Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Hope? God Is Watching...

"I saw an udder on one cow that was so gigantic that she had a hard time walking. ...I could tell just by the look on her face that all she wanted to do was lay down and die. It was probably one of the saddest things I've ever seen. She was at the back of the line and the employee [SIC] at the back was cajoling her to move along towards the milking carousel. It looked like it hurt her to move with every step. I'm sure she's dead now. Animals can only take so much."

I hope God was watching that day -- and that He also saw the cows who lay dead from slipping on the ice that formed owing to a heating system failure at the Fair Oaks dairy farm. There is no "Fair" in that picture... but maybe a higher power is needed to make it fair.

You know, I write quite a bit about the science; public health, the environment, the air, the water, the soil... may God forgive me for not writing enough about the animals that can't speak for themselves, and rely on eyewitnesses to tell their story.

Eyewitnesses like the person above who, as I promised, shall remain anonymous on this blog.

Most eyewitnesses won't tell their story. They're afraid for their jobs. They're afraid for their families. They're afraid about being sued for breaking their silence and violating non-disclosure agreements. Some, I've been told, are even afraid of being kicked out of the country...

Perhaps the best way to give the animals on factory farms like those witnessed above owned by McCloskey and the den Dulk brothers, is to put their employees on the stand, and ask them the oh-so-important questions under oath -- ask them to "...tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God."

I'm guessing there are more than a few of them who have trouble sleeping at night. As I commend this one eyewitness for coming forward, my heart aches for all of those employees who are afraid to do so.

If you live in Jasper County, Indiana ...stand up and help make a difference.

Join us December 11, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at the Rensselaer High School where the next den Dulk dairy plans are unfolding -- and where they intend to trash yet another area of Jasper County. The fate of 13,000 calves are potentially at stake here, too.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A vicious cycle?

Ever heard the song:

"...the knee-bone connected to the thigh-bone, the thigh-bone connected to the..."

Okay, I won't sing the whole song here.

But think about this:

You take tons (and I do mean TONS) of manure -- spread it on acres of cornfields -- you kill the weeds with glysophate -- you harvest the corn to bring to the ethanol plants -- you take the by-product distilled grains and feed it to the factory farm animals -- then take the factory farm manure (and I do mean TONS) -- spread it on acres of cornfields...

Okay, I won't "sing the whole song" here. But keep this in mind:

- The manure from CAFOs is often LOADED with bacteria.

- The glysophate (round-up) kills earthworms.

- The earthworms eat E. coli and other bacteria.

- The ethanol distilled grain by-products increase the phosperous and sulfer in manure when fed to animals.

Ummmmmm.... am I the only person seeing a problem with this picture? Some experts think we already have a severe E. coli contamination problem in our freshwater streams, creeks, rivers, lakes and ditches.

On a different note, here's another pesky little problem that has reared it's ugly head in Indiana.

Prior to 2001, this visitor wasn't found in Indiana waters. Guess what? It's here now ...I'm talking about a strain of the toxic blue-green algae (slightly different from the one I mentioned before in this blog). Read the full report to find out more.

Here's just a small excerpt:

Spring 2005 report, the Clean Lakes Program (Office of Water Quality, IDEM):
"Among the usual visitors to Indiana lakes during the summer of 2001 was a new and unwanted one – a blue-green alga called Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii (see Figure 1). This tropical species, which had never before been identified in Indiana, was first identified by Dr. Ann St. Amand from samples collected on August 15, 2001 from Ball Lake, a 75-acre natural lake in Steuben County."

In the same report they warn:
"State officials and citizens alike must keep a watchful eye on their lakes, especially in shallow, nutrient-enriched lakes in late summer."
In a separate unrelated scientific study it was reported, "The widespread proliferation of C. raciborskii in some drinking and recreational water supplies has caused international public health concerns. This concern is due to the potential for some strains to produce the alkaloid hepatotoxin cylindrospermopsin. Cyanobacterial toxins have been implicated in a range of animal and human health issues."

For more details on this pesky -- potentially highly toxic -- problem, check out:

Images of Cylindrospermopsis and Pseudanabaena from Several Reservoirs in Indiana, U.S.A.

And also check out:

Distribution and Abundance of Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii in Indiana Lakes and Reservoirs

(Note that lakes included within the above study do not represent all public lakes in Indiana.)

"There have been multiple reports of cyanobacterial toxins affecting farm animals such as cattle (Saker et al. 1999a, Hawkins et al. 1997) and even humans. One of the worst cases of cyanobacterial poisoning occurred in Brazil in 1996, when a dialysis clinic treated its patients with water infected with microcystins and caused the death of 76 people (Carmichael et al. 2001). Most recently, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae and its toxin anatoxin-a were implicated in the death of a Wisconsin teenager in the summer of 2003 (Behm 2003)."

