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Friday, January 19, 2007

Environment - Still more on: A state panel plans public hearings this month on its model rules for local regulation of large livestock farms

The revived Indiana Land Resources Council (ILRC) has been holding public hearings on local zoning for CAFOs.. Seth Slabaugh of the Muncie Star-Press reports today on the hearing in Noblesville. The story begins:

NOBLESVILLE -- State officials are recommending that counties require concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to be located at least 600 feet from residences.

But residents who attended a listening session presided over by Andy Miller, director of the state department of agriculture, said that was not far enough.

"If you think it's fun to live there, just come out and see how fun it is," said Corvin Coats, a retired farmer from Randolph County, which led Indiana with 13 new swine CAFO permits in 2006. "You need five miles to be safe (from air pollution)."

The Indiana Land Resources Council (ILRC), of which Miller is chairman, is suggesting that counties revise their zoning ordinances because of increasing conflicts between rural residences and new CAFOs. Indiana permitted 91 swine CAFOs housing 513,111 swine last year statewide.

"The use of atmospheric air to dilute odors from livestock facilities by appropriate setback distances is still the most popular and cost-effective strategy to reduce odor nuisance," ILRC reported in one of its proposed model ordinances for local governments.

"If this is the most popular method of dealing with odors, the setback will have to be a lot more than 600 feet," said Gary Alexander, a real-estate appraiser and farm owner from Eaton, at Wednesday night's session.

"Your setbacks are way off," said Richmond resident Barbara Cox, who owns farm land in Randolph County. "You can't start off at 600 feet."

The story also reports on an interview with Mr. Kelly (ILRC member and chairman of the urban planning department at Ball State University) held after the meeting:
The ILRC is not trying to preempt local decision-makers, Kelly said.

"We're just trying to give them a tool to use, not tell them what to do," he said. "We don't think our numbers are unreasonable, but if a county thinks 1,200 feet is a better setback distance, that's what they ought to do."

But if a county thinks a five-mile setback is in order, "then it ought to be honest and vote to ban animal agriculture," Kelly said. "I think an Indiana county can say it is not in favor of animal agriculture, or it could ban particular types of animal agriculture," such as confined feeding operations that house more than a certain number of animals.

"Counties ought to make their own decisions," he said. "But they need to lay out a policy and live with it. I don't see any useful purpose in forcing every single (CAFO) operator to go through a public hearing. The only reason to have a public hearing on each one is to gather enough support to get each one turned down. If you're going to do that, you should just ban it entirely."

But there is another side to this issue, Kelly noted. There are people, including Miller (Andy Miller, director of the state department of agriculture), who believe that CAFOs are the future of agriculture and a key strategy to the economic comeback of rural Indiana.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 19, 2007 11:14 AM
Posted to Environment