Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Closer Look at "Livestock Friendly County" Designations

-- from the desk of Jon Bailey, Director Rural Research and Analysis Program
Center for Rural Affairs

In 2003, the Nebraska Legislature established the "Livestock Friendly County" program in the state. This program will allow any county in Nebraska to seek a special designation as a "Livestock Friendly County" from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Under the law, any county may pass a resolution designating itself "livestock friendly." To date, no county in Nebraska has been awarded the designation as a "Livestock Friendly County." However, at least a dozen counties are in the process of seeking the designation or have inquired about the program.

Beware Local Zoning Impacts
Most Nebraska counties have comprehensive zoning plans that govern aspects of livestock facility siting and operation. These plans exist for the control of land use in a county and to provide local control. Residents of any county interested in the "Livestock Friendly" designation should be concerned about its impact on local zoning regulations.

An example from the program regulations demonstrates this point. In its application a county must include all zoning regulations, procedures, and permits to livestock feeding operations during the previous 24 months. These items are then reviewed under guidelines that include whether restrictions on livestock operations are based on "scientifically justified environmental risk analysis," whether decisions regarding zoning permits for feeding operations are clearly based on objective, science-based standards, and whether conditions required for livestock feeding operations (such as setbacks) are reasonable and justified.

Local Decisions Shift to State
The result is that under the "Livestock Friendly" designation, local zoning regulations created by local elected officials and local citizens are now reviewed by state officials. Ultimately, that means they are controlled by state officials.

Under Nebraska law, zoning ordinances must "promote health, safety … and the general welfare of the community." These are uniquely local decisions – what promotes the "general welfare" in one community may, or may not be necessary in another community.

Counties seeking the Livestock Friendly designation give up the ability to make local "general welfare" decisions. Those controls will no longer exist because zoning plans will now be subject to state-imposed, undefined standards of what is "scientific," "reasonable," or "justified."

Citizen Right to Participate
As citizens, you are still afforded rights to participate in a county’s process in seeking the "Livestock Friendly County" designation. If your county is discussing the "Livestock Friendly County" program get educated, get involved, and participate in the process.

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