More info from the same report:

"C. raciborskii is perhaps best known for its role in the Palm Island Mystery Disease (Hawkins et al. 1985). In November 1979, 149 people (mostly children) became ill with symptoms of hepato-enteritis, vomiting, constipation (Griffiths and Saker 2003; McGregor and Fabbro 2000 [Falconer 1996]) kidney malfunction, and diarrhea (Hawkins et al. 1997).

Originally thought to be attributed to the consumption of unripe mangoes, medical officers noticed that the outbreak occurred three days after the major water supply was treated with copper sulfate to control an algal bloom.

An epidemiological study of the incident later confirmed the linkage between the outbreak and the water supply (Bourke et al. 1983). The copper sulfate had caused C. raciborskii cells to die and lyse, causing the release of toxins in to the water."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What is Acetaldehyde?

As promised in my post yesterday, here is a bit more info on Acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde is probably best known as the chemical that causes "hangovers". One of the major toxins produced from Candida albicans is acetaldehyde, which is transformed by the liver to ethanol (alcohol), creating the feeling of intoxication and brain fog. It's been said there have been cases where Candida patients have been pulled over and tested positive with elevated blood alcohol levels above normal, even though they had not even touched a drop of alcohol. But there's a more hazardous connection to cancer here...

Acetaldehyde is more toxic than ethanol and is responsible for many hangover symptoms. It is also an air pollutant, emitted by cars and certain production facilities. And it is also contained in tobacco smoke, contributing to the smoke's addictive properties.

Acetaldehyde is a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP), and was identified as a toxic air contaminant (TAC) by the California Environmental Protection Agency on April 8, 1993, when the Air Resources Board (ARB) identified all 189 HAPs as TACs. Quote:
The [California] ARB staff has determined that acetaldehyde is the product of incomplete combustion, is emitted from a variety of sources, and can be detected in the ambient air throughout California. It can be formed in polluted ambient atmospheres from a variety of precursors. It is highly mobile in the environment, and is not naturally removed or detoxified at a rate that would significantly reduce public exposure. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified acetaldehyde as a possible human carcinogen 2B), based on sufficient evidence in animals and inadequate evidence in humans. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has decided that acetaldehyde is a "probable human carcinogen" (B2).

The OEHHA staff has concluded that at ambient concentrations acetaldehyde may cause or contribute to an increase in mortality or serious illness and may therefore pose a potential hazard to human health.

What are the sources of Acetaldehyde emissions (in addition to ethanol fueled vehicles)?

According the California EPA report referenced above, "The largest sources statewide of directly emitted acetaldehyde are from combustion of fuels from mobile sources, agricultural burning, and wildfires. Direct sources are estimated to contribute approximately 44 percent of the acetaldehyde in the atmosphere."

In 1999, IDEM in it's statewide inventory of toxic air contaminants, reported an Indiana Acetaldehyde emissions inventory of 233,592.33 lb/yr, as follows:

Point Sources: 189,570.00
Area Sources: 44,022.33

About Point Source Emissions: As part of the annual emissions reporting package Indiana requests information on hazardous air pollutant emissions from point sources required to report to STEPS. Indiana has included this voluntarily reported information, and information from the TRI database, for many point sources. The voluntarily reported emissions and TRI data are primarily source totals, however some sources did report process level HAPs in STEPS.

Now, I don't know but I've been told, acetaldehyde has a sickly sweet "fruity" smell... however, the California EPA report referenced above states:
Acetaldehyde is a colorless, flammable liquid, volatile at ambient temperature and pressure, with an irritating odor.

By the way, did you know...? When MTBE is removed and ethanol is added to gasoline, the vapor pressure (Rvp) of the gasoline blend increases and thus emissions of volatile organic compound (VOC) increase. See this very detailed government document which discusses the difficulties associated with replacing MBTE (now banned in several states) with ethanol.

It also reveals a few other problems with gas prices and ethanol that many of us may not be aware of.

More on health issues relating specifically to Dairy CAFOs later this week.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Black Friday Hangover

The term "Black Friday" has been around for some time -- and often refers to the day after Thanksgiving -- a day of major Retail shopping sales. It's said to be the biggest sales day of the year for retailers, although some stats indicate it's actually the 5th biggest of the year.

It was called "Black Friday" because supposedly, it's the turnaround for the retail industry when their red ink (from losses) starts turning into black ink (for profits).

Others say "Black Friday" actually refers to a darker time in history -- the day of the largest stock market crash ever -- the dawn of the depression.

