Topeka, Kan. — In recent years, the Kansas Legislature has considered changes to the Kansas Corporate Farming Law. In order to inform the discussion, the Kansas Health Institute (KHI) has conducted a health impact assessment (HIA) that examines how some changes to the law could affect the health of Kansans.
Senate Bill 191 (and its House version, HB 2404) was proposed to amend the Kansas Corporate Farming Law. Among other provisions, the bill would have removed restrictions for agribusinesses with certain forms of ownership structure (e.g., corporation, trust) to operate in Kansas. Furthermore, the bill would have removed some requirements that farms be owned by families or that family members be active in the operation of the farms. This bill did not pass during the 2013 session, but the issue continues to be discussed and similar bills may be introduced in the future.
The purpose of the HIA was to examine how some provisions of this legislation might affect the health of Kansans, either positively or negatively. Testimony on the bill was provided by various stakeholder groups. Some indicated changes to the law would open opportunities for new agribusiness in the state, creating economic growth. Although the testimony varied, the most commonly identified potential impact was an increase in the number and size of swine and dairy operations.
This study analyzed six factors related to the expansion in the number and size of swine and dairy operations including employment, property values/taxes, population, water quantity, amount of waste produced and antibiotic use in animals. These factors can impact health. For example, people who have access to jobs enjoy better health and have slower declines in health status over time.
Key findings from the study showed that an increase in the number of swine and dairy operations in Kansas may result in:
- Some increase in the number of jobs, however, the potential health benefits of those jobs depend on whether the livestock operations provide livable wages and health insurance coverage.
- No changes in county-level rates of health insurance coverage, property values or school funding.
- Declining property values for properties located downwind and close to large livestock operations. These residents may be at an increased risk of poor health due to their decline in socioeconomic status related to changes in their property values.
- Increased amount of waste (manure and other waste) produced. This could negatively impact the air quality and increase the risk for water pollution and soil contamination.
- Increased volume of antibiotics used in animals. Continued or increased use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock can contribute to bacterial resistance in humans.
To mitigate the potential negative health effects of the proposed changes to the law, the assessment includes recommendations for policymakers, relevant agencies and livestock operations to consider:
- Increase the minimum separation distance between habitable structures and dairy farms (1,000 units or more) and swine farms (3,725 units or more) to three miles.
- Compensate neighboring property owners who may experience negative effects associated with nearby livestock operations.
- Conduct a statewide study of existing large-scale livestock operations’ nutrient utilization plans (NUP) for manure application regulation.
- Develop and implement a Kansas-specific siting tool to evaluate optimal siting conditions for livestock operations.
- Restrict subtherapeutic antibiotic use in animals.
This project is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, through funding from the Kansas Health Foundation. The views expressed in the report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the project’s advisory panel or the funders of the project.