The House and Senate have passed changes to Idaho’s Right to Farm Act. They would, in effect, allow the state’s agribusinesses to grow without being stopped by neighbors who complain about noise, dust and odors.

It would be harder to file nuisance lawsuits against farmers expanding their operations. The bill more accurately defines what an agricultural operation is and protects it. The changes would be added to the act originally put into law in 1981.

Some farmers’ neighbors aren’t happy about this. They believe it will harm their property values and lower their quality of life.

Agriculture has always been an integral part of Idaho’s economy and identity. A University of Idaho study shows that agricultural cash receipts in 2010 came in at $5.78 billion, up from $5.16 billion in 2009. Agricultural businesses and products accounted for 25 percent of all the state’s exports. From migrant farmworkers to shippers and distributors to all the businesses that supply products to farmers and ranchers, agriculture’s impact on the state economy can’t be overstated.

The Idaho Legislature needs to do all it can, within reason, to protect this crucial industry. And given the fact that the farming industry could very well lose some of its government subsidies as politicos look for ways to cut our massive deficit spending, those who make a living in agriculture will need as much help as they can get.

It’s great to own a house out in the country. It’s pretty and peaceful. But if you own property in an area that’s zoned agricultural, you need to be prepared for the day when a dairy farm will sprout up on that vacant land. Urban encroachment and sprawl shouldn’t force farmers to relocate or restrict their operations.

Same goes for land zoned as industrial. It may be quiet and peaceful when you buy the home next door, but that’s likely to change. It’s up to you to research an area and think ahead before buying a home there.

Cow poop stinks, folks. Tractors make noise. Expect to smell and hear them if you live near agricultural land. It’s not reasonable to expect otherwise.

The changes approved by the Legislature would require that farmers still operate “in accordance with recognized agricultural practices or a government permit.” Operations couldn’t expand without following local ordinances and zoning rules. That’s fair. As long as these farmers are being responsible, they should be allowed to expand.

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