Indiana is experiencing significant growth in the animal agriculture sector, much of it in the form of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and many Indiana citizens are concerned about the impact that these new farms might have on their communities.

The above picture is of the Whitetail Hog Facility in Missouri. Although this is not an Indiana site, CAFOs vary little in their construction and operation from state to state.

I recently posted an article about a new CAFO coming to southern Allen County in the near future. Barring some unexpected obstacles, it will slide through without much attention paid to its impact in rural Allen County or its potential impact on Fort Wayne.

Residents of Fort Wayne should be concerned because the manure that is sprayed or injected into our soils eventually finds its way to our rivers and our underground drinking sources such as aquifers. An interesting article titled “Migration of Antibiotic Resistance from Animal Feeding Operations into Groundwater” was published in August by A few snippets from the article are below:

 In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois report that some genes found in hog waste lagoons are transferred like batons from one bacterial species to another. The researchers found that this migration across species and into new environments sometimes dilutes and sometimes amplifies genes conferring antibiotic resistance.

 Tetracycline is widely used in swine production. It is injected into the animals to treat or prevent disease, and is often used as an additive in hog feed to boost the animals growth. Its near-continuous use in some hog farms promotes the evolution of tetracycline-resistant strains in the animals digestive tracts and manure.

 The migration of antibiotic resistance from animal feeding operations into groundwater has broad implications for human and ecological health. There are roughly 238,000 animal feeding operations in the U.S., which collectively generate about 500 million tons of manure per year. Groundwater comprises about 40 percent of the public water supply, and more than 97 percent of the drinking water used in rural areas.

Purdue University has established a website specifically to address CAFO concerns. Purdue has brought together a wide range of experts to address and research different concerns surrounding CAFOs. The goal is to afford consumers, producers, and community leaders the ability to make well-informed decisions regarding issues that may coincide with the expansion of animal agriculture in Indiana.

After posting the Public Notice in reference to the Schuhler CAFO, I called the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and spoke with Thomas Park, the individual listed in the notice. Although Mr. Park was cordial, he seemed irritated that I wanted a copy of the materials filed. He stated a couple of times that he probably could answer my questions. I stated that I did not think so and asked that I be sent the materials. He then took my address and indicated he would send a copy of the application.

The notice was published on November 6th but was received a week earlier on October 29th. I believe the comment period is 30 days, so that means that one week is gone before the public even has any inkling that a permit request has been filed.

I also called the Allen County Department of Planning Services and was directed to Mark Royse, Deputy Director for Economic Development. I explained the issue and asked about the role of his office in the oversight of such operations. Mr. Royse said he would “walk down the hall” and find out and would call me right back. I didn’t receive a return call. I realize it was 3:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, and many workers are already wrapping up and getting ready to head home for the weekend. I will give him the benefit of the doubt. If I don’t hear from him Monday, I will give a call again.

I will post a summary on my blog after I receive the materials from IDEM. Meanwhile, to those concerned about this issue, check out the Purdue site and do some research into the effects of waste such as manure. Governor Daniels and his CAFO supporters refer to those of us who are concerned about these factory farms as not wanting to move into the future and living in the past. We are said to want to hold Indiana “back.”

Sorry, Gov, those allegations don’t work. This is an environmental issue of the greatest importance impacting one of our most precious resources – the water we need to survive.