A moratorium on new concentrated animal feeding operations and any expansions gained initial approval Monday from the Bartholomew County Board of Commissioners.
The commissioners agreed to a one-year moratorium, six months less than the Bartholomew County Plan Commission’s recommendation of 18 months.
“I just think the 18-month period is too long and contrary to what we’re trying to do,” Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said. “The moratorium is supposed to give us a chance to look for ways to make decisions regarding CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) palatable to all of us.”
Commissioners Chairman Carl Lienhoop scheduled the final vote on the moratorium for Sept. 8.
The moratorium was proposed after a lengthy and contentious discussion this year about two feeding operations.
Hawcreek Township farmer William Gelfius proposed one in December and received approval for 4,400 hogs June 30. An operation near Old St. Louis for 2,000 hogs proposed by Hope farmer Jeff Shoaf was approved July 21.
The two proposals were met with organized community group protests, with some residents contending the hog farms would cause odor, reduce property values and increase truck travel near their homes. Both projects received permits from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
In the wake of those approvals, county officials proposed the moratorium to allow a new study committee to examine the county’s ordinance regulating confined and concentrated animal feeding and to recommend changes if needed.
The CAFO Regulation Study Committee will meet for the first time Sept. 17. The committee’s work is expected to be done by May 1.
Lienhoop and Kleinhenz emphasized the moratorium will end immediately after committee recommendations are submitted and considered.
It’s entirely possible the committee will recommend little or no changes to local regulations, Lienhoop and Kleinhenz said.
“None of us feel there are going to be huge changes,” Kleinhenz said.
Bartholomew County’s ordinance says feeding operations cannot be located on a property smaller than 5 acres, must be set back a minimum of 100 feet from all property lines and must be at least a half-mile away from the nearest residential-zoned area.
The moratorium impacts Type 2 animal feeding operations, which include livestock producers with more than 300 cattle, 600 swine, 600 sheep or 30,000 fowl.
The commissioners heard from 11 people about the moratorium, out of the 33 people who attended the one-hour public hearing Monday.
Six said they favored the moratorium, while five expressed reservations ranging from infringement on property rights to interfering with commerce.
Those who had concerns about the moratorium included a representative from the Indiana Pork Producers Association, the Indiana Department of Agriculture and an Edinburgh livestock consulting company.
They reminded the commissioners that all concerns about the environment need to be directed to the state — the local committee may consider only land-use issues.
Agricultural environmental consultant Kristin Whittington described the moratorium as a form of discrimination against the livestock industry that directly inhibits commerce.
“I have significant concerns about the message this moratorium sends, not only to the agricultural community, but other business sectors that may be considering Bartholomew County,” said Whittington, who operates Landmark Enterprises in Edinburgh.
But Hope resident Tom Mead said no one is trying to stop the confined feeding operations, except in places where they shouldn’t be.
Mead also said the commissioners can’t expect any promises of proper confined feeding management to be kept over the long term.
“Just like everyone else, unless you are made to do something, you won’t do it,” Mead said. “Everyone’s a kid in their own way; and if they can get by with something to save money, they’re going to do it.”
The feeding operations need to be well-regulated and inspected at least once a month to ensure compliance, Mead said.
Indiana Department of Agriculture representative Aly Wells reminded the commissioners that any attempt to make county regulation changes that are stricter than state regulations would be pre-empted by state law.
The state laws are designed to make sure that the interests of multiple-county businesses are not impeded, she said.
Anyone with environmental concerns about confined feeding operations should take them to their state legislators, Wells said.