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State Preemption of Local Control Over Intensive Livestock Operations

June 2014

Citation: 44 ELR 10506

Issue: 6

Author: Nadia S. Adawi

Attempts to regulate intensive livestock operations at the local level have met stiff resistance from state legislatures. Local governments, frustrated by the hands-off approach of federal and state law, have tried to pass local ordinances that address potential detrimental impacts to the water, air, and quality of life from factory farms in their communities. Yet, increasingly, state legislatures have blocked these efforts. States preempt local control in three main ways: by setting statewide standards for agricultural operations that cannot be exceeded by local law; by prohibiting local zoning and often local health ordinances for agricultural operations; and by broadening Right to Farm laws to supersede local ordinances. In the absence of additional regulation or enforcement of existing regulation, those who are most affected by industrial agriculture are left with no way to address perceived harms.

Nadia S. Adawi is an attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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