New law would affect livestock farmers

Thursday, March 1, 2007
Despite the windy, rainy weather, workers use a crane to hoist a piece of material up and attach it to the facade of the Performing Arts Center at DePauw University Thursday morning. The expansion and renovation of the 32-year-old building is to be completed in the fall.

Large livestock farms in Putnam County could face new restrictions according to a proposal being considered in the Indiana General Assembly right now.

House Bill 1197, which was approved and sent to the Senate last week, prohibits the construction of Confined Feeding Operations, or CFOs, within one mile of a licensed child care center, public school, licensed health facility or municipality.

Confined feeding, according to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management website, is the raising of animals for food, fur or recreation in pens, sheds, barns and other structures where they are confined and fed for at least 45 days, and there is no ground cover or natural vegetation present for at least half the animals in confinement.

For a farm to be classified as a CFO, it must house at least 300 cattle, 600 swine or sheep, or 30,000 fowl such as chickens or turkeys, according to IDEM.

Putnam County is home to a number of smaller CFOs, mainly in the central and southern parts of the county, according to a map from the State Department of Agriculture.

Exceptions to the one-mile restriction would be CFOs that are built within one mile of an existing CFO and expansions of existing CFOs.

Supporters of the new law complained to state lawmakers last week that they are bothered by the odors associated with farms where large numbers of animals are raised. They also claimed that the manure runoff from these farms is a threat to nearby streams and water supplies.

But opponents of the new law, including state Agriculture Department Director Andy Miller, say farms are some of the most heavily regulated businesses in the state right now and that more restrictions could be a detriment to future growth of the industry.

Current state law requires farmers to collect the manure in pits, lagoons or other environmentally safe locations after which time they can apply it to agricultural fields as fertilizer.

The new law would require IDEM to establish a set of penalties for CFOs found to be in violation of the environmental rules. It also requires IDEM to inspect each CFO at least one time per year and allows the agency to revoke a CFO permit on the third occurrence of certain violations.

Miller, who spoke to the BannerGraphic during a recent telephone interview, said he believes the new law places unnecessary restrictions on farmers and takes control away from the local authority and gives it the state.

"We are fully supportive of local control," Miller said.

Ann Delchambre, Purdue Extension Educator for Putnam County, serves on the county plan commission and believes it is important for local officials to be educated about livestock farms and to maintain governance over those issues.

Also she believes it is important to educate the public in order to quell some of their concerns with issues relating to CFOs and their much larger cousin the CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation.

Putnam County does not have any CAFOs, according to Delchambre.

Communities around the state have been forced to deal with the CFO/CAFO issue in recent years as more of the public desires locally produced meat and as urban sprawl continues to eat up farmland.

"It's becoming more and more of a hot button issue," Delchambre said. "It's a huge issue."

But Delchambre has some hope that the issue of large farms may not become as problematic in Putnam County as it will be in counties that border Indianapolis -- places like Hendricks County and Hamilton County which are the fastest growing counties in the state of Indiana.

Delchambre said Putnam County residents, for the most part, see their county as rural and tend to be more understanding of farm-related issues. Still she believes growth is going to come to Putnam County eventually and the issue of CFOs will have to be addressed.

"It's an issue that we're gonna have to address if Putnam County is going to stay rural," she said.

Delchambre said she hopes to address the issue as the county continues rewriting its comprehensive plan.

Meanwhile Miller has concerns with a second bill, HB 1308, which also passed the House and has moved to the Senate. It allows IDEM to approve the construction of a CFO after Dec. 31, 2008 if the construction has been approved by the local health department and local zoning authority.

Miller believes the law will put "a huge burden on local health departments" by requiring them to determine the environmental impacts of large livestock operations. He also believes it places farmers in a "vicious cycle" as they go back and forth between state and local agencies.

More information about these two bills is available on the Indiana government's website,

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