By: Todd Smekens
BLOG – I’ve written numerous articles on Confined Animal Feed Operations (CAFO) and the farming industry like here and here within the United States and Indiana. Leading experts like John Ikerd have been educating anybody who will listen with an open mind. Other food industry experts have been coming from the direction of making informed consumer choices – reducing the amount of meat we eat. However, the problem is only getting worse because Asia has acquired a taste for pork. Roughly 30% of the pork raised in Indiana is processed and shipped to China. In fact, China owns one of the largest pork processors in the country – formerly known as Smithfield.
Why am I talking about this topic yet again?
Delaware County Commissioners will have a public forum on Thursday, March 8th at 6:00 pm in the Heartland Building within the Delaware County Fairgrounds to discuss a proposed 8,000 hog CAFO in Northern Delaware County located here:
If approved by the state and county commissioners can’t rezone the property in time, what can we expect from a 10,000+ hog CAFO coming into Delaware County?
The odor coming from this confined animal feed operation will be disgusting. Considering 10,000 hogs produce over 110,000 pounds of waste per day, you get the idea of the amount of manure generated at this site. The manure won’t be confined to this property. Once collected in lagoons, the manure will be spread on surrounding crop fields. Some landowners may allow spreading year round even if they don’t have crops. Once new approach is injecting the manure into the soil to reduce runoff, but the soil will hold only so much.
Spring rains wash off nutrient-rich manure into waterways. As I’ve already written about last year, rivers and long winding creeks can carry the nutrients miles away causing the growth of the toxic blue/green algae. The CAFOs in Ohio are responsible for the toxic algae blooms in the Wabash River. In fact, Beaver Creek brings the toxic mixture from Grand Lake/St. Mary’s to the Wabash River just east of the Indiana/Ohio border. Ohio has listed the Wabash River as an impaired waterway with no intentions of cleaning it up.
We have CAFOs from Eastern and Central Ohio who are contaminating the rivers flowing in Indiana. Expect the same from surrounding creeks and the Mississinewa River which flows through northern Delaware County and heads northeast as it travels to the Mississinewa Reservoir and then connects to the Wabash River.
The Shamrock Lakes north of the CAFO will most likely become contaminated as well if groundwater or creeks carry the nutrient-rich water to those chain of lakes.
What about the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM)? Aren’t they responsible for protecting our natural resources like waterways?
Yes, but they don’t.
Indiana is one of the friendliest states for CAFOs thanks to Mitch Daniels and the well-funded farm lobby. Environmentalists who have a deeper connection with IDEM has called them the most corrupt department in Indiana government. Since we are now one of most polluted (dirtiest states) in the country, it would make sense that industry has much influence over the government entity who is supposed to regulate dirty businesses.
The apparent fact that IDEM serves the CAFO industry and other dirty industries like coal means our public health and environment suffer. These taxpayer subsidies would amount to millions or billions of dollars just in Indiana. The damage to our health and environment need to be quantified and passed along to these dirty industries. Only then can the market make appropriate adjustments. Advocates of free markets like Michael Hicks at Ball State University exclude these costs as “externalities” or ignore the costs of damage done to our environment and the negative public health issues.
How do we assess these costs and apply them to the cheap production of food?
New branches of economics have exploded over recent years to include ecological, environmental and sustainable economics. From a recent Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (AERE) newsletter:
The field of economics is becoming increasingly important in conservation management. The ability to foster strong community support and involvement in place – based management requires an understanding of a suite of socioeconomic conditions. These include the economic value that people place on resources, the economic impacts of using those resources, the jobs sustained by uses like recreation, tourism, fishing, and the ways in which managing resources may result in trade-offs among the benefits to various user groups.
If you live in Delaware County, you’ll want to attend the public forum on Thursday to learn just how quickly CAFOs make it from a conceptual stage to reality. If you are an outdoorsman, who likes to fish our streams, creeks, rivers, and lakes, make your voices heard on March 8th.