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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Environment - "Indiana faces dilemma regulating huge, industrial CAFO animal farms: While backers hail their benefits, the state struggles to regulate operations that put thousands of animals under the same roof"

Ryan Sabalow and Alex Campbell of the Indianapolis Star report today on CAFOs.

The Muncie Star-Press on Oct. 9th featured a long story by reported by Seth Slabaugh that the ILB linked to with with the heading: "IDEM recently offered to settle a 2½-year-old water pollution complaint against a pork producer for a penalty of $1,000 and the planting of 550 to 600 trees."

Today's Star story reports:

Last week, officials at the Department of Environmental Management signed off on a penalty: a $1,000 fine, and a promise from Chalfant to spend several thousand more planting at least 550 trees. Chalfant will pay less than 10 cents per dead fish -- at least for now. Another state agency -- the Department of Natural Resources -- also has a case pending against him.

Environmental groups say the penalty is appallingly low and will do little to deter future farmers from making similar mistakes.

"It doesn't provide any sort of incentive for CAFO owners to do the right thing," said Kim Ferraro, director of agricultural and water policy for the Hoosier Environmental Council. "It's easier for them to dump their waste in the river and kill a bunch of fish, and IDEM will look the other way."

But as Chalfant and at least one academic point out, it's not as if dumping hog manure saves him money -- it's valuable as fertilizer. So there is no financial incentive to simply dump it.

IDEM initially wanted to fine Chalfant $26,000. Chalfant, who fought the original order, thinks the lower number shows that the allegations against him were overblown, and he's ready to move on.

"I pay $1,000 and plant a few trees and get to put this thing behind me," he said. "It's a no-brainer."

ILB: Some might shrug off this penalty as "a cost of doing business." More from the long story:
Chalfant said hog farms like his boost the local economy and cause local tax bases to swell because the assessed value of their land grows exponentially after a barn is built.

"These hog barns are an economic gold mine to not only the state, but to the communities within."

And it's not as if the state's regulatory environment has stalled his progress. Even after the fish kill, and before the case was settled, Chalfant was able to double his operation to 8,000 hogs.

One section of the story discusses Indiana's encouragement of the hog production industry:
Gov. Mitch Daniels' administration has pitched the advantages of these farms in equally clear-cut terms: It's a way to diversify the economy while allowing rural farmers to keep their land.

Since 2005, the number of hogs being raised in the state has grown by 13 percent, from 4 million to 4.6 million.

That's nowhere near the goal Daniels set in 2005 (he wanted to double hog production within five years), but it comes as the number of smaller confined feeding operations has dropped in Indiana.

The largest of the farms, the CAFOs, are on the rise.

Some say the increase comes thanks to a Statehouse push to deregulate the industry and prevent those living nearby from fighting expansion.

Early in his term, Daniels signed a law limiting residents' ability to file nuisance lawsuits against the farms, and he discouraged counties from adopting regulations more stringent than the state's.

Just this year, a bill authored by state Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy, would have made it even harder to sue. Friend owns a large hog farm. He declined to comment.

[Kim Ferraro, director of agricultural and water policy for] the Hoosier Environmental Council, fought the bill. Daniels eventually signed it, but by the time it got to his desk, most of the provisions Ferraro opposed had been removed or negated.

A second Star story today by the same reporters is headed "Wabash County neighbor says hogs are too close for comfort:
Operator says odors are under control, but Wabash County resident begs to differ."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 14, 2012 05:02 PM
Posted to Environment