By Adrianna Pitrelli
INDIANAPOLIS — If a mega farm wants to build or expand in the future, it may soon have to first alert neighbors.
“I believe the neighbors and businesses nearby should have a say about the CAFOs,” Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange, said at Thursday’s Agriculture and Natural Recourses Interim Study Committee meeting. “Their input is very important to something of this nature that has a direct impact on the neighbors.”
The conversation came after Senate Bill 1494 failed during the 2017 legislative session. The legislation would have amended the law on confined animal feeding operations, often referred to as CAFOs. Critics worried the bill would have allowed existing Indiana CAFOs to expand. Some neighbors argued the noise and smells from the large farms can be harmful to their quality of life.
Thursday the committee finalized a proposal which encourages potential legislation to require neighbors to be told about CAFO expansion.
Currently, if a CAFO is created, neighbors do not have to be notified — a problem Kim Ferraro sees regularly.
“If you’re a neighbor to one of these, you would want to know beforehand if 800 hogs were about to move in,” said Ferraro, who is the policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “And you would want to know that all that waste is coming in — but it isn’t a rule now.”
Ferraro suggested those creating the CAFO must notify the public by either a newspaper announcement or a public meeting and neighbors should be allowed to have their concerns heard publicly — a suggestion the committee also saw important as it was part of their final draft.
From triggering asthma to hurting the quality of life, the large farms do not have positive impacts on those who live around them, Ferraro said.
“A CAFO permit to build or expand should be revoked if the CAFO will cause harm to human health or the environment,” Ferraro said. “This can be done by setting air pollution limits for CAFOs to restrict their dangerous emissions.”
But CAFOs aren’t seen negativity across the board.
“There is a $31.2 billion direct economic impact by Indiana’s farms, including money from agriculture, processing and manufacturing,” Jeff Cummins, of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said at a meeting in late August. “In one year, we did $911 million in state and local tax revenue.”
Rather than diminishing CAFOs, Cummins said he would like to see an expansion of the farms as it could maximize agricultural opportunities.
However, Ferraro argued Thursday issues with CAFOs are getting worse each year.
“More animals are confined into one big space and collect and store feces and urine every day,” Ferraro said. “This is a problem because there are a lot of waste in one area and it’s harming the people and the environment.”
Currently 796 CAFOs operate in Indiana — 103 more than there were in 2014. The waste produced in the CAFOs does not have to be treated and is often stored in a lagoon-type area that causes it to get in the waterways.
A Purdue study showed 81 percent of the assessed stream miles in Indiana are not able to be used for recreational use because they are heavily polluted with animal waste.
Dr. Robert Waltz, the state’s chemist, suggested in order the protect the waterways, a fertilizer plan should be implemented.
“People would look at the soil samples on the farms and then determine what type of fertilizer is best for them to apply,” Waltz said. “But whatever they choose, there would be fertilizer, and that’s what is needed.”
The committee said it will take all aspects of the CAFOs issues into consideration prior to the start of the 2018 legislative session.
Adrianna Pitrelli is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.