Panel postpones action on bill to limit local livestock rules

Communities across the state will have to wait a bit longer to see if they will continue to have the authority to restrict construction of livestock buildings, after the Indiana Senate Agriculture Committee postponed a vote on a bill that would strip them of that right.

Senate Bill 249, if passed into law, would ban communities – including cities and counties – from adopting an ordinance preventing the construction of livestock facilities. That would allow farmers to build Confined Feeding Operations and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or convert agricultural buildings into livestock holdings without county or community approval.

Currently, counties are able to place restrictions and even moratoriums on the building of certain livestock facilities. These moratoriums last a limited amount of time, but prohibit any CFO or CAFO operations from being constructed in the affected area.

Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, authored SB 249 and chairs the Agriculture Committee. She said Monday that counties in the state have been too strict about the construction of certain livestock facilities.

“We have the most stringent animal regulations of any of the surrounding states of the Midwest,” Leising said.

Leising also told her colleagues that the environmental risks, including the waste runoff from the facilities, would not be an issue if the bill passed. Steve Howell, a representative of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, provided some statistics and words to support Leising’s claims.

He said the zero-discharge requirements IDEM currently has in place restrict facilities from having any discharge or runoff unless given a federal Environmental Protection Agency individual permit – which only three farms in the state possess. Howell said the discharge from those three farms is simply warm water running from storage tanks.

Howell also said that all 697 of the state’s CAFOs and 1,154 CFOs are strictly regulated regarding the amount of livestock they are able to have, among other requirements.

Josh Tenary, director of Indiana Pork, testified on behalf of multiple agricultural organizations in the state. Ternary said his primary concern is the counties that are discussing moratoriums and enacting regulations that are taking rights away from farmers. He said the obstacles and loopholes farmers must go through often keep them from ever trying to start livestock operations and could potentially halt any cattle or poultry expansion in the state.

But Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the legislation provides “tremendous obstacles on landowners” to protect property.

Kharbanda also said relatively few of the state’s 92 counties have considered a moratorium and that “one can’t make the critical contention that this is somehow going to be a threat to the livestock sector.”

The committee members were unsure exactly what each county has been doing in regards to moratoriums or regulations that they have placed on CFO or CAFO operations.

So Leising said the committee will look for an agency that can research the issue, and the committee held the bill for further discussion.

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