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Environmental Laws and CAFO Growth

by 5m Editor
12 August 2008, at 12:05pm

INDIANA - A proposal to build a 4,000-hog farm near New Haven brings the issue of Indiana’s dramatic increase in large concentrated feeding operations close to home.

Although large animal operations are more efficient and more profitable, they also pose more environmental risks when they are not well managed. But there are too few state laws regulating the operations of large livestock farms says a report in the Journal Gazzette.

Doug Bradtmueller of Fort Wayne has applied to build a structure to house up to 4,000 pigs with a concrete manure collection pit below less than 6 miles from New Haven.

Indiana is an agricultural state, and concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, are becoming the norm for agricultural businesses. The large animal operations are more productive and cost-effective than smaller animal operations. Raising livestock in the controlled environment requires less labor, less land and protects animals from predators and diseases. The Sierra Club reports that the number of U.S. hog farms has dropped from 600,000 to 157,000 in the past 15 years, but the number of hogs has remained level.

According to Indiana Pork Industry, Indiana is the fifth-largest producer of pork in the United States and contributes $3 billion annually to Indiana’s economy.

But with the money also comes the manure. One hog produces more waste than four people. And hog waste does not get treated; it sits in a manure lagoon where it can potentially leak ammonia, nitrates, nitrogen, phosphorus and a dozen other nasty chemicals into groundwater.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 4,000-hog operation such as the Bradtmueller farm could produce as much as 10,000 tons of manure each year. The largest hog farm in Allen County is about 9 miles south of Fort Wayne. It received a permit from IDEM in February to have more than 9,000 pigs.

Unfortunately, state leaders have not ensured that environmental laws will keep up with the growth in CAFOs. For more than a decade, state legislators have dallied with legislation to regulate CAFOs but have made little progress. Concentrated feeding operations largely go unchecked. And since state regulations are so lax, local governments can do little to regulate the location and size of the animal operations.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management can only regulate water quality issues. It has no control over air quality, odor or other potential dangers created by large livestock operations.

State leaders need to revisit concentrated animal feeding legislation to give local government reasonable control over where large livestock operations can locate and ensure they are run in an environmentally sound manner.

5m Editor