Confined feeding legislation considered

A bill in the Indiana General Assembly would further weaken state regulations regarding confined animal feeding operations, a state environmental group said.

House Bill 1494, authored by State Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, would eliminate permitting requirements for state approval before a livestock confinement building can be constructed, the Hoosier Environmental Council said. It would also weaken regulations regarding public notification, identifying responsible owners and operators and access to citations about past infractions, the environmental group said.

The House Environmental Affairs Committee will discuss the bill in Indianapolis late this morning, said State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus. But Smith said he doesn’t think Wolkins’ proposal will get a hearing before the entire House this year.

“I’m glad,” Smith said during Monday’s Third House session at Columbus City Hall. “It’s a very controversial issue, and we’ve been through this locally.”

Story continues below gallery

Confined feeding regulations became an issue in Bartholomew County for two years, when county officials debated new setback requirements which were eventually approved by the county commissioners.

The only local lawmaker who will participate in this morning’s committee discussion is State Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville. His district includes a portion of northern Bartholomew County, as well as most of Shelby County and a small part of Hancock County.

Although State Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, said he’s not familiar with the bill, he said it appears CAFOs should remain a local zoning matter.

“I’m very agreeable with Rep. Smith’s conclusion that this needs to stay at the local level as much as it can,” Walker said.

Walker said he would only support CAFO legislation that would allow state environmental officials to better identify responsible parties.

This isn’t the first time the General Assembly has attempted to address the controversial confined feeding issue.

Two years ago this month, a Senate bill that would have prevented counties from restricting confined feeding operations was introduced by Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg. However, that measure was first tabled and later withdrawn from consideration by Leising.

The House Environmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. today in Room 156-C of the Indiana Statehouse.

About House Bill 1494

Amends the law on confined feeding operations (CFOs, which include any confined feeding of at least 300 cattle, 600 swine or sheep, 30,000 fowl, or 500 horses). The law would:

  • Replaces the current prohibition against starting construction or expansion of a CFO without the prior approval of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) with the requirement that a person obtain a permit to construct and operate a confined feeding operation.
  • Requires a permit holder to obtain a new permit or a permit amendment from IDEM before constructing or expanding a manure storage facility.
  • Requires a permit amendment under certain circumstances.
  • Requires the submission of a facility change notification to IDEM under certain circumstances.
  • Requires the construction of additional manure storage under certain circumstances.
Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.