Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another 10,540 cows in Newton County?

The July 17, 2007 "Pending CFO and CAFO Construction Applications" includes a name familiar to many Newton/Jasper County residents. Dan Brugen is the listed IDEM project manager for the NPDES General Construction application from Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, LLC owned by Michael McClosky. The application indicates the construction application is for 10,540 dairy cattle.

Here's another little interesting piece of information. Just a couple weeks ago "Newton County Enterprise" reported this story:
The Board of Zoning Appeals met last Tuesday night to discuss a Variance to Ordinance and a Special Exception. First the special exception was discussed and this pertained to the Fair Oaks Dairy LLC. The Dairy, represented by Steve Ryan during the meeting, needed a special exception to have 1,200 head of calves. Currently, they are housing about 1,200 head but it was not permitted for them to do so. The Dairy, however, did not know that they didn’t have the approval of the board and have had roughly this many calves since 2001.
Ever wonder what that number of calves and calf hutches might look like? Here's an areial view of Calf Land:

Click for larger version.

Notice how nicely those trees and bushes hide those hutches? Reminds me how they managed to hide the HUGE PILE of flyash... but I digress...

Now, just in case you missed it, let's think about this a minute.

The Dairy claimed they were unaware there was no zoning for the 1,200 calves housed there since about 2001 -- they didn't even know a Special Exception Permit was required to do so?!

According to the article, after all this time, now "they just wanted to make it right with the board and do everything legally."

Ahem. 'Nuff said, right?

We-ell... you might think by their representative's comments that they have never run a Dairy Farm of this size and nature before...

Meanwhile, the May 30 edition of The Enterprise reported that the Newton County Council held a meeting with the Commissioners. Their biggest subject was the discussion about Fair Oaks Dairy. Apparently the Dairy is in need of $14 million for their new digester.

The first digester doesn't work so well.

Here's an important quote from the above news item for taxpaying residents in this area:
The Council will not be liable for giving the Dairy money however, nor will they be responsible for paying back the money to the loan lender if the project should fall through.

A public hearing on the issuance of Variable Rate Demand Economic Development Revenue Bonds for the $14 million was to be held 9 a.m., June 8 at the Newton County Government Center, but I just found out about this recently. I'm not sure how