Indiana lawmakers mulling farm bills

INDIANAPOLIS - A bill that would prohibit large livestock farms within 2 miles of schools, cities and towns drew criticism from a state agricultural official and support from residents who said dust and odors from the farms make them ill.
calendar icon 7 February 2007
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More than a dozen speakers testified Tuesday before the state House of Representatives' agriculture and rural committee, which is considering two bills that would place limits on the state's growing number of large livestock farms, where thousands of hogs, dairy cows and poultry are raised in tight quarters.

One bill aims to address rural residents' concerns about the odors, dust and manure runoff coming from the farms, called confined feeding operations, by prohibiting their construction within 2 miles of a school, city or town.

It would permit only manure application by "incorporation or injection" below a field's surface, and require the certification of farm workers who apply livestock waste to farmland as fertilizer — the most common method of disposing the large amounts of manure the farms generate.

"It's a bill I think we may be able to get passed," said state Rep. Phillip Pflum, who co-authored the bill. "Would I like to go further than this? Personally, yes. But this whole process is a compromise."

He said the bill was needed to get the state's 92 counties to operate according to the same standards.

Nellie Seal, one of several residents who testified before the panel, said she has lived in rural Hancock County for decades and never complained about nearby livestock farms until large hog farms opened nearby.

Seal said the farms' odors and manure-tainted dust blowing off nearby fields now make her husband, a grain farmer, nauseous and sometimes force her to stay indoors.

"This is an everyday fact that we live with," she said.

Andy Miller, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said the agency opposes Pflum's bill, calling it a threat to the state's billion-dollar livestock industry. He said Indiana's hog and dairy industries grew 8 percent to 10 percent last year in response to consumers' growing demand for pork and milk products.


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