It was said to have been preceeded by a "bubble" in the economy -- a bubble that eventually burst. Learn more about "crashes and bubbles" here.

Briefly, a quote from the site referenced above describes it well:

"Like the soap bubbles a child likes to blow, investing bubbles often appear as though they will rise forever, but since they are not formed from anything substantial, they eventually pop. And when they do, the money that was invested into them dissipates into the wind."

I've received some very interesting feedback from my post: "The Ethanol CAFO Connection?"

Some who stand to profit were, needless to say, very upset. There is major hype and spin being directed towards the ethanol picture (which wears the eco-friendly disguise label: "bio-fuels"). And like any issue, there are people standing on both sides. Marty's "Big Eastern" blog brought up a few good links on both sides of the subject in his 18Sept2006 post titled "Bubble Trouble" are a few more:

- Crunching the Numbers on Alternative Fuels by Popular Mechanics

- Drunk on Ethanol by Business Week

- Ethanol Investing: Counterpoint by FSU

You'll notice the above links are not too pro-ethanol. You can get plenty of that from the major players and stakeholders in the ethanol game.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm all for progressive steps that will clean up the environment and reduce or eliminate the many toxins and related health risks assaulting us and our planet each and every day.

But the "pro ethanol spin" hasn't convinced me it's a viable solution. I still believe it was a necessary step in Gov. Daniels big plan. Think about it. His big goal when taking office was to double pork production in the State of Indiana. Since everyone who is anyone in the ag industry knows one of the biggest drawbacks for CAFOs are the damages they do to our environment, it's not too big of a stretch to think he piggybacked the big pork push with the environmental spin of bio-energy.

Ethanol has become the "darling" of some mass media outlets, as this Bio-Town video on ABC Nightline clearly indicates. Turning all that gawhd-awful smelling hog manure into ethanol to power up our nation sounds like a perfect solution on the surface, right?

Stepping ahead on his plans to paint the "green" picture, Daniels gave away 200 FREE 2-year leases on brand new hybrid vehicles to residents in his BioTown -- namely Reynolds, Indiana. They don't have an ethanol gas station -- yet -- so those 200 vehicles are now guzzling up the gas, running at approx 27% less fuel efficient than other vehicles.... but hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

In politics, it's the "thought" that really counts when it comes to image. While Daniels makes his strongest push ever to "green" up his agenda for the State of Indiana spear-heading his PR campaign with the ethanol push, few people even know about his hidden plans "to increase timber harvest by 400 to 500% on State Forests"

...and it's not just him pushing the ethanol agenda. The subsidies in place (that expire in 2007) come right from the top -- where ethanol was madated as the fuel additive of choice, replacing another additive that was proven to pollute groundwater.

A little known fact about ethanol emissions can be found in Consumer Reports article, "The Ethanol Myth."

QUOTE: When we took our Tahoe to a state-certified emissions-test facility in Connecticut and had a standard emissions test performed, we found a significant decrease in smog-forming oxides of nitrogen when using E85. Ethanol, however, emits acetaldehyde, a probable carcinogen and something that standard emissions-testing equipment is not designed to measure. But that might be a relatively minor evil. "Acetaldehyde is bad," says James Cannon, president of Energy Futures, an alternative-transportation publication, "but not nearly as bad as some of the emissions from gasoline."

What is Acetaldehyde?

I'll bring you more on that (and other important health related info) next week. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Location, Location, Location - CAFO Considerations

You hear it talked about by Real Estate reps all the time -- location, location, location -- and there are many factors that will influence their assessment of a property prior to listing.

But, what are the Top 5 location decision factors for Dairy CAFO owners when selecting a potential site?

According to one study published in 2003 in the Journal of Dairy Science titled "Identification and Characterization of Location Decision Factors for Relocating Dairy Farms" here they are in order of overall importance to Dairy farm owners.

The Top 5 overall most important Location Decision Factors for Dairy Farms were:

1) availability of fresh water supplies
2) availability of land for waste management
3) average mailbox price of milk
4) quality of fresh water supply, and
5) complexity of laws governing waste management

The study also noted: "Factors pertaining to dairy production activities, such as cost of feeds and milk handling, were prevalent among those LDF in the upper quartile of importance."

What happened to:

1) public health/safety considerations in regards to proximity to area residents?

2) environmental safety considerations? (potential runoff dangers, potential water contamination issues, potential insect problems, etc.)

3) potential for spread of disease &/or infection of cows and/or wildlife?

4) sufficient infrastructures in place for traffic to and from location?

5) potential for future "nuisance lawsuits" in future?

Maybe the 2nd list of 5 items isn't very important to the Dairy CAFO owners in this Jasper County case, but perhaps they should take a closer look at the location they've chosen before the next BZA meeting.

Regarding item 1; it's no secret they're planning this facility adjacent to a large residential subdivision... and I'm pretty certain they're also aware it's a fairly populated area ...for a rural location.

Studies like the following should come as no surprise to them:

- "With increased productivity has come the need for fewer cows to produce milk on a per capita basis and increases in net income per cow. However, compared with energetic efficiency, the efficiency of using feed protein to make milk protein has not increased as dramatically, partly because cows are often fed protein in excess. This nitrogen waste is an environmental concern; N (Nitrogen) losses in manure contribute to water pollution and ammonia emissions from dairy farms."

- "Soil P (Phosphorus) levels in the 30-cm layer were above state threshold standards, most likely from overapplication of manure."

- "The economic risk of underfeeding protein is greater than the risk of overfeeding protein, so protein efficiency has not been maximized in the past, nor is it likely to be maximized in the near future. Most cows also are fed excess P, a notable contaminant of surface waters, but several recent studies have shown that feeding P above NRC recommendations has no utility for milk production or fertility."

There's tons more clinical studies on the subject of manure problems relating to Dairy CAFOs... I just listed a handful of the more recent studies above. You have to travel outside of the USA to look at some of the more dangerous health risks associated to Dairy farms. For example:

- "Bacteria were isolated from dairy cows, dairy farm environments, and dairy workers in 2 geographically different areas of eastern and northern Taiwan. Isolates were evaluated for antimicrobial susceptibility and the phylogenetics of isolated Escherichia coli O157:H7 were characterized. A total of 1,346 bacteria were identified, including 226 E. coli, 30 Pseudomonas spp. (7 Pseudomonas aeruginosa), 259 other gram-negative bacteria, 271 Enterococcus spp., 314 Staphylococcus spp., 195 Streptococcus spp., and 51 other gram-positive bacteria."

Regarding item 2; since they're calling it "Wolf Creek Calf Company LLC" I'm assuming they are aware of the water bodies in the area. And from what I've heard they're aware that there just might not be enough land for the distribution of their manure. (Just a rumor at this point -- I heard they're bidding on more land in the immediate vicinity.)

You can read through some of the studies above, or easily find hundreds more, on the subject of Dairy farm manure and waste water problems.

To get the "Big" picture regarding waters in Northwestern Indiana, check this out.

Now, maybe the CAFO owners are thinking they can just tap into the environmental grant budgets to solve any problems that come up?

Think again. According to "Clean Water Indiana" administered by the DNR, a multi'faceted strategy, including focusing "...state resources at the local level to reduce water pollution from agricultural and urban stormwater runoff"


"There is simply not enough conservation cost-share and grant money available from current state or federal programs to fulfill the need for assistance to Indiana's urban and rural landowners. In 1999, public demand exceeded available federal and state conservation cost-share and grant dollars by more than $11 million."

Sidenote Regarding Water Supply in this area: "Between 1981 and 1989, IDNR staff investigated more than 225 complaints of water-supply problems in northern Jasper and Newton Counties. Most problems reported for shallow water wells were the result of seasonal water-table fluctuations in the sand aquifer, and generally were corrected by upgrading the wells. Losses of water supply in wells completed in the carbonate aquifer, however, frequently resulted from water-level declines induced by high-capacity irrigation pumpage from the bedrock."

In response to recurring ground-water conflicts in Jasper and Newton Counties, the IDNR Division of Water has suggested several water-management alternatives in an attempt to alleviate the potential for future conflicts, particularly during the irrigation season and during periods of drought. The suggested alternatives call for

1) the additional development of the surficial sand aquifer as an alternative or complementary ground-water source for irrigation;

2) an examination of the need for localized restrictions on the drilling of new high-capacity bedrock wells;

3) the implementation of water-conservation practices in some irrigation areas;

4) the proper installation of small-capacity wells; and

5) continued coordination with the State of Illinois to manage irrigation development in the bi-state area where the carbonate aquifer is heavily pumped.

(Link to source.)

As for item 3; this new proposed Dairy/Calving CAFO is nestled nicely in a forested area frequently visited by white-tail deer, so I'm assuming the owners already are aware of this study by divisions of the USDA and the Center for Disease Control completed in Wisconsin regarding black-legged ticks. In it the authors state, "The risk of encountering adult blacklegged ticks on dairy farms in Barron County, Wisconsin is therefore greatest in woodlands habitat."

Oh, but maybe they aren't aware of the coyote problem in this neck of the woods? By now, they already know this is a major flyway for Sandhill Cranes. I'm assuming the CAFO operators are aware of what E. coli does to migratory birds?

As for item 4; I guess they're not worried about this, since they managed to get quite a long stretch of newly blacktopped road (more like a highway) put in for other facilities they own -- hundreds of thousands of $ -- compliments of the taxpayers. They'll just "lobby" the politicians for more of the same.

Regarding item 5; well jeepers creepers, when that many people turn out (I heard someone counted up to 500 people) in protest of a CAFO operation before it has even begun, don't you think that maybe -- just maybe -- area residents are going to be keeping a VERY CLOSE eye on everything they do? I'm no lawyer, but doesn't it spell a higher potential for "nuisance lawsuit" trouble down the road?

My heart goes out to residents of Roselawn. I've heard of their plight -- drove through that area yesterday -- being upwind, as they are, from Fair Oaks Farms. The comments I've received thus far are heartbreaking. I'm just guessing (and this is just a humble guess on my part) that if a group of environmental attorney's listened closely, I'm thinking they could probably find a strong class action suit within that community.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Ethanol CAFO Connection?

I think our son was playing "veterinarian" this morning. Having worked super late last night for one client, I slept in... only to be awoken by our 6 year old carrying a pH test strip.

"Look Mommy, it's green! Shadow's healthy! She's okay! My dog is okay!"

If you don't know what a saliva pH test is, basically you take high quality litmus paper, hold it on your tongue ...then, after taking it out, watch what color it turns. If it turns the proper shade of green, your pH balance is good.

It's simple. And it doesn't tell the whole story. But it can be an indicator for potential health risks...

An article in the L.A.Times this past Friday (Nov 17) has brought new research to the masses -- which indicates the potential health risks associated with factory farms.

According to a series of scientific studies published last week, factory farms:
"...are poorly regulated, pose health and ecological dangers and are responsible for deteriorating quality of life in America's and Europe's farm regions..."

The article further states that CAFOs (which they refer to as large feedlots):
"...are contaminating water supplies with pathogens and chemicals, and polluting the air with foul-smelling compounds that can cause respiratory problems, but the health of their neighbors goes largely unmonitored, the reports concluded."

The Dairy CAFO planned for Jasper County adjoins one of the fastest growing Residential areas in North Jasper County. The Jasper County Zoning Authorities have already recognized this area is appropriate for residential purposes -- as indicated by the numerous homes within several subdivisions which adjoin and/or are located in close proximity to the planned CAFO.

We're talking A-2 residential zoned property here... not farm zoned... one and two acre lots, with beautiful homes -- dream homes -- whose backyards will overlook the 15,000 cow/calving operation.

And I thought the Jasper County BZA was "just plumb stupid" for approving a hog CAFO adjoining a wildlife preserve area. On the doorstep of a new 5-year study launched last week to investigate the health risks to CAFO workers and surrounding area residents, I sincerely believe those Jasper County BZA members who plan to approve this monstrosity need to undergo thorough psych evaluations.

You know who you are. You're the same ones who accepted numerous calls from the hog CAFO owners prior to their public meeting, during which you failed to provide facilities large enough for the hundreds of concerned citizens who showed up, the area residents you treated with such contempt.

I say to you: "Give your heads a shake!"

But then again, you approved the new ethanol plant going in on the outskirts of Rensselaer. If you think a 15,000-head CAFO won't put pressures on water up here, just wait until you see what happens down there in your area when that plant starts pumping out 10 gallons of waste water for every 1 gallon of ethanol it produces.

Oh, and if you truly think the by-products from that monstrous plant can be used for feed for all these Dairy CAFOs you've been approving to go in to the north of you -- think again. There's a little known problem with mixing those by-products in with the feed. It happens to increase the phosphorous load in the manure produced by the animals eating it... a situation that's already causing problems for CAFOs ...or haven't you read the USDA report?

"When including CDG (corn distillers grains) into dairy diets producers should understand that although they contain many valuable nutrients, these feeds may also contain high levels of both phosphorus and sulfur. Although it is unlikely that these levels would contribute to the loss of any milk production or health problems, producers should be mindful of the importance of dealing with these minerals. Recently, the land application of dairy manure has risen to national attention and continues to face growing scrutiny because manure may accumulate minerals and has the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater. To avoid these problems, producers should ensure that their waste management plan attempts to avoid excessive accumulation of minerals and allows for maximum crop use of the nutrients contained in the manure."

You see, it brings us right back to the BIG CAFO problem that started all the fuss in the first place -- what to do with all that manure?

And, to the Dairy CAFO owners, when you feed CDG to your Dairy cows, think about how "fattening" your milk and cheese might become:
"Because CDG may contain as much as 13% ether extract (an estimate of crude fat), the high level of fat is one factor believed that may affect milk fat synthesis and as a result limit the inclusion of CDG into dairy diets."

Or ...maybe you haven't heard... Heart Disease is the LEADING KILLER here in the good ol' USA -- and fat reduction in diets is going to get a whole lot more publicity in the months and years ahead. But hey, you've got some pretty good advertising spin artists working for you. Maybe you can do another "drink milk to lose weight" campaign. heh-heh

Just as a sidenote, forget using the ethanol plant byproducts for hog (or poultry) feed. There's a slight problem...
"There are problems involving amino acids and fiber that limit the use of distiller's grains with pigs and poultry to 10-15 percent of the diet,"

So, BZA, due to your less than capable (in my humble opinion) planning decisions in Jasper County, we're about to have 3 problems on our hands:

1. What to do with all that manure?
2. What to do with all that CDG?
3. What to do with all that waste water from CAFOs and ethanol plants?

Be sure to dot your "i's" and cross your "t's" before you let this 15,000-head Dairy CAFO into our area. You might find Jasper County swimming in by-products that aren't too easy to hide from the public eyes.

Maybe you should perform your own "litmus test" before the next meeting? It's a friendly suggestion.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

The CAFO Meeting You Do NOT Want to Miss!

It was 7:12 pm ... on a cold, wet night (Nov. 13/2006) ... and they hadn't even started. They'd already moved the meeting to a larger courtroom on the upper floor of the Rensselaer Court House.

The lawyers were called to the front to speak "off the record" with the Appeals Attorney running the "show" -- while people were crammed in like sardines -- a packed house with standing-room-only left when we showed up. People lined down the aisle, out into the small lobby entrance, into the larger lobby, down the stairs flooding onto the second floor in smaller groups ...and down the stairs almost to the front doors.

My best guess is that about 350 or more people showed up.

I got lucky -- found a darkened hallway leading to an empty side room with a door opening directly into the courtroom where I had a clear view of attendees, the BZA council members, the lawyers, reps and CAFO representatives.

If body language is anything to go by, some BZA members looked distinctly uncomfortable at the front. I thought it interesting to see the young County Sherrif officer show up. He stood halfway down the aisle.

Expecting trouble? Not sure...

7:20 pm -- and the lawyers are starting to get animated.

One of the BZA reps slapped his hand on the table, smiling and shouting out in agreement with one of the lawyers facing them. Two people leave to check the crowds in the lobbies outside and down the stairs, then return.

7:22 pm -- the CAFO reps were against the far wall, facing me. Did one of them take a pic of me with his digital cell phone? Not sure... He did see me writing notes.

7:23 pm -- the motion for a "continuance" is announced.

The lawyers get to have their "say" -- letting us all know, for the record, that they were ready and describing their motions before accepting the "continuance" motion.

Now, here's the interesting part.

The first legal team was representing 16 residents in the area of the proposed CAFO. He filed a motion to dismiss, stating this meeting was out of the BZA's jurisdiction owing to the CAFO's failure to comply with County ordinances in their application for their special exception permit. In other words, they had no right to even hold the meeting.

The crowd thundered its applause!

The second legal team was representing a Real Estate development firm, filing the same charges against the BZA (and the CAFO).

Another round of applause!

Both legal teams took approx. three minutes (+/-) to make their statements for the record. Then the CAFO rep spoke (read mumbled) a 15 second speach. No applause, of course.

Then reps from Dian Richardson's office voiced they were also in favor of a continuance. More applause. Then an area resident spoke up voicing he was also in favor of a continuance. Applause and laughter (relief?).

I can't remember the exact wording, but basically the Appeals Attorney stated the continuance was necessary so that "all in attendence" had the right to hear and make comments if desired -- this is necessary so that any decisions made at this Appeal Hearing would be sound and just, and no further Appeal would be required.

What a difference having a lawyer representing your case can make...

For the hog CAFO meeting, us area residents had just about as many people show up -- at least 100+ had to stand outside the courtroom and were unable to hear the proceedings -- yet they went forward anyway, making it a slam-dunk decision in favor of the CAFO, much to the disappointment of angry residents.

The new time/date for this CAFO meeting has been announced, and the stage is set for this to be the biggest CAFO fight in Jasper County, Indiana history!!

According to one local area radio announcer, he's been receiving several calls from people inside Jasper County as well as from 3 surrounding Counties -- all wanting the scoop on the next meeting.

Here it is:

Time - 7:00 pm
Date - Dec. 11, 2006
Location - Rensselaer High School

Rumors are already flying, saying this long delay goes in favor of the CAFO operators because they need the time to get their paperwork in order which even IDEM has found fault with ...or at least that's the "word on the street" for now.

Regardless which side of the CAFO fence you are on, this is one CAFO Hearing you do NOT want to miss!


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Jasper CAFO - from Poultry to Dairy

Beyond the air, land and water problems associated with large-scale Dairy CAFO operations such as these... when you have streams and forests nearby (within throwing distance!!) of such operations, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how attractive to insects this facility will be.

When you think about the recent increase of West Nile virus reports in Indiana... you really gotta wonder --- what in the world are these CAFO owners thinking? Are they daft???

No. Certainly not. In fact, they are quite cunning -- and very adept at "spinning the facts" to suit their needs.

They seem to have an answer for everything, based on some of the company info I've been digging up on the major players involved.

But I'm curious. Of the 50 Dairy CAFO operations who reported their chemical usage for the 2002 USDA report, which indicated more than 3-1/2 tons of pesticides (and related chemicals) were used on Dairy farms in Indiana, I have to wonder how many of them were located in Northern Indiana?

Considering the proposed location -- backed by lush forests with Wolf Creek running right through the area -- how many pesticides do you think will be used at this particular Dairy/Calving CAFO?

There are so many things I just don't know yet regarding the plans to convert the Poultry CAFO (with one of the worst environmental infraction records in this area) to a Dairy CAFO.

That's why our family will be attending the meeting Monday night in the Commissioner's Room at the Courthouse in Rensselaer... to get answers.

What I do know is that the location couldn't be more serious as far as potential economic and environmental damage to our area. As for the public health threat -- I'll be bringing much more on THAT side of the story soon.

My husband and I took a drive through the residential development directly behind the poultry barns last Tuesday -- and saw some of the most beautiful homes in our region -- I'm talking about homes that would run in the neighborhood of $250k to $350k.

One looked like our "dream home" image, blending perfectly into the surrounding forest behind it. Another home across the quiet cul-de-sac stands proudly on the hill looking like a castle, which may now, sadly, have a backyard overlooking directly down onto the proposed 13,000-head cow/calving operation.

These are homes that have been built to blend perfectly with nature, in my humble opinion,and could potentially be quite a boon to our tax base here in Jasper County.

But, if the planned concentrated dairy/calf operation goes into production, the first (and worst) kind of "nature" potential new homeowners in this impressive residential development are likely to experience will be the influx of insects these CAFOs are well known to attract.

Since they seem to have an answer for everything, I wonder if the CAFO owners, den Dulk and Shuranga, will be promising to hand out free gas masks and insecticides to the residents?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Bilk Behind The Milk

When you think of den Dulk dairy cows, they like to paint this picture in your mind. This picture was taken at Fair Oaks of their Fake Displays which is part of their "dairy farm tour" ... and which DOES NOT show you what's really going on behind the scenes:

But here's the TRUTH, according to Dr. Gordie Jones, Director of Herd Performance at Fair Oaks Dairy Farms. This picture was taken directly from one of their training documents:

Don't be fooled into thinking their cheese comes from happy cows.

It makes my stomach turn just thinking about this and other misconceptions the public has regarding the growing den Dulk empire. These guys are HUGE ...have even been called the "Wal-Mart of Manure" by some. The den Dulk's have connections so high up in the chain of power in this country that average voting folks (like you and I) couldn't even dream of making them accountable for their actions.

Yes -- we're going to vote today. It is Election Day, after all.

But, how much weight do our votes really carry?

Rural residents throughout Indiana are quickly finding out what "taxation without representation" really means as they watch their homes, their family farms, their small businesses, their health ...their lives... being completely ignored by Governments at all levels when it comes to factory farms moving into their area.

We're going to the polls today, and to our knowledge, only one candidate on the ballot is against factory farms running rife through our State. She'll be getting our vote.

As for the rest -- all we can do is make a "best guess" -- and we're guessing anyone against Daniels: he's the man spearheading the AG-industrialization of precious farmland here in Indiana -- drowning the state in manure so thick, you'll be able to choke on it for miles and miles soon.

When you think "taxation without representation" probably think Boston Tea Party. Is that with or without cream?


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Indiana CAFO Spin Zone

Update: The meeting was "continued" (postponed) to -- Monday, Dec. 11, 2006 at 7 pm at the Rennselaer High School -- owing to the large crowds who turned up at the original meeting. Regardless which side of the CAFO issue you are on, this is one meeting you want to attend for Jasper County and surrounding areas.

Original Post Below:

I got part of the scoop on the new CAFO fight in Jasper County from the country corner store. There's a petition there with a note containing some of the important details. But, I'm still trying to sift through the "spin" to get to the truth of the "Master Plan" in play. For starters, there is a...

BZA Meeting on Monday, Nov. 13, 2006 at 7:00 pm the Commissioner's Room in the Courthouse in Rensselaer.

What's it all about?

Briefly, here's a look at what's blowing on the wind...

There's this old poultry farm (that's had quite a few environmental infractions over the years -- even to the point of being SHUT DOWN) that finally got its IDEM permit. Yes, believe it or not, it operated for quite some time WITHOUT a PERMIT. From what I've heard, they used to dump their poultry manure on the land beside Wolf Creek and let the environment take care of it, but that's just a rumor...? Sheeeeesh!

And I was wondering why these big trucks flying past our house would smell up our front yard so bad this past summer. Surprise -- they were LOADED with stinking poultry manure being hauled out of the old poultry farm as part of their mandated clean-up.

Things were bad enough on certain days owing to that new Swine factory 2500 yards away.

Flash forward to today's situation...

Well, the poultry farm owner has partnered up with one of the heaviest hitters in the Dairy CAFO industry, and they're shooting for a Special Exception Permit to convert the poultry farm into a massive dairy CAFO:

- 5,000 head of dairy cows in the poultry barn, plus
- "bubble" buildings to house 8,000 head of calves

The calves will be "supplying" the LARGEST DAIRY FARM EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI.

Now, those of you familiar with CAFO fights in Jasper County Indiana know exactly which farm that is, right?

So, who is behind all of this??

First ...the owner of the poultry farm: Mark Schuringa

Enter ...the new "partner" in this venture: Gilbert den Dulk

Brother to ...Tim den Dulk

Owners of ...Fair Oaks Farms

Partners with ...Michael J. McCloskey

Who ...obtained his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1976 from the University of Mexico, Mexico City (and is also one heck of a slick marketing mind -- he certainly knows how to put a spin on things!!! I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.)

Plus, both Tim and Michael are heavily involved with ...Bion Environmental Technologies

And, I gotta tell 'ya, these Bion guys are EXTREMELY well connected, with partnerships and associations leading directly to Homeland Security (through their COO, Jeremy Rowland, who, prior to joining Bion, worked for URS Corporation).

Now, the "spin" starts to get really thick.

You see, rhumor has it that B.E.T. recently bought the grain elevators -- or is it one of the owners of Fair Oaks?? -- right in downtown Wheatfield (just a few blocks from my son's Elementary school). Supposedly, they'll be using it to make/store "feed" for their CAFOs (the new proposed farm, plus their other farms including Fair Oaks).

But -- B.E.T. is not known as a feed producer.

They're better known for their digesters and alternative fuels/energies from livestock waste.

In fact, just last month (according to an Oct. 15th story in the Rensselaer Republican) Fair Oaks, in partnership with B.E.T. connected with Jasper County REMC to sell(?) some of its surplus power.

Why put a feed plant so far away from their largest operation in Fair Oaks?

They've got plenty of land (and plenty of money) to build it over there, instead.

I'm guessing that trucking costs alone, both for supplies in and feed out, would make this a fairly expensive location for them?

Gossip from one of the mechanic shops in the area states that Belstra (oh yeah, remember them from the Swine CAFO fight??) had a major "falling out" with Fair Oaks who suddenly stopped buying their feed from Belstra Milling. They were kind of chuckling about other rhumors that orange rinds would soon be trucked into the old elevators for processing in the feed.

Yes, orange rinds are used in cow feed, so I've heard.

Now, for the record... supposedly, Bion Technology's digesters and systems cut down on the smell.

Hah! Talk to my brother-in-law who lives just outside of Demotte.

Last summer, my husband went to visit. The stench was so bad, he asked if one of the old swine farms in that area had re-opened... to which, his brother replied:

"Heck no! That's that dang Dairy on the other side of I65!"

Yes, he was referring to Fair Oaks, over 6 miles away!!

There is an important, and potentially dangerous precedent about to be set with this Nov. 13th hearing. You see, the location for this planned Dairy CAFO is surrounded by residential zoned land.

On a personal note -- the planned location is southwest from our house, not far from here, and the direction most of our summer breeze comes from. It's not just the Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife being squeezed out of Jasper County. Residents are being buffeted about from all directions by the onward CAFO march.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Working harder...

It's been a super busy couple months. Sorry for not visiting for such a long time.

In fact, I've been so busy with clients, I haven't had time to respond to an email I received from one of the local area candidates for County Council. She wrote to let me know another CAFO fight is brewing in our area. I'm checking it out.

I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I'll be back soon with news on how our little guy is doing in KG.

Take care. Have a super weekend!

Oh... and if you have a few minutes, check out the movie that's changing so many lives.