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Editorial: Moratorium good move for reviewing CAFO rules

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The Bartholomew County Commissioners on Monday will consider approving an 18-month moratorium on proposals for confined feeding operations. They would be wise to support that recommendation from the County Plan Commission.

After proposals for two large hog farms were OK’d by the county, despite significant resistance from some groups of residents, county officials would like time to re-examine the local ordinance about animal feeding operations and compare it to those of other counties.

That’s smart.

Local governmental bodies should examine their rules and regulations from time to time to make sure they are up to date. Pausing allows time to look for any loopholes that might need to be closed. And, a delay allows ample time for residents to share their thoughts about whether the existing rules are beneficial or harmful and if changes should be made.

Currently, the county ordinance says confined feeding operations cannot be located on a property less 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 recently created Columbus and Bartholomew County CAFO Regulation Study Committee, composed of county officials and residents with various backgrounds, will lead the examination of the ordinance.

The moratorium applies only to confined feeding operations that require a permit from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. That means 300 or more cattle, 500 or more horses, 600 or more swine or sheep and 30,000 or more poultry in confinement.

What the moratorium would allow the committee to do is determine the impact of the current ordinance on the business of agriculture. Which types of ag businesses does the county want to support? Are rules too loose or too restrictive for people who want to establish hog farms or any other kind of animal operation? These are questions the committee should consider because they have a future impact on the county.

The proposed moratorium has received some pushback. Opponents have said the delay harms the rights of people to start ag-related businesses, and the current ordinance was thoughtfully created just seven years ago.

A lot can happen in a short amount of time to question whether regulations already have become out of date or are insufficient to address unforeseen situations.

And while proposals for new animal feeding operations wouldn’t be heard for 18 months, that shouldn’t be construed as an intention to harm the rights of residents who want to start ag-related businesses. Not all animal feeding operations are affected by the moratorium.

County officials also need time to consider what’s in the best interests of the county and its residents.

Being proactive about those interests is better than being reactive.

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