Imagine living beside a factory farm with 2,000,000 plus chickens. That is what neighbors in Jay County are facing if an Ohio man has his way. Keith Boeckman of Hoosier Pride Farms has applied for a permit through the Indiana Department of Non Environmental Management (IDEM) for a six-barn confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) at Indiana 67 and Jay County Road 850-E, near the state line. Jay County is already home to 19 chicken farms that are state regulated, meaning they have more than 30,000 chickens.
Indiana’s little Napoleon – better known as Mitch Daniels – several years ago laid out a plan to lay waste to rural areas by ramping up the creation of confined/concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Daniels’ original focus was increasing pork production – not to benefit American consumers but to benefit overseas consumers in developing countries where income was increasing and enabling the buy-in to a higher meat-based diet. But it appears that any old CAFO will do when it comes to exploiting rural Indiana farmlands.
CAFOs house thousands and sometimes millions of animals. Anyone who has ever lived near or dealt with a huge number of chickens knows how acrid the environment can be. My great-grandfather had a small farm near Stilesville, Indiana, and I spent several times a year there when I was growing up. I remember the old outhouse, the spring house, gathering wood with a horse-drawn sled, and an old cast-iron stove from which came many wonderful and tasty meals.
But he also had a long hen house, and each morning we would go out to gather eggs. The roof was low, and my great-grandfather had to hunch down to enter through the old wooden doorway. The smell of ammonia would hit me in the face as I walked into the hen house. My great-grandfather was always patient with me as I tried so hard to gather just one egg to please him.
The hens didn’t like me, and they sensed I was timid and afraid of their beaks. Try as I might, I could not grab that egg before the chicken turned its evil eye on me and pecked my hand. I would recoil in terror and refuse to try again. My great-grandfather would laugh and say, “Girlie, they won’t hurt you.” And then he would slide his suntanned, weathered, old hand under the hen and an egg would appear as he withdrew his cupped hand.
Now, back to the issue. Imagine that acrid, ammonia smell – if you have ever experienced it – compounded millions of times. Boeckman has assured the unwilling neighbors that the manure will be dried using “new technology” which will also eliminate swarms of flies. Boeckman calls it a “state-of-the-art” system, but he doesn’t describe its features. A CAFO is a CAFO is a CAFO.
Whether these monstrosities house hogs, cattle, or chickens is irrelevant. They produce millions of pounds of manure which require disposal, they create toxic health conditions for the workers involved, and they create a suffocating and inhumane environment for the animals.