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Public Hearing Tackles Factory Farms

A panel is taking public testimony to determine if legislation is needed to regulate factory farms. (
A panel is taking public testimony to determine if legislation is needed to regulate factory farms. (
October 9, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — The question of what to do about runoff from concentrated animal-feeding operations, known as CAFOs, continues to be a topic of debate in Indiana. Environmental groups and farming activists have clashed over how much regulation the industry needs, and a public hearing on the topic will be held next week.

State Sen. Susan Glick is part of a study committee that has been hearing from both sides of the issue, and will make recommendations to the Legislature on whether any bills should be presented next session. She said the trick is to find a compromise that works for everyone - but first and foremost, the emphasis has to be on public health.

"What we're trying to achieve is to make sure that, in the course of economic development, you don't contaminate the world around you,” Glick said. "We don't foul the watershed, we don't contaminate the aquifer. "

On one side, farmers say their livelihoods are at stake by limits put on how they raise livestock. While those concerned about water quality say bodies of water are getting contaminated through the disposal of animal manure. People who live near large breeders also are worried about air quality, saying the smell is horrible.

The next CAFO meeting will be at the state Capitol at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 19. It will be open to the public.

Glick called the debate a balancing act between what's good for agriculture and what’s best for those impacted by factory farms. She said the public hearings they've had so far have been very productive.

"We're picking up some information, some successes in some areas and some failures in others that will be helpful as we address some of these issues,” she said.

According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, when stored and applied properly, animal waste that's used as fertilizer for crops provides a natural source of nutrients for crop production and lessens the need for fuel and other resources that are used in the production of commercial fertilizer. But improper storage or transport can lead stormwater to come into contact with the waste and carry contaminants to surface or ground water, leading to contamination.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN