Friday, February 17, 2006

Pigs From Germany Coming To Jasper CAFO

We got the news yesterday about the pigs coming to the Belstra CAFO -- from Germany!! -- expected to arrive Feb. 20 from what I understand.

So here we sit, still in court appealing the IDEM certificate; and I wish I could tell you about that fiasco, but I promised I wouldn't go public with the info -- for now.

What I will tell you is this -- we heard IDEM was present for the hearing.

Rumor has it that they will be present at all CAFO court hearings (not zoning board hearings).

Maybe that's why the attitude on the Belstra front toned down so much during that hearing. If you would have seen their reps (and themselves) in the BZA hearing, you would have sworn they were an arrogant lot that had absolutely no intention of working anything out with any of the residents in this area where they're moving forward at a furious pace to get this done before all court hearings/decisions are final.

Those poor Sandhill Cranes. I wonder what kind of imported pathogens come with those hogs?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Indiana 2003 Farming Stats

One of the biggest "arguments" in favor of CAFO farming is the supposed revenues they "bring into your community" ...and I'm getting kind of tired of hearing it, from a tax payer's standpoint.

Let's just take 3 Counties and see how much Net Income farming actually produced based on 2003 census reports:

Jasper County - Realized Net Income: $695,000
Newton County - Realized Net Income: $-108,000
Benton County - Realized Net Income: $-3,129,000

TOTAL Net Income/Loss: $-2,542,000

So, ummm... let me try to understand this. Out of the total GROSS REVENUES in 2003 from farming sources -- almost $2.8 Million -- the total NET after expenses (which I'm assuming benefits the community as being taxable income?? ...or maybe it's not all taxable??) the NET LOSS for our 3 counties was $-2,542,000?


That's for most ALL types of farming (crops and livestock) in our 3 counties -- imagine that!

Now, I know, different crops/livestock produce different levels of revenue...

But I'm thinking the taxes paid by the small group of residents just in our area beat the total tax revenues collected from farming across all three Indiana counties in 2003 -- CAFOs included. And I'm betting the tourist income and related revenues taken in from the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife reserve were fairly generous, too.

...I know there are several corner stores in our area that benefit very well from J-P F&W tourists. I doubt they'll be profiting nearly as much from the 8 to 10 employees the new CAFO will have versus the number of tourists that won't be coming once they smell what's happening on this main route into the Wildlife Reserve.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

IDEM Clarifies CAFO Regulation Remarks

Last Sunday I heard that the controversial remarks made by IDEM Commissioner Tom Easterly addressing the Indiana Pork Producers state convention would be retracted.

According to Brownfield AT News, "IDEM has been besieged with calls from livestock producers wanting more details." I would imagine they got pretty excited by his comments.

On Tuesday (today) IDEM released the fallowing statement in an effort to clarify the situation:
A quote attributed to me in a February 2, 2006, Brownfield Agriculture Today news article has caused a significant public stir about the agency and its oversight of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Please allow me to clarify the meaning of comments made during the Indiana Pork Producers annual meeting.

Because of proposed deadline extensions in the CAFO National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) rule currently being considered by the Water Pollution Control Board, IDEM will not be enforcing the original deadlines for existing farms to file storm water plans, soil conservation plans, nutrient management plans and NPDES applications. It would not make sense for IDEM compliance staff to cite farms for violating deadlines that may change. But we will continue to hold all farms accountable to protect waters of the state. No variance will be given to farms for violating water quality standards. And my staff and I will continue working to educate, guide, assist and oversee confined feeding operations, statewide. Link (Brownfields story)

Thanks to Kemplog for the heads up on this update.

And now my question is, what have they been doing lately to "oversee confined feeding operations statewide" ...maybe I'm wrong, or I haven't been looking in the right places, but from what I can discern, there haven't been many updates on the IDEM site regarding violations filed/acted on, nor reports of number of new CAFO permits issued/denied in recent months.

How have IDEM been using our tax dollars lately?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Indiana CAFO Poll

Do you think more regulations are needed for CAFOs?

I'm not sure how long this poll will be on The Star Press (Muncie, Indiana) home page -- but while it's there, be sure to cast your vote. Just scroll to the bottom of their home page and look for the POLL box through this link.

When I first found out about it this morning, I voted "yes" to more regulations for CAFOs and the results were:

Yes - 83.5%
No - 16.5%
Total Votes - 395

My husband will be placing his vote later tonight. I'll post the changes in results then.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

It Really Does Matter

I read a comment on Brand New Day about how IDEM has been nicknamed by many environmental groups as well as several large corporations. The IDEM nickname is -- "It Doesn't Even Matter"

His post was about the new "Clean City" tag IDEM is offerring to cities in Indiana who qualify, and I must agree with the author's skepticism regarding the "front" IDEM is putting on here in the State of Indiana.

IDEM's reputation is mud here in Jasper County ...and their reputation spreads far beyond our county with the number of people they have already placed "in harm's way" with their actions -- or should I say lack of actions -- regarding CAFOs.

The latest news from Kemplog shows a clear picture of things to come for the State of Indiana at the hands of IDEM:
IDEM Commissioner Tom Easterly told hog producers at the Indiana Pork Producers state convention last week that IDEM will suspend enforcement of Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CARO) permits until the EPA has cleared up the confusion surrounding CAFOs. This is the result of a court decision that threw out previous EPA regulations on CAFOs. "Until we know what the federal rules are, it makes no sense to enforce them," said Easterly. He said no enforcement action will be taken for at least the next 3 years.
Imagine - the environmental health of the State of Indiana is in this man's hands this agency's hands.

From what I recall in all my research, I believe Indiana was one of the States who were FORCED to put CAFO laws in place because the State had fallen so far behind Federal environmental protection guidelines.

For those citizens who care about Indiana, who want to see its few remaining natural sanctuaries survive and thrive, I'm thinking it's time we call in the Federal EPA ombudsman.
About The Ombudsman: The Public Liaison Director manages the hotline function and the reviews of complaints and allegations of fraud, waste, mismanagement or improper conduct of Agency employees or its contractors.

About The Hotline: The purpose of the hotline is to receive complaints of fraud, waste, and abuse in EPA programs and operations including mismanagement or violations of law, rules, or regulations by EPA employees or program participants.
If you have proof Federal EPA laws, rules, or regulations have been violated in your area of Indiana -- and you've had no results and/or support from IDEM (and have proof to support this) you can learn all about how the Ombudsman, a separate EPA arm not under direct Federal or State EPA control, has resources to get something done about it -- even to the point of calling in the FBI, if needed. Find out more about the EPA Ombudsman's office through this link.

Friday, February 03, 2006

How Can We Unite Against CAFOs

An important comment was posted to my blog by a visitor today:
"How can we unite across the state to get our message across that the people of Indiana don't want this?"
Great question! And I'll start the conversation with a few ideas here. If you have more, be sure to use the Comment link and let us know.

Five or ten years ago, it probably would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for all of us to unite -- but, today there are several small groups of citizens fighting the CAFO issue scattered across the State of Indiana -- and the Internet presents a powerful vehicle for all of us to unite.

The way I see it, I'm thinking the first step we would need to take is find strong leadership, someone who can file the paperwork to create a formal "issues" based organization that can be recognized by the powers that be. I believe there is a form (a 505 something? ... still looking through my files for the actual number) that can be filed for this.

Next, we would need to get the word out to all the various groups and individuals fighting CAFOs in Indiana so we can join together and consolidate our resources plus organize a gameplan that includes:

- retaining a dynamite legal TEAM to represent us,
- educating the public and PRESS,
- lobbying the government at all levels,
- organizing public protests at related government meetings,
- petitioning officials at all levels of government for stronger laws to protect us all,

...and that's just the beginning.

Right now, it truly is a "David vs Goliath" kind of fight. When you see the political underpinnings that are supporting and promoting the spread of CAFOs throughout Indiana, and even helped along by the Federal Government, you begin to see how BIG our "Goliath" truly is.

A comment was made in one newspaper article (I've misplaced the link - sorry) indicating the numbers opposing CAFOs in Indiana are quickly rising to such a degree that a State-wide uprising in the voting population seems likely.

However, the big question is we have the courage to unite and the strength to face the long battles ahead to save Indiana's future?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Jasper County CAFO Update

"Dogs look up at you, cats look down at you, while pigs look you straight in the eye." - Churchill

A quick update on the hearing that took place yesterday.

Nothing was decided at this point. The lawyer representing our group handed over a 13-page Request of Admissions document for which they have 30 days to address our concerns.

Some interesting changes:

They will be injecting the manure -- but now it will be no more than 2 times per year.

They've also indicated they now have more than the original 500 acres for spreading the manure.

Plus, and I find this curious, they noted in court that they do NOT use antibiotics.

Now, it's interesting to note that on most swine factory farms (CAFO) the addition of antibiotics to feed, particularly for the first 3 weeks of life in piglets, is a standard practice. I'm curious as to the exact terminology they used when making the above statement.

Are they actually saying they don't use antibiotics that are on the new legislation list (those that are used in human medicine)? Or are they saying they don't use any kind of antibiotics at all?

Another new development -- they "asked us" to negotiate with them and "even offered to have a mediator" to get this issue finalized, per one of the adjoining landowners.

Now -- here's what I can't quite understand.

Does this mean the health and welfare of -- the residents -- the wildlife -- the environment -- are open for "negotiation" instead of protective legislation?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

IDEM Appeal Hearing Today

Minutes from now, the hearing begins in Indianapolis -- an appeal to have the Belstra-Harper sow-unit farm permit revoked.

We really don't know if this is a discovery hearing just for lawyers, a pre-trial, or what...

During former meetings with the lawyer hired by adjoining landowners (Marcella and Roy and Bonnie) to present our case, the lawyer indicated other area neighbors should not attend the meetings to discuss the case at his office...

".....He says he wants to go over all the discovery issues with us and the filing of documents, and is afraid with others being there it would be distracting to him
at this point in time and doesn't necessarily want any others at this stage of the preparation . .....BUT he plans to have 2-meetings. Another meeting will be scheduled right before the pre-trial cause he wants to get everybody involved at that time ------------which will still be before we go to pre-trial."

Well, we never heard of any pre-trial meeting, so I'm really not sure of where we are at.

Is today's court date a "discovery" meeting to see if there will be a pre-trial?

Or, is it in fact the pre-trial?

Or, is this the actual appeal proceedings?

Or, is it...

So many questions tumbling through our minds as we wait -- and worry -- and wait -- and worry -- and wait --

...and watch yet another concrete truck go by our driveway.

It rained pretty heavy over the weekend here. There's plenty of standing water left ...but concrete and water is an entirely other issue left for a future post. (Wait till you see the pictures I'll be posting!)

There's another handfull of Sandhill Cranes. Quite a few of them never went south this year least, not yet. Have you ever seen one up close? They're awesome!

Our dog is laying patiently beside the mailbox, waiting for the mail lady to arrive. The sun is shining ...and there's a slight breeze coming from the west -- kind of warm.

If you didn't know it was actually February 1 today, you'd swear it was a beautiful spring day here. Well... beautiful except for those gawd-awful concrete trucks thundering by.

Hey -- I'm just doing my best right now to "think happy thoughts" ...know what I mean?

I'll be back with news of the hearing as soon as we get it.

Pray for us?