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.



Anonymous said...

Was linked here from Kemplog.

I'm so sorry to read about what is happening in Jasper County. Is there anywhere in Indiana (outside of the Indy metro area) that is safe from CAFO's? Sometimes I get the feeling that the people who are so gungho for all of the CAFO's wouldn't mind if people in the surrounding areas picked up and moved.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for agriculture, no ag and we have no food. BUT, CAFO's so close to home just doesn't work. I'm very concerned about our investment in our homes, our water supply and quality. Our elected officials ought to remember who put them in office, we the people; their families, neighbors and live long friends!!! The BUCK has stop here in Wheatfield and no one is exempt from this, including DeMotte!

Anonymous said...

It's funny how quickly the interchange went in for the Fair Oaks Dairy. Wonder why that happened and more importantly who was behind it. I really think we need to think deeply of who we have elected to let these people do whatever they want, whenever they want and maybe make a change. If that doesn't stop this mess then maybe a concerted effort to block the roads these guys use may be in order. Traffic jams can be so deleterious to commerce. It happens all the time. Tsk Tsk.

kmyers said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone...

Up here in northern Jasper County, the CAFO dealings have been questionable, at best. And when you read what has been happening elsewhere in Indiana, it makes a person want to question certain officials -- and set new accountability standards throughout the State.

It's the lack of accountability by those who have the final say in where these CAFOs go -- and how they operate -- that could prove to have "nobel prize winning" content for the right journalist.

Anonymous said...

As a very close friend of the family, I am outraged at how ignorant your comments are. I am not sure where you get your "facts," but there are a lot of points that you made that were 100% untrue.

First of all, Mark Schuringa is in NO WAY OR FORM going into business with the dairy farmers. He is not responsible for the economy. If the demand for eggs is down and he has to sell his farm for financial reasons, he has the right to sell it to ANYONE that will buy it. This is America, remember?

Second of all, the land the poultry farm sits on is zoned agriculture and has been zoned that way for DECADES! Just because you decided to build your house so close to a existing farm does not give you the right to complain about what is there. I don't care if it's chicken, pigs, or cows - they were there first. If you don't like it, then leave. There are plenty of nice subdivisions in Jasper County that are not near agricultural zones. I know, because I live in one of them.

Thirdly, I sure hope God takes note how you are treating an honest, hard-working man. You should be ashamed. Next time, make sure your "sources" are accurate before you decide to post lies.

kmyers said...

Thank you for posting. I was led to believe both Mark Schuringa's and Gil den Dulk's names were on the BZA application.

By your comment, I'm assuming you are stating -- for the record -- that Mark's name is not on the application -- that his name does not appear on ANY of the applications (including IDEM applications) regarding change of use?

Your comments regarding the historical zoning use of that particular parcel of land for which the calving facility is planned are true. It is zoned for agriculture.

However, it is also true that this particular parcel of land adjoins A2 residential zoned land -- and the type of facility planned (namely a calving operation) could have serious health consequences. See my article on "Cryptosporidium parvum Oocysts" entitled "You Can't Kill It" for further details (and just one example) on this important issue.

It's also true that Mark's poultry farm was in operation before the subdivision went in, even though he was operating without a legal permit to do so. Kind of brings the question of honesty to this case.

(The integrity issue is also questionable on the Dairy side of the coin.)

Contrary to what you have assumed in your post, I do not live in that (or any) subdivision. Where we live, five generations of my husband's family have lived -- in this very same home. In fact, my husband has lived in this house for 47 years. You could say we were here long before ANY of these mass production CAFOs.

This used to be incredibly rich, fertile cropland -- but it's slowly being taken over by massive animal factories, such as the calving operation proposed to the southwest of us. (That's the direction most of our summer breeze comes from.)

I mention this not to impress you, but because, by your own comment, you have inferred "who was here first" is an important consideration. In my husband's eyes -- it's extremely important.

kmyers said...

PS: Just received a phone call. "Schuringa's name is ALL OVER the application!"

It's interesting how these "partnerships" are formed for the IDEM certification phase, then dissolved once everything clears IDEM and Indiana BZA boards, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Way to charge back with the CORRECT INFO Karen! And YES there are many homes surrounding that Chicken CFO, that were here long before the chicken farm ever came to be!! Also, a correction needs to be made to the date of the BZA's December 11, 2006. Everyone with any concern at all,especially living in Jasper County, needs to be at this meeting. I can't stress this enough!! So Spread the Word!

kmyers said...

Thanks for your comments and support. I appreciate it very much! I'll add an update to this post with the new meeting information. The original post refers to the first BZA meeting which was "continued" (delayed to Dec. 11, 2006) pending locating (and finding) a larger venue. Thanks again!

890North said...

While the weak environmental laws just might make this proposed operation legal, we need to remember that simply being legal isnt always right. After all, abortion is legal too. Furthermore, this is not some family farm, this is the dairy equivilent to WalMart. It will also be an employer/exploiter of illegal immigrants. How could supposedly upstanding, god-fearing christian gentlemen be involved in such a thing?

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that the chicken farm has been there for over 30 years. I am a friend of the schuringa's and know for a fact, due to egg prices they have been losing money for over 4 years! If your family was losing thousands of dollars, wouldn't you try to sell out? It is a fact that all of the surrounding neibors of the Schuringa's have agreed to his action of converting to a dairy farm. The people who live in Wolf Creek Estates have all signed contracts saying they may NOT interfere in what the farm does because the FARM was there first. Its going to be fun to watch them dig a whole, and then be buried by the court. Also, is it any of your bussiness to be putting down the hardest working man in North West Indiana, Mark Schuringa? He has only tried to support his family, and now in dire need, has to sell his farm to do so. It already is a CAFO, why didn't you complain about it then? All it is going to be is a CAFO with half the manure, half the water used, and half the flies! It will also creat jobs, and milk prices will be lower...we all drink milk. Please, if you do not like farms, dont live by one! There are millions of places to live in america, why come near a farm if you dont like the smell of the country!

kmyers said...

Dear Anonymous... I'm guessing by your post that you have not taken time to read through the rest of this blog?

As I've mentioned many times elsewhere, my son is the fifth generation to live in our house. We were here LONG LONG LONG before the poultry farm -- or any other CAFO in this region, for that matter.

They've chosen to move into our area -- not the other way around. PLEASE get it STRAIGHT ...because I'm getting tired of the false information pro-CAFO commentors have been posting about my family.

I've been given to understand that an IDEM permit is not transferrable? Is this why Mark is on the original application, because maybe the new Dairy owners might not be able to get a permit?

You're the second friend of Mark's family to indicate -- in writing -- that he is NOT a partner to the calving CAFO. Would you be willing to testify to this at the meeting tonight?

As for his profit losses for the past 4 years in a row, could it possibly be due to the fact that IDEM finally stepped in to enforce environmental regulations for his CAFO? Maybe he should have switched to organic farming... I hear on good authority that the demand is far greater than the supply.

You're saying, "All it is going to be is a CAFO with half the manure, half the water used, and half the flies!"

This is a calving CAFO. You might want to learn more about them:
- here
- here
- here
and that's just for starters.

And NOW I'm going to share some new information about me with you here...

My own grandmother, for whom I have a tremendous amount of undying respect, may she rest in peace, ran a dairy farm ...a real dairy farm. Don't for one single minute imply that I don't like farms!

Speaking from personal experience, there truly is a HUGE difference between a Dairy farm and a CAFO. You see, there really is a lot more here than meets the eye.

kmyers said...

After re-reading this post and the comments attached, it occurred to me how easy it is to transfer an NPDES permit... and how simple it is to mislead a BZA board (and the public) into accepting a special exception permit.

Friends and family of Shuringa insist he is "selling out" -- has no intention to run the calf operation. Then I'm assuming once he gets an IDEM permit approved, it's a simple matter of submitting a "Request for Approval Transfer" to give ownership over to Gilbert den Dulk.

Also, if the "as built" drawings and manure storage plans are not entirely what the new owner/s want to live up to, all they have to do is submit a "Pre-construction Notification" form.

And maybe the new owner/s want to do something a bit different with the existing buildings and/or manure storage facilities? Well then all they really have to do is make sure new plans are within the original "footprint" and submit their "Facility Change Notification"

In other words, at the very public BZA meetings, prospective CAFO owners can give their spin about all these grand and glorious plans they have to protect the public and the environment, and with a few quick form submissions following an IDEM approval to the outgoing owner, the new owners can pretty much do as they please. Like maybe they tell people they'll have 260-day manure storage facilities, but after submitting pre-construction forms, they decide to reduce it to 180-day storage (the minimum required)... the public and BZA board are led to believe one thing, while something else entirely actually happens.

I'm not saying all CFO and CAFO owners would do such things, but it really makes me wonder how many "Transfer" and "Change" notices are being submitted to IDEM ...right here in Jasper County.

If, as his friends/family says, Shuringa is NOT going to be owning/running the calf operation -- you can be certain this particular facility (if approved by IDEM) will have after-the-fact changes. I'm just curious how different the new picture might be compared with what they presented to the BZA.

The BZA did approve this change from Poultry to Dairy -- with a few conditions attached. Interestingly enough, they don't have jurisdictional authority over some of those conditions. Seriously, the Jasper County BZA needs to be cleaned up. They're "appointed" -- not "elected" -- but the bottom line is, they are public servants entrusted with the future of our community. In my humble opinion, there should be more accountability for the decisions they make on our behalf, don't you agree?

Anonymous said...

I really like this web site. There are some very good points made on both sides. I'm very curious were these dairy people came from ? I'm told by some people in the know that N.I.P.S.O. is supplying the dairies with their "FLYASH" for bedding material as well as fill for their property. If that's true, I hope it does not turn into another "Pines" Indiana. As you may know Pines Indiana had some major problems because of "fly-ash".
It's a very toxic by product generated from the burning of coal, and is a carcinogen that contains mercury etc. etc. I'm starting to get concerned about what's in the milk. Has anyone looked into any of this ???

kmyers said...

Checking into the NIPSCO fly ash thing now. New post coming soon. Thanks for the heads up on this!

Anonymous said...

many of the statements on this blog are so discouraging. people simply base all of their beliefs on false information which they try to justify as being "scientific", but it's to no avail. to ms. myers i would ask if in all of the 30+ years that she has lived at her address, has she constantly smelled the "stinking poultry manure"? i think we all know that answer is a likely NO. maybe once in a great while if manure, a great soil ammenedment for economically raising agronomic crops when used properly, is spread somewhere close to her house, but let's be real here. it would appear to me that most of the opposition is just jumping on the bandwagon without doing their homework. also, it unfortunately seems that some are in it to sue and get money. after all, it's America right?? WRONG. we even have a recently elected county councilwoman(?) who is trying to use her power and build popularity, along with her outspoken opposition of the proposed farm to make a name for herself. please don't be mad at anyone who chooses to build a CFO or CAFO because it just isn't the way grandpa did it. while grandpa may have done a fine job, his pastures drained directly into the creek, the milk parlor was washed into the stream twice a day and he spread all of his manure as close to the barn as he could all those years on the SAME fields. the regulations today are stringent whether you think so or not. whether you scoff or not, IDEM knows what they are doing when it comes to regulating and permitting such operations all over the state. what's scary is how many operations there are that are too small for IDEM regulation. they can being doing much more harm than a large CAFO that is strictly regulated. sure, i wish that i could raise a few hogs and milk some cows and be able to make a living and raise a family, but these large scale farmers are pioneers in production efficiency and animal care. first of all, if the animals weren't well cared for, they would not produce well and farmers would go out of business. while there are a few exceptions of "undercover" (aka staged) investigations of animal abuse by activist groups, that really disgusts me because that gives all of us a black eye. all i ask is that you just remember there are always a couple of backwards idiots that make all of us look bad. second, the farmer does care for all of his animals no matter how many of them he has becaue he can't afford not to. third, consumer demand and population growth have spurred all grain and livestock farmers to become more efficient which means that grandpas farming practices probably couldn't feed the world today. fourth, animals on large scale farms are much better taken care of today than 30 years ago. the reasoning behind this thought comes from the fact that there are thresholds for maximizing animal management efficiency. for instance, it make sense to have a herdsman who only takes care of cows everyday, or a feeder who feeds everyday or a milker who milks everyday or a breeder who breeds every day. when a person focuses all of their time and energy on being a herdsman for example, that means that the herdsman spends all of his time with his cows and believe it or not, actually is in and among them every day and knows what is going on with his herd. it makes sense to divide up the work on a farm this way so that cows or sows that need to be taken care of are properly cared for as soon as they shows signs of a problem. while grandpa was a legendary farmer in his grandchildren's eyes (and mine), he was spread too thin being the milker, feed maker, animal caretaker, bill payer, maintenance man, mechanic and crop farmer all at the same time. in conclusion, the animals of today are taken much better care of. they have been moved inside in some cases to be protected from the weather extremes and to protect their baby pigs and calves from a certain death if born out in the bitter cold. the use of powered ventilation and cool cells have helped farmers to reduce heat stress on the animals during the summer months and gives them plenty of shade. in many livestock buildings there is a constant breeze from the fans pulling air through the building ranging from 2-8 mph. fresh air is very important to maintaining high respiratory health. believe me, animal caretakers do just that, they take care of their animals. i do not wish to stir up any trouble or cause a rush of negative comments to your blog, but i thought it would nice for the readers to at least understand some of the many benefits that CFOs and CAFOs provide for animal health and care. these large scale animal production farms are important to the states economy, but are most important to the consumers that defy their very being. without these farms, food prices would be so much higher because the cost of production per pound of marketed meat would be much greater and the lack of efficiency would put less gallons of milk and pounds of pork in the grocery store, meaning higher prices. the drive for efficiency is much like that of the auto industry, it is the way that we continually get better, safer products at lower prices based on competitive markets. we are so blessed in this country to only be spending about 10-11% of our weekly disposable income on food. search the internet and see just how expensive food is in many other countries... i hope that we can try and live with the changing face of agriculture and keep current with what is actually going on, not with what PETA or HSUS "tells" us. consumers may not always understand what is going on, but many livestock farmers would in fact talk to a friendly neighbor and answer their questions. farmers take raising livestock and crops seriously and if there are things you question, we would love to have the chance to explain and justify our practices. it is our livelihood and what makes us get up each and every day of the year to work. farming is a way of life for many and we want to continue that with your support whether it be large or small scale. i submit this respectfully and thank you for your time.