Randolph County commissioners have made a decision to impose a moratorium on CAFOs. Recall that originally the county planning commission had voted to allow 75% of Randolph County agricultural land to be open to the construction of CAFOs.
The ordinance then went to the county commissioners for discussion and vote. None of the three commissioners supported the ordinance as it was presented, so their vote to reject was unanimous; however, each voted against the ordinance for a different reason.
Commissioner Ron Chalfant, a farmer who is also a member of the planning commission – excuse me, but that seems like a built-in conflict of interest – opposed a setback change that had increased the setback requirements from 750 feet to 1320 feet. The setback is to allow for adequate “breathing” space between homes and CAFOs.
Let me digress a bit here. How is that a member of the planning commission can vote to make 75% of Randolph County fair game for CAFOs and then be allowed to vote on that ordinance as a commissioner? If I were a Randolph County resident, I would be demanding an explanation and asking that Chalfant be prevented from voting on either one commission or the other on the CAFO issue. He may not currently own a CAFO, but he may very well be looking to the future with his votes.
Commissioners Kathy Beumer and David Lenkensdofer also objected, but on grounds of what they saw as omissions. They are concerned with protection of air quality and water quality as well as zoning protection impacting land resources.
According to IDEM spokewoman, Amy Hartsock, Randolph County already has 43 confinement operations: 30 CAFOs and 13 CFOs. The distinction between the two is size. CAFOs are the largest of the group and usually contain thousands and thousands of animals. But convincing officials to impose a moratorium can be a tough sell; after all, agriculture plays a major role in Indiana economics.
Add the pressure of Daniels and Skillman, who both have made no secret of their efforts to double hog production in the next few years, and taking any negative action against CAFO construction becomes a hot political issue subject to pressure from the Governor and his minions.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) pretty much gives a pass to CAFO applications as long as the applications are correct and include the requested checklist of items. To counter the rubber-stamp process of IDEM, the only viable option county officials may have is to impose a moratorium until thorough studies of the effects of CAFOs on land, air, and water resources can be undertaken.
This is not a “war” between agriculture and everyone else. This is a health and quality of life issue that needs to be dissected and studied. These huge industrial factory farms spew out millions of pounds of waste a year. That waste, with all its toxins and bacteria, has to go somewhere. That “somewhere” is on land, either by the spraying method or by the injection method. By whatever method it is placed on or in the land, the potential for harm is great to underground water supplies through soil absorption and filtering or to above ground water resources through runoff.
The other aspect of CAFOs is the air quality that exists both in the operation itself and the surrounding area. A study by University of North Carolina researchers found that people living near large hog farms suffer significantly higher levels of upper respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments than people living near large cattle farms or in non-livestock areas. An Iowa study found that neighbors of hog facilities had respiratory problems similar to those of workers in hog confinement operations (e.g., bronchitis, asthma, upper-air inflammation, and a flu-like illness).
One-quarter of all swine confinement workers experience chronic health effects, such as bronchitis. This illness is found more than twice as often in workers in confinement buildings as those who work in traditional hog production.
While CAFOs continue to spring up in almost all Indiana counties, at least Randolph County officials are seeing the light by imposing a moratorium on CAFOs. Their role, as commissioners, is to protect the residents of their county as fully as possible – not to allow the policies of Daniels and Skillman to trump the health and quality of life of their constituents.
Pigs are treated as meat-production units on industrialized factory farms and confined in barren, filthy pens until they reach slaughter weight.
Inside barren, restrictive gestation crates, pregnant pigs are unable to turn around—or even move more than a step or two. For nearly four months, they languish in these cruel enclosures.