A bipartisan bill to place more regulations on large farms called confined feeding operations — or CFOs — failed in a House committee Wednesday. There are more than 1,800 of CFOs in Indiana — the larger of which are called CAFOs or confined animal feeding operations.
The bill would have given the Indiana Department of Environmental Management more power to deny permits for CFOs.
Proponents of the bill say, right now, IDEM has to approve CFO permits if they meet building requirements and don’t threaten water quality. But this bill would let them deny any CFO that threatened public health and the environment — including things like air emissions and odor.
It would also require the farms to be at least one mile from homes, schools, and other public places, unless they had permission from residents or certain pollution control technology.
Rep. Ronald Bacon (R-Chandler), who co-authored the bill, says though Indiana needs these farms: "We need them to be good neighbors with the established residents that are there,” he says.
Justin Schneider is the director of state government relations for the Indiana Farm Bureau. He says IDEM already has a process that works.
“When a permit is inadequate or there is a problem, they go back to the applicant, they tell them they need to fix the permit or the permit will be denied. My experience — people fix the permit,” he says.
Officials with the Indiana Pork Producers Association also say that the air emissions standards for farms under the bill would have been unreasonable because the government doesn't currently have a good way for farmers to estimate emissions.
The bill’s author, Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie), says if the system was working, she wouldn’t hear about problems with CFOs.
The committee voted down the bill 9 to 3.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.