ST. PAUL (AP) -- Despite warnings from environmentalists, legislation trimming unpopular feedlot rules was approved without dissent late Thursday by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.
The panel's approval of the feedlot bill had been expected because the committee historically has been sensitive to the needs of farmers.
The rules were designed to tighten the environmental standards for feedlot operators. In so doing, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hoped to quiet some of the criticism of environmentalists and homeowners.
But after a summer of listening to farm protests, legislators complained that the rules were poorly drafted. They said the MPCA seemed to know little about livestock agriculture.
In the rules, the differentiation between feedlots and pastures often is blurred. The rules require farmers to develop manure management practices for pastures as well as feedlots.
If unchanged, the rules would only add to the 6,000-7,000 farm families that are expected to leave agriculture this year, one critic says.
In his bill, Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, would relax the animal unit restriction the MPCA has set for feedlot permits. He also would:
-- Require that a feedlot permit either be issued or denied within 60 days.
-- Remove pastures from the MPCA's feedlot rules.
-- Allow the short-term stockpiling of manure.
-- Create a manure applicator education and certification program.
-- Remove a requirement that farmers fence their cattle off from public waters.
''We're trying to protect a rural way of life that has been around for hundreds of years,'' Sams said.
His proposal seemed to set the stage for a confrontation between the committee and the MPCA. But when a spokesman for the agency appeared before the committee, he said the MPCA was addressing many of the same issues that Sams had raised.
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