ILNews

Farm smells ignite debate but no consensus reached

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Indiana Lawyer Focus

Before dinner can be prepared and served at the table, the food has to be raised on a farm.

However, Old MacDonald’s Farm with its placid scenes of pigs and cows is a shrinking segment of American farming, being replaced with large industrial agricultural operations with hundreds and thousands of animals.

Slim profit margins create the need for volume and push many farmers to build bigger barns and bring in more and more animals. When one of these larger operations is proposed, controversy is almost certain to erupt. While families need affordable and abundant food, many do not want to live next door to the New MacDonald’s Farm.

mcinerny McInerny

Large livestock farms that confine, feed and maintain the animals for at least 45 days are regulated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The operation’s size determines its classification. For example, an animal feeding operation with 600 or more swine is called a confined feeding operation and one with 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 pounds each is a concentrated animal feeding operation.

Many of the concerns and disputes center on the amount of waste the animals produce. According to a 2010 report by the National Association of Local Boards of Health, large feeding operations can generate between 2,800 tons and 1.6 million tons of manure annually. This can outpace the amount of waste produced by humans in an urban setting.

 A recipe for discontentment on the Indiana countryside is created when more farms expand at the same time families not used to the farm smells are moving to rural areas where they want to live on five to 10 acres of land, said Todd Janzen, partner at Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP.

Today, the rules and regulations governing large livestock operations focus on protecting water. Much of the government’s focus is on how the animal waste will be collected and stored, and how it will later be applied to fields as fertilizer.  

Indeed, the permitting process for farmers wanting to start or expand a CFO includes submitting blueprints for manure treatment and control facilities in addition to soil and manure testing, locations of neighboring streams, ditches and lakes as well as maps of areas where the manure will be applied.

Not addressed by the rules and regulations is air quality. Yet, the smell is a common concern among neighbors any time any livestock feeding operation is proposed.

“That’s not their job,” Janzen said of IDEM. “Their job is the protection of the environment. There is not an environmental impact when someone smells manure in the country once in a while.”

Daniel McInerny, partner at Bose McKinney & Evans LLP, agreed. He said the number one misconception is that odors from these operations pervade the surrounding area for miles. Actually, the smell stays within a few 100 feet of the barns, he said, although it could potentially travel a farther distance when the manure is applied to the fields.

To Kim Ferraro, water and agriculture policy director at the Hoosier Environmental Council, the regulations are not balanced equally between property owners and farmers. The agricultural industry is very protected, she said, while the concerns about water and air quality are largely ignored.

Finding remedy in the courts can be a difficult hurdle to clear because of the amount of money needed to bring a lawsuit, she said.

“We’re not anti-CAFO,” Ferraro said of the council. “We’re pro-environment and pro-people.”

She pointed to a recent case – Eric Stickdorn and Lisa Stickdorn v. Elam B. Zook, Sarah F. Zook, Samuel L. Lantz and Mattie Z. Lantz, 89A01-1012-CT-670 – she argued and won before the Indiana Court of Appeals as an example of what neighbors of these operations must contend with. Here, the Stickdorns suffered physical illness and eventually had to leave their home because of the overpowering odor.

In a 2008 study, the Government Accountability Office examined the impact of concentrated animal feeding operations on air quality and found no consensus. The GAO looked at 68 government-sponsored or peer-reviewed studies completed since 2002 on the air and water pollutants from feeding operations. Seven of those studies linked pollutants from the animal waste to harmful emissions while three others found no negative air quality impact.

Typical emissions coming from the CAFOs are hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane and particulate matter.  

McInerny sees the public becoming more hardened against these large feeding operations. He blamed Internet chatter and a vocal minority which, he said, are spreading misinformation.

Contrary to the outrage when a feeding operation is proposed, he said, once the barns have been built and the animals are in place, most people do not even know it is nearby.

Possible changes coming

Both McInerny and Janzen pointed to recent revisions in the state regulations which have prohibited farmers from applying the manure to frozen, snow-covered fields. IDEM changed the policy because of concerns about the waste running off into streams and ponds.

The impact of this new restriction, from what Janzen has seen, is that some farms are deciding to constrict or stop livestock production altogether. These farms do not have the storage capacity to hold all the waste through the winter months and the cost of expanding to include more capacity is too much.

Moreover, the possibility of new regulations being imposed on small farmers could lead to an increase in the size of big operations. Again, the costs of compliance could force many small farmers to consolidate with larger farms.

So far, air emissions have not been a part of any new regulation, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been looking into the matter. It started a National Air Emissions Monitor Standards study to examine feeding operations and has been getting pressured to regulate. Twenty environmental groups petitioned the EPA in 2010 to regulate air emissions from large farms using the authority it has under the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Farmers fear they might be required to capture all air emissions from the barns and then make controlled releases into the environment, Janzen said.

The strong push back against a proposed confined feeding operation for hogs that would be near the YMCA’s popular Camp Tecumseh in Carroll County has captured headlines and illustrated the common concerns neighbors have.

The farmer, John Erickson, received approval from IDEM to start a CFO on his White County farm with two wean-to-finish barns housing a maximum of 4,620 hogs each. Currently, his permit is under appeal at the Office of Environmental Adjudications and the camp has filed a lawsuit to block the farm’s expansion.

Ferraro believes the public outcry over this particular farm could bring the entire CFO issue to a head. In this instance, she said, the regulations cannot protect the children who go there every summer from potential odors and contamination.

Yet, in the Legislature, the favor has rested with the industry, Ferraro said. The 2013 session included several bills such as House Bill 1582, a measure she characterized as “disturbing.” This bill would have made bringing a nuisance suit against a farm more difficult and would have allowed the farm to avoid mitigating the nuisance if doing so adversely impacted the farm’s economic viability.

The Hoosier Environmental Council would like to push for more progressive regulations and laws, Ferraro said, but at present the organization’s focus in on fighting to keep the state from going backward.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

ADVERTISEMENT