Photograph by Steven Higgs

Barbara Sha Cox has watched as several bill aimed at controlling pollution from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations have suffered defeat in the General Assembly this year. The East-Central Indiana nurse and family farmer runs Indiana CAFO Watch.

Barbara Sha Cox is with Indiana CAFO Watch. What follows is her report on the efforts of Indiana citizens to promote legislation in this year's General Assembly that would require responsible operation of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Confined Feeing Operations (CFOs) in Indiana.

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Bill 1267 was authored by State Rep. Dave Cheatham, D-North Vernon. This bill required all CAFO and CFO owners to bury their dead animals completely, or, if the animals were in compost, the owners were required to cover the compost area and secure it from animals. This simple requirement would have prevented neighbors from finding dead animal parts in their yards.

This is indeed a public health hazard, as there have been dead body parts found in waterways, also. It seemed like a very common-sense approach to a serious problem.

However, even though citizens traveled on slick roads to testify and bring their photographs of animals found in their yards and walked down slick sidewalks in a cold wind to get to the hearing. (Only lobbyists and employees can use the Statehouse tunnels, which were paid for by taxpayers' money), that approach was not common sense at all.
"After the bill was presented, several of the committee members made a mockery of the issue."
After the bill was presented, several of the committee members made a mockery of the issue. They talked about "Muffy the cat" dying, road kill, etc. I mentioned that while road kill can cause problems, nature has provided buzzards that take care of the problem, but 200 dead hogs lying in a pile does not reflect a balance of nature.

Rep. Phil Pflum, D-Milton, and Rep Cheatham stood by the citizens, but the bill did not pass out of committee.

Second, Bill 24 in the Senate authored by State Sen. Johnny Nugent, R-Lawrenceburg, would have created a CAFO buffer zone of two miles around our state parks and reservoirs. This would have allowed anyone who had a CAFO to be grandfathered in. This bill would have prevented manure from being spread in the two-mile buffer.

Why did we need this bill and the companion bill, 1161, authored by Rep Pflum and coauthored by Rep. Saunders? We need to protect our 24 state parks and nine reservoirs that were included in the bill. Our water must be kept clean, and two miles would give nature the time to clean some pollutants and pathogens from the water. At the present time we have over 800 impaired waterways due to E coli in the state.

In the past three weeks, I have received call after call about producers spreading manure on frozen ground and near creeks. Producers have brought manure to Wayne County by the semi load and dumped on frozen, sloped ground with no regard for the impacts on waterways. Calls have been made to IDEM for the past three weeks; as of Feb. 3, no replies have been received.
"The senate version was not given a hearing in the Senate Energy and Environmental Committee, chaired by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield."
Tourism is a vital part of the Indiana economy. Revenue was up last year at the state parks. The surrounding businesses, which thrive from the state parks and reservoirs, need the support of the state. However, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce opposed this bill, which has a direct impact on the small businesses. History shows that three of the most active times for spreading manure are near Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Would you return to a park if you had to endure the stench of manure?

The senate version was not given a hearing in the Senate Energy and Environmental Committee, chaired by Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield. Bill 144, authored by Sen. Allen Paul, R-Richmond, met the same fate. This bill called for a moratorium on CAFOs until regulations could be made to prevent the problems we now have.

An ag newsletter contained a video of a lobbyist from a national farm organization in which he stated that Sen. Gard had said she would not hear the bill.

Why are the national organizations so opposed to regulations? They would better serve their members by supporting best management practices and working with the bad actors to clean up the pollution, plus work more with the farmers who want to produce local food.

As I spent time at the Statehouse, it was interesting to watch the lobbyists at work, and work they did against bill 1161. The bill was defeated in the House.

The primary election is coming up in May, and candidates for state offices are now filing. Please talk with them and see what their agenda is on this important issue, which affects all Hoosiers. Go to ... and see how the present legislators voted. Find out who bankrolls their campaigns. We can and must not allow the lobbyists to completely run Indiana.

Barbara Sha Cox can be reached at barbarasha1@msn.com.