state level about the fact these counties are doing this.”

But there’s no reason for a state-level discussion because this is a local issue, not a state one.

Confined animal feeding operations have been proposed in both Bartholomew and Jackson counties. None of the proposals were without controversy and heated debate. But in the end, local officials made decisions based on community standards and rules.

Leising’s proposal would wrongly strip away local authority and could block any local oversight of large feeding operations.

Communities establish rules about where particular kinds of commercial operations can open. It would not be appropriate for a factory to open in the middle of a housing subdivision, for instance. And the state sees no need to intervene in such clearly local matters.

The same holds true for animal feeding operations. Counties have rules about construction of large animal operations designed to address property values, odors and possible health problems, and water and air quality.

In speaking against the bill, former Jay County commissioner Milo Miller Jr. said, “They say they want the counties to have local control, but it’s ‘Do it our way.’ What kind of local control is that? Who knows what’s best in the county? The state legislature or county officials?”

That’s exactly the point. The reason for local decisions on zoning and other similar issues is that local officials have the best perspective on the situation. A one-size-fits-all approach ignores the special circumstances that surround an issue.

As Jackson and Bartholomew counties have already shown, matters can be resolved on the local level. We can solve our own problems in a way that best suits our communities. There is no need for state intervention.

This bill solves no problems and only creates them.

At issue

A proposed bill would prohibit local governments from restricting large livestock facilities in most rural areas.

Our point

Local governments have the best perspective on what is appropriate for communities and already have shown they can settle matters themselves. There is no need for state intervention.