The first CAFO supporter is in.
The e-mail came on a Monday. No name was attached, just an address and the initials DP. "We all love our technology," DP wrote, "TV's, Computers, I-pod's. I don't believe consumers will pay for a 1975 production system."
I'd like to start by saying I don't own an iPod.
All joking aside, although I really don't own an iPod, I'd like to make it clearer where I stand on CAFOs, considering I knew little about them until about a month-and-a-half ago. Based on the information I've learned in that time, the call here is not to eradicate factory farms, as CAFO’s are also called, though in a perfect world, we'd give farming back to the farmers.
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The call, it seems to me, is for CAFO regulations that truly protect the environment and those who live near them. For the factory farms that state officials have already permitted, we can't change the damage they've done. But we can make the current situation better. We can regulate the hell out of CAFO operations.
We can force them to knife in manure correctly and not shoot it into the air outside of people's homes, for example.
There should be more stringent and enforced regulations for manure lagoons. Pig manure is liquid. Like water, it rolls right into our waters and streams when given a chance. And without strong regulation, it will keep on rolling.
And it stinks. Imagine living downwind of a 7.2-acre manure lagoon, like Allen and Judy Hutchinson do in Randolph County.
Perhaps most importantly, we have to require setbacks from homes, wells, rivers and streams, etc. The utter failure to require setbacks is the most baffling part of my entire CAFO study to date, which in fact leads me to another bout of correspondence I had with a friend. I hope he won't mind my sharing.
The conversation settled on the feasibility of setbacks. "They've run into this problem with wind farms," my friend said. "Whenever they go to set one up, people come out of the woodwork, decrying and resisting."
It's nearly impossible to make everyone happy. I realize that. But while there is, and always will be, CAFO opposition, I believe we'd have a healthier Indiana if citizens never have to live within mere feet of pig or chicken or turkey waste.
It's not as though examples have not been set.
I've learned there's something to be said for Iowa's CAFO and CFO regulations. My friend proposed I "ask folks which state is the most developed in the USA."
"They inevitably follow up with New York or New Jersey" he said. "It's actually Iowa."
And it's true there are a lot of corporate farms in Iowa. But as Allen Hutchison told us, data from Iowa shows that biofilters and scrubbers on CAFO barn fans can dramatically lower the air pollution.
North Carolina has a moratorium on new CAFOs, too.
As for us here in Indiana, I can't imagine it's difficult to sign a piece of paper that says "build two miles that-a-ways." It seems granting setbacks isn't the hard part. It's deciding who's to do it. And while Indiana is an ever-populating state, Steve and I have done the traveling with these stories. Unless my eyes deceive me, the land we have left is anything but underwhelming. There's room for CAFOs to throw their party.
So, DP, let's consider CAFOs an undesirable but allowable technology if regulated correctly. If we're so interested in new technology, let's start looking at the technology of air filtration systems and more sophisticated ways of spreading manure.
If we want to make our lives easier, how about making life easier for the Lawrence County infant who lives on a respirator and will die with the installation of the pending turkey CAFO near her home.
Let's make life easier for Brenda and Rex Jones, Lisa and Eric Stickdorn and Allen and Judy Hutchison. With adequate regulation, perhaps we can work toward a mutual respect among responsible CAFO operators and the people in our communities.
Sounds idealistic. It's not. It's courtesy.
Amber Kerezman can be reached at .