Letter: Make CAFOs have adequate capitalization

From: Jean Terpstra


The main problem causing community dissatisfaction with the locating of additional CAFOs and CFOs within Bartholomew County is that the risks of loss and damage caused by these operations are being borne not by the people who own, run and take profits from the CAFO and CFO operations, but very directly and inescapably by their close neighbors, and even the county as a whole.

The close neighbors inevitably suffer property value losses, oppressive odors, and a loss of use and enjoyment of their property, but they also hold a substantial risk that if the CAFO ever has a problem or failure (and how often does everything go exactly as planned?) these losses could spiral into the thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars in water, cleanup and health costs.

Under the current system, these CAFOs and CFOs are being allowed to set up as limited liability corporations (LLCs). This means that if the LLC operation is sued, or fined, or otherwise required to pay a significant amount for some problem it caused, the recovery of funds is limited to the assets within the LLC.

The LLCs are then set up to have as few assets as possible, so there is no money available to pay for any recovery. These are designed to limit what the CAFO owner has at risk if things go wrong. I suspect the actual buildings and livestock, feed and equipment are all financed by a secured investor who would be paid first before any damages are paid to the injured neighbors or community, so basically the operation has no assets and its debt to neighbors and the community will go unpaid by that CAFO owner.

The farmers establishing these and insisting these operations are safe are not betting their farms, their credit lines, their homes or anything else. They make all the profits, but if there is damage or injury through their actions, they will not pay the costs. This separation of risk from profit leads to unsafe and unfair conditions that cannot be permitted in our community.

The Bartholomew County Plan Commission and the county commissioners need to establish rules that permit CAFOs or CFOs only if they can prove sufficient capitalization or supply a bond and liability policy to cover the expected and potential costs of these operations. Another county in Indiana has already done this, so the template is there and we need only the will to use it.

CAFO and CFO facilities should not be allowed to locate here, unless adequate security has been provided to cover any damages they cause. Shifting the risk of loss onto the neighbors and community is not responsible or just. Ask our county commissioners to add a provision to the ordinances governing CAFOs and CFOs assuring these operations are sufficiently capitalized, or bonded and insured, to pay for any damage they may cause.