Animal operation under fire
‘Gentlemen, we are under attack.’
Lance Dunbar, an organizer of the Citizens of Harrison County for Sustainable Farming, opened his presentation against confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, with those words to a crowd of about 70 at the Harrison County Board of Commissioners meeting in Corydon Monday night.
Ten to 15 extra chairs had to be brought into the council/commissioner room from the conference room across the hallway to accommodate the crowd and, even with the chairs, a few people had to stand in the two doorways of the room.
Dunbar and the sustainable farming group is concerned about Larry and Sandra Day’s proposed second confined feeding operation in the Elizabeth area. The Days, who attended the meeting, currently have a 4,000-head confined feeding swine operation on East Rogers Campground Road to the north about 1/4 of a mile. The proposed site, which would essentially double the total operation, is on S.R. 11 west of Pumping Station Road about 1/4 of a mile.
According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, confined feeding is the raising of animals for food, fur or recreation in lots, pens, ponds, sheds or buildings, where they are confined, fed and maintained for at least 45 days during any year, and where there is no ground cover or vegetation present over at least half of the animals’ confinement.
Dunbar cited numerous studies during a PowerPoint that he said indicated the operations are a health risk to nearby residents.
‘I’m here on behalf of many residents from all walks of life … we’re concerned about the welfare of our county, a county that we like,’ he said.
Dunbar said the air is not good to breathe, wells and streams can be polluted, other farmers can’t compete with the operation and nearby property values go down because of the CAFO.
Also, hydrogen sulfide, which affects the nervous system, ammonia, organic dust and bacteria are all concerns from CAFOs, Dunbar said, and it’s a toxic environment, blowing out to the neighbors.
Dunbar went on to say that if the fans inside the barns that keep the harmful gases/dust away from the animals fail, then the animals die within an hour. Also, the animals are injected with antibiotics to keep them alive, he said.
‘That’s not any farming I’ve read about or known,’ Dunbar said. ‘It’s a pretty sad thing actually. It’s like a concentration camp, except they feed them.’
Dunbar cited studies that attributed asthma symptoms, burning eyes, diarrhea and even miscarriages to CAFOs.
He said the symptoms are worse in children.
‘They’re like Rubbertown; it’s not farming, it’s industry,’ he said.
CAFOs should be treated and regulated like industry, in his opinion.
Dunbar said the CAFOs are coming into this area and Indiana because the state has little to no regulations against them.
‘We’re next on the list, that’s all we are,’ he said.
Dunbar requested the board to place a moratorium on any more CAFOs being placed in the county. He also wanted the board to create an ordinance to ban such operations within one mile of a school, church or anyone’s house.
Two other residents, Glen Walker and June Fink, also spoke against the CAFO.
The board took no action on the matter because it didn’t want to have a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction, Chairman James Goldman said.
Larry Day, in a break during the meeting, said there’s two sides to every story and a lot of what Dunbar said was true, in its time.
‘A lot of that is from old barns,’ he said. ‘What we have is a new, modern facility.’
He said they are under constant watch by IDEM.
‘We’ve been in operation for over four years and have not had complaints from people around the building or where we inject manure,’ he said. ‘There’s people that just will not understand. They won’t come (to see the operation); they’ve been invited personally.’
He said people live fairly close to the current operation, and, to his knowledge, they have not had any sick children or other illnesses.
The new site has not been approved by the county’s plan commission, Day said.
‘We do everything by the book,’ he said.
Day said a lot of Dunbar’s information was frivolous and that the opponents believe they’re doing what’s right.
The Day home is about 1/4 of a mile from the barn and every now and then, depending on the wind, he said, they’ll experience some odor but no other effects.
The citizen group also held a forum Friday night at the Elizabeth Community Center with about 80 in attendance, Dunbar said.