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Indiana committee wraps up study of animal feeding ops


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — An Indiana legislative study committee spent the last few months looking at ways to address concerns regarding the regulation of confined feeding operations (CFOs) in the state.

Economics are pushing some farmers to consider a switch from traditional farming to more industrial operations, said state Sen. Susan Glick (R-District 13), chair of the Interim Study Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“Farms with 80 to 100 acres and a few animals, those aren’t economical anymore unless it’s a hobby farm,” she explained. “The question our committee had is how do we protect the farmer, farming operations and the population, which has spread out over the years?”

Committee members heard from nearly 40 witnesses during three meetings on Aug. 29, Sept. 19 and Oct. 19. Written statements were provided by 25 people plus the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

In the committee’s final report, dated Oct. 19, it recommended “an increase in notification to potential neighbors and businesses that may be impacted by these operations and an increase in IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) resources to allow IDEM to enhance enforcement by conducting more periodic inspections.”

All regulated animal feeding operations in Indiana are considered CFOs, according to IDEM. To be regulated under the state’s Confined Feeding Control Law, an operation must have 300 or more cattle, 600 or more swine or sheep, 30,000 or more poultry (chicken, turkey or ducks) or 500 horses in confinement.

As defined by the U.S. EPA, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are larger farms, such as those with 700 mature dairy cows, 55,000 turkeys or 2,500 swine above 55 pounds.

IDEM’s staff is responsible for permitting new and expanding CFOs, along with compliance and enforcement. Indiana had 1,815 regulated farms – 1,019 CFO-sized, 796 CAFO-sized – as of May 30. In 2001, there were nearly 3,000.

Glick said she wasn’t aware of any legislators planning to introduce bills during the next legislative session regarding regulated feeding operations. She said the legislature may need to address IDEM funding during the next budget cycle to allow for more inspections.

“We’ve got to be fair to all sides,” Glick noted. “Agriculture is a big industry in the state and is getting bigger all the time. We want to have flexibility.”

An IDEM spokesman said the agency is aware of the study but does not comment on recommendations or potential legislation.

Several witnesses who spoke before the committee were concerned there wasn’t adequate notification to surrounding landowners that a CFO might be under consideration, Glick said.

“If it’s an intense smell from 1,000 animals, 500 feet in each direction may not be far enough (for a notification),” she said. “The smell is going to float across the countryside. We also heard from other farmers who said they live in the country too and if there’s a change in usage, it might cause a disruption for them. We had a lot of people who just would want to know what’s happening.”

The senator was surprised many of the witnesses wanted local entities to have control over the establishment of a CFO in their area. “Even those opposed to (CFOs and CAFOs) wanted local control,” Glick said. “I really expected them to say, ‘Turn it over to the state and let them handle it.’ They’re willing to let the locals handle it if they addressed all of their concerns.”

Josh Trenary, executive director of the Indiana Pork Producers Assoc., said his organization would support more inspections by IDEM.

“We want the bad actors punished too,” he said. “We want IDEM to have the ability to do their jobs. We do want to explore further how the notification process would work.”

Trenary testified during the Sept. 19 meeting. “It was an opportunity to walk the legislators through how all of this works,” he said. “Based on the questions they were asking, they were understanding.”

In a letter to the committee, Lynn Burry, policy chair and board member for the Indiana Wildlife Federation (IWF), said the organization has been following the confined feeding situation in the state for some time.

“The IWF continues to fully support the right to farm,” he wrote “But that right comes with the even greater responsibility of practicing the wise stewardship of its land, air and its waters. This includes not only all other farm operations, but also the interests of the non-farming neighbors. This ensures everyone has the right of protection and redress should an environmental incident generated from a CFO/CAFO occur.

“We need to have stricter permitting rules, setback requirements for proposed new operations and even stricter manure management regulations for all operations.”