Letter: Understanding important on issue of CAFOs.

From: Bill Gelfius


For two years this county has debated the issue of CAFOs. Opponents have waged an editorial campaign in hopes of convincing people who live in this community that this system of animal production is flawed. With every public hearing there is organized opposition from a core group who believe they are responsible to shed the light on the shortcomings of this modern day process. There are those who remain convinced there is a great conspiracy to build dozens of CAFOs in the county, and there seems to be inherent fear associated with them by many who do not understand them and have never been to see how they operate.

It is often difficult to approach a situation with an open mind and, unfortunately, more often than not, many people predetermine their minds before the facts are allowed to defend themselves. “Don’t confuse me with the facts” is a term which comes to mind. Few if any people have ever spent much time near a modern livestock operation and, unfortunately, people involved in production agriculture take for granted people know how their food is produced today.

It seems there is a boogeyman lurking in the minds of many people who want to demonize the use of CAFOs. We keep hearing of all the potential doomsday scenarios associated with them, but the problem with that is we just can’t find one.

Perhaps if there is one, it already exists in the form of a septic system in most backyards found in rural home sites. Local zoning requires only a 50-foot setback from an existing well, and many of these systems have been in place for 70 years or longer. Wouldn’t this be a greater health threat to public safety and our water than a livestock barn one-fourth mile away?

Livestock produce nature’s best organic fertilizer, and it is a valuable resource. It seems to make sense to manage it by keeping it contained and applying it in a proper place, time and rate, and in a nutshell this is what CAFOs do. If there was a better way to produce bacon we would be doing it. Our past has led a path to where we are today. Let’s not throw an efficient, proven method of food production under the bus by making arbitrary decisions that could ultimately affect our food supply.

We have had these livestock operations in Bartholomew County for a long time and until recently no one seems to have ever had a problem with them. Technology has enabled agriculture to make tremendous advances in our modern day food system and if we work together, we can try to understand our differences and find solutions which will work for the best interests of everyone.