To prevent different livestock regulations from county to county, state lawmakers are discussing a bill to prohibit local ordinances that set standards for the housing, feeding and caring of farm animals.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, introduced House Bill 553 to the Senate committee on agriculture, energy and natural resources Wednesday. The committee gave the bill a unanimous favorable recommendation, but it still has to head to the full Senate.
“This is a bill that will broadly restrict local governments from regulating livestock, including cows, chickens and horses,” McGrady said.
Sen. Brent Jackson, a Autryville Republican, successfully introduced an amendment to further define poultry to exclude flocks of fewer than 20 birds. That would allow regulation of smaller groups of chickens by municipalities.
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McGrady spoke, as an example, about an ordinance Buncombe County tried to establish for a standard of care for livestock, including horses. He said the point of the bill is to clarify that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has the proper authority to set statewide standards in these areas.
“Also, I think what’s important to know is that the bill doesn’t restrict local governments from using police power to deal with issues related to public safety or health,” McGrady said. “In other words, a city could address an issue where horses were not being properly fed or emaciated.”
The bill attemps to hit a “sweet spot” on the issue, he said.
“On the one hand, we don’t want a spate of ordinances that would set different standards of care for horses or cows across the state. That ought to be determined in one place by the state department. At the same time, nothing here restricts the city or county from using the powers that they currently have and their zoning powers.”