The Case Against CAFOs in Indiana

There are already far too many protections and allowances for the many CAFO's in our state.  A CAFO was proposed 2 years ago in Lakeville and our community rejected it.  The CAFO would have released liquid manure into near surface groundwater.  When stormwater reaches high levels in areas of near surface groundwater, karst, or other fragile lands,  existing IDEM rules mandating manure lagoons to contain the waste are NOT adequate and the waste can overflow into nearby surface waters or groundwater. Methane emissions are huge from CAFO’s.  A major contributor to climate change, methane is several times more of a concern than fossil fuel emissions. CAFO’s rarely pay enough taxes to mitigate the damage they do to roadways with all the trucking in and out. And when concentrated into such a small space with so many animals, offensive odors are inevitable for many miles around, decreasing property values for which owners cannot be compensated or even protest (right to farm legislation from last year). CAFO promoters claim that their operations will be a stimulus to the local economy from local agricultural feed products purchased. In reality, most of the millions in profits from CAFO sales and products go out of the community and even out of the country in export sales, lining the pockets of large international corporations such as China owned Smithfield.  Jobs are created more reliably and longer term in smaller farms which employ more local people on farms.  How many other agricultural jobs are they displacing with the use of that land both for the CAFO and for growing the crops to feed the CAFO’s?  We can do better by bringing back smaller, dispersed, agriculture which yields the best & most healthy food at the least cost to soil, water, & air.  For example, in 1970 there were many more jobs in agriculture in our area than any CAFO could provide for the same land area use. These jobs created economic activity around the community such as local retail sales, etc.  CAFO jobs are low quality, high stress, and repetitive.  They are a poor substitute for someone who has grown up on a diversified family farm or who would like to enter farming as a profession.

Our goal should be getting people back to the land for more quality jobs in agriculture that produce food that is sold and consumed locally.  Jobs created through the maintenance and restoration of low impact farming practices that protect soil, water, & air as well as profits. Over the past 4 decades we have witnessed the flight of our best farmers from the land, and their children have left our rural communities.  Our food system is left vulnerable to high input costs associated with fossil fuel driven agricultural methods such as CAFO’s.  Studies show that if 35-50% of the available land being used for growing livestock feed for CAFO animals was permanently converted to pasture land, we could still meet Americans' animal protein needs, stop the release of soil and nutrients into our rivers, lakes, groundwater, & oceans, and trap carbon which is being emitted and heating up our climate.  All while meeting current high demand for quality local food for local consumption.

I own a small farm deriving 50% of its income from farm products and 50% from agritourism.  My farm business would be ruined by a CAFO locating nearby.  I hope our Indiana Senate comes to its senses and tables this bill.  We don’t need politicians in Indianapolis with their hands in the pockets of trans-national companies telling us how to manage our local agriculture.  We have the right to enact local laws as we see fit. Don’t desecrate our democracy by legislating our citizens out of the process.  Indiana farmers need help from the state but not this kind of help.  They need help keeping farms intact and safe from industrial operations claiming to be farms, and urban sprawl.


Submitted by Charlotte Wolfe, PhD and Farmer near Lakeville, IN

Blog NewsMargaret Stout