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Indiana Pork meetings will touch on legal, social, regualtion issues

WABASH, Ind. — Confined feeding regulations, help with building or expanding a hog barn and promoting the industry were just a few topics covered last Friday at one of the Indiana Pork producers’ winter regional meetings. About 15 people attended the meeting at The Fried Egg restaurant in Wabash.

With some people opposed to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), Indiana Pork offers a free presentation called "Before You Build a Livestock Barn." Stacy Herr, who became Indiana Pork director of business development in July, presents the information.

"We focus a lot on neighborhood interaction," she said. "If you talk to people first, you have a better chance (of approval) when you stand in front of your local zoning board."

Herr said a Blackford County producer recently had building permit success because he visited with all his neighbors, identified issues and Indiana Pork helped reach out and mitigate those issues. "He had no issues with (his local zoning) board. If you want to build or expand your operation, call us early in the process."

Meeting Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) deadlines and not relying on someone else is important as well. Herr said some people hire environmental consultants to help with paperwork, but producers can be fined if construction notifications or other items are turned in late.

"The opposition (to CAFO buildings and expansion) is looking at anything (to complain about),” she added.

The pork industry also is being undermined in high schools, according to Jeanette Merritt, Indiana Pork director of checkoff programs. "Animal activists are attacking (the pork industry) through high school (family and consumer science) classes," she said during her update on the not-for-profit group’s activities for the year.

She said Indiana Pork has a presence on Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitter, and she encourages farmers to use them in promoting their operations. "Get on social media and take pictures (or video) of what you're doing in the hog barn," she said.

This year's Indiana State Fair will be special, as it is the 50th anniversary of the pork tents there, Merritt added. Too, her office is looking for a 2018 Indiana Pork Day Featured Farm Family, and she can provide materials for any local Ag Day events if needed.

Local opposition leaders made it tough to get IDEM permits last year, according to Josh Trenary, Indiana Pork executive director. "Lots of construction was causing angst in Indiana. Lots of IDEM permits were appealed (due to local demonstrators appealing decisions)," he explained.

 Last year Indiana Pork representatives helped draft legislation with technically specific changes to regulations, but the CAFO issues were sent to a summer study committee, Trenary said. Indiana Pork and other ag commodity groups worked to get 53 legislators to tour poultry, hog and dairy CAFOs and see what they were all about.

"The committee report recommended increased notification requirements and IDEM funding, as they operated at a $1.3 million loss last year," he said. “Some counties wanted to shut down building CAFOs.” Specifically, he noted people in Carroll, Fountain, White and Whitley counties have opposed the operations.

"Once a local ordinance (regarding building CAFOs) is there, it's in there," Trenary said. "You have to litigate it out (to change it)." He said his office has funding to help individuals with this process, as well as access to legal counsel.

Other Indiana Pork regional meetings are planned for noon on the following dates. Lunch is included and walk-ins are welcome; to RSVP, call Herr at 317-872-7500:

Feb. 9 – Putnam Inn in Greencastle

Feb. 16 – Dubois County Fairgrounds in Huntingburg

Feb. 23 – IDC's Restaurant in Pennville

March 2 – Pizza Shack in Tipton

March 9 – Farmhouse Restaurant in Fair Oaks

March 16 – Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury

March 23 – Cabos Mexican Grill & Bar in Delphi

March 30 – Riverfront Taproom in Shelbyville