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Change in Approach to Fighting Indiana Factory-Farm Pollution

Environmental groups say Indiana waterways polluted by runoff from factory farms are just one reason they're pushing for tougher regulations. (hec.org)
Environmental groups say Indiana waterways polluted by runoff from factory farms are just one reason they're pushing for tougher regulations. (hec.org)
August 7, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS -- Environmental groups in Indiana have spent years filing lawsuits and sponsoring legislation against factory farms. Now, they're switching gears.

The groups say their current focus is on educating community members about the health risks associated with confined animal feeding procedures at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, and how to voice their concerns.

Attorney Kim Ferraro with the Hoosier Environmental Council said that once people realize what happens at these factory farms, they're more likely to ask local leaders for tougher zoning laws and regulations.

"The iconic small farmer that most people still think that their food comes from - when in reality, farming, and specifically livestock farming, is big business - has been industrialized and concentrated into the hands of a few, very large corporations,” Ferraro said.

Indiana has more than 3 million hogs, 95,000 cattle, over 22 million egg-laying hens, and another 4.7 million broiler chickens on factory farms. Ferraro said they produce as much untreated manure as 87 million people - or nearly 14 times Indiana's human population.

She said CAFO waste isn't regulated like human waste is, which can pose a health hazard for those living nearby.

"We wouldn't think of allowing human waste to be stored in football-field-sized, unlined lagoons out next to where people live,” Ferraro said. “But that's what is allowed under current regulations with respect to CAFOs."

She said instances of respiratory illness near CAFOs increase, people are exposed to harmful bacteria, and there's been a rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases. Her group contends that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"Property values are greatly reduced - that then results in reduced taxes, county income; quality of life is greatly reduced. Climate change is also impacted because of the methane emissions,” Ferraro said.

HB 1494, legislation that would have weakened factory farm laws in Indiana was defeated this year. Ferraro said much of the credit can be given to community members who spoke up, saying they want tougher laws, not less stringent ones.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN