A bill proposing more regulations of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) will not receive a hearing in the Indiana Senate this legislative session.
Senate Bill 248, authored by state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, would have required annual inspections for all large and medium CAFOs and all small CAFOs that are determined to have an impact on water quality. All farms with more than 300 beef cattle, 200 dairy cattle, 750 swine or 37,500 chickens would have been subject to these inspections.
The proposed bill used different parameters than the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to define CAFOs. IDEM classifies all farms with at least 300 cattle, 600 swine or sheep, 30,000 poultry and 500 horses as a CFO, or Confined Feeding Operation. For IDEM’s purposes, a CAFO is a larger scale CFO that is subject to more regulations due to its size.
Under the Indiana Confined Feeding Control Law, IDEM currently inspects new CFO operations at least once in the first year and only once every five years for remaining years of operation unless a complaint is filed.
As of 2017, there were about 1,800 farms that raised enough animals to be considered to be a CFO, with nearly 800 of them being CAFO size, according to IDEM data.
Locally, 14 CFO permits have been issued to Grant County farmers as of 2017. IDEM data did not specify if any farms in Grant County are CAFO size.
The 9,240 hog farm proposed by Nolan Holloway in Grant County would be classified by IDEM as a CFO, as the CAFO threshold for baby pigs is 10,000. Holloway is currently appealing a court decision that affirmed the Grant County Area Plan Commission’s December 2018 denial of his proposal for the operation.
Kim Ferraro, attorney and director of agricultural policy for Hoosier Environmental Council, said the bill would not have had as much impact as the council would like to see. While she said more regulations are needed, a lot of large Hoosier farms would be left out due to the size requirements in the bill.
“I think [Niemeyer] had good intentions of increasing regulations on factory farms,” Ferraro said. “But this bill would not have really done anything.”
Instead of a bill that would yield more regulations for only some CAFOs and CFOs, Ferraro said Hoosier Environmental Council would like to see a bill that more closely regulates environmental impacts on air and water quality and requires a larger setback for operations proposed near homes and towns.
“It is concerning that CAFOs can be as big as they want and can be 400 feet from a home, 300 feet from a waterway,” Ferraro said, adding that setbacks and permitting requirements for Indiana CFOs are not strong enough.
A likely reason the bill failed to get a hearing is the proposed expense of additional inspections, said state Rep. David “Bill” Wolkins, R-Winona Lake. The Fiscal Impact Statement prepared for the bill estimates, based on the 1,800 CFOs in the state, that IDEM would have needed to hire 11 new inspectors to meet the annual inspection requirement at a cost of approximately $712,815 to $793,056.
Wolkins added that the idea of more inspections is troubling to CAFO and CFO operators because “you can’t just walk into a CAFO.” He said operators closely guard their farms to make sure no disease is spread to or from the animals.
For Wolkins, current regulations on CAFOs and CFOs are fine as is, other than those regarding manure runoff, which he would be in favor of strengthening.
“All the complaints about CAFOs have not been an objection other than they don’t like the smell,” Wolkins said. “Or because they are factory farms and they object to that amount of animals being in one place.”