Last year not one of the three CAFO-related bills made it out of the legislative session. This year, maybe common sense and the reality of environmental and health issues intertwined with huge factory farms will prompt our legislators to do what they are supposed to do: pass laws that protect citizens.
New legislation regulating CAFOs would require annual inspections and other tightened regulations under a bill given initial approval by a House committee. The House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee last week voted along party lines, with seven Democrats endorsing it and five Republicans opposing it.
The current bill would affect Indiana’s roughly 2,200 confined feeding operations, of which 625 are large enough for a separate distinction of concentrated animal feeding operations. The sprawling farms with thousands of hogs, cattle, or chickens are often opposed by neighbors because of their odor and potential impact on property values and the environment.
Several GOP members had concerns about additional regulations on the industry possibly driving up food prices. That argument is simply a red herring. The increased meat production is to benefit up and coming economies such as China, whose middle-class population is growing at an astounding rate, and, with that growth, the desire to live on a meat-based diet.
“This bill is very troubling,” said Rep. Eric Gutwein, R-Rensselaer who, along with others, wanted to wait until an agricultural regulatory task force established by Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman finalized its recommendations. You bet they wanted to wait. That would be like waiting for the fox to tell the chickens how to protect themselves.
Daniels and Skillman came up with their “Possibilities Unbound” plan in 2005 which focused on increasing pork production while backing off regulations. One of the goals of the Plan was to review regulations to make Indiana a more “business friendly” environment. In other words, Daniels and Skillman wanted to reduce regulations as much as possible.
Among other provisions, the bill would require farm operators to disclose “good character” information, including violations in other states or pending legal action. It allows the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to consider this information before granting a permit. This session our legislators appear to be ready to step up and make some tough but necessary decisions to protect us from the health and environmental impact of CAFOs.