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CAFOs get OK from plan commission

After nearly 90 minutes of presentations and discussion Thursday night, the Harrison County Plan Commission unanimously agreed that confined animal feeding operations, at least as they are currently being operated here, are not a problem. And they sent a recommendation to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners to leave them alone.
‘I think we put an awful lot of time and effort in swine CAFOs,’ Larry Ott, who chairs the plan commission, said.
While he said he believes the issue is ‘minuscule’ to Harrison County, the board’s decision can be re-addressed at any time.
‘Myself, I’m not sure it’s a major issue,’ he said, adding that there have been no complaints filed with the plan commission or the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the agency which oversees such operations.
Lance Dunbar, organizer of the Citizens of Harrison County for Sustainable Farming, who spoke first during the meeting about CAFOs, noted that the county’s comprehensive plan, adopted by the plan commission in 2008, states that karst regions, which are plentiful in the county, are to be protected. He also indicated that CAFOs present problems that IDEM can’t address, such as odors, reduction of property values and noise.
Dunbar, who also expressed concern about the antibiotics given to the swine, encouraged the plan commission to be proactive rather than reactive in setting restrictions for CAFOs, such as allowing them no closer than four miles to a school and other public places.
The only swine CAFO in the county, located along East Rogers Campground Road, is owned by Larry Day of Elizabeth, who has applied for a second operation along S.R. 11 west of Pumping Station Road. The current operation has about 4,000 hogs.
‘I like farming,’ Dunbar said. ‘I think it should be done in a respectable manner. … If this stuff stayed on (Day’s) property, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.’
When asked by plan commission member Doug Sellers if he had considered locating the second CAFO somewhere else, Day said he was not there to negotiate but he intended to follow the law.
Day said that IDEM does periodic, unannounced ‘spot’ checks to make sure his farm is in compliance. That includes checking nitrogen levels in the manure that is injected into farm land.
In response to Dunbar asking if the Days ever have had a violation, Day said, ‘None.’
As he has at other meetings, Day invited anyone to visit his farm and make their own decision about his operation.
While chicken CAFOs haven’t been discussed much, David Whittington, complex manager of Tyson Foods in Corydon, and about a dozen producers attended last week’s meeting.
Whittington said that IDEM also checks Tyson for compliance.
‘We’ve had no issues, no complaints from schools,’ he said. ‘The children here are very important to me; I have some of them. … In our opinion, IDEM does a very good job, thorough.’
Farm Bureau member Robert Schickel, who is the former District 10 manager, had asked Greg Slipher to attend the meeting also. Slipher, who lives in Thorntown and is a former producer in Clinton County, said that, in 1978, there were 30,000-plus hogs being raised in Harrison County.
‘Today, there are 6,250,’ he said.
Slipher also noted that since records started being kept in 1995, IDEM has issued 45 violations in Harrison County. However, only one of those pertained to livestock, because the farmer had not applied for the proper permit.
‘We are conditioned that producers don’t do the right thing … ‘ he said, with people turning to the Internet for their information, which isn’t always correct.
Slipher urged the plan commission to separate facts from emotion.
Jim Heitkemper, who serves on the commission, said that farms with less than 600 hogs are not required to be regulated by IDEM.
‘With one guy constantly under the microscope (by IDEM), the chances are greater of it being done right,’ he said.
Heitkemper made the motion, seconded by Charlie Crawford, that the commission take no action but rather ‘continue to do business as we have been.’
‘This is a farm community,’ Dan Sutherland, plan commission member, said. ‘It always has been since I grew up here.’