Indiana House panel shoots down bill to tighten oversight of huge farms

A bill that sought to tighten regulations on Indiana’s huge livestock farms has been defeated by the House Committee on Environmental Affairs.

The panel voted 9-3 Wednesday against House Bill 1378, which would have given the Indiana Department of Environmental Management more authority to deny a permit to build or expand the massive farms.

The bill would have applied to “confined feeding operations”—or CFOs, defined as farms that have at least 300 cattle, 600 swine or sheep, 30,000 fowl or 500 horses, if the animals are confined at least 45 days a year.

Indiana is one of the largest states in pork, chicken and egg production. The Hoosier state has more than 1,800 CFOs.

The Hoosier Environmental Council had strongly supported the bill, pointing out that the large farms are allowed to build just a few hundred feet from homes and schools. Neighbors often complain about odors, sewage and pollution of nearby lakes and rivers, the group said.

The bill would have given IDEM the authority to deny a permit on new or expanded CFOs if doing so “would substantially endanger public health or the environment, pose an undue risk to property or create a public nuisance.”

It would also prohibit new construction or expansion of the farms in flood plains, rocky terrain and other sensitive areas.

In addition, the bill would require farms to disclose outside corporations involved in the ownership and management of the operations, and written public notices to landowners within a mile of a proposed new or expanding farm.

Kim Ferraro, the organization’s senior staff attorney and director of agriculture policy, said she was “deeply disappointed” by the committee’s vote on a bill “that would have dramatically improved protections for public health and quality of life in rural communities where factory farms are locating near drinking water resources, nature areas, schools and children’s camps."

Also speaking in favor of the bill at the committee hearing were hydrologists, air quality experts, real-estate valuation experts and small farmers.

Speaking against the bill were the Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana Pork Producers, who said current law already gives IDEM sufficient authority to regulate the CFOs.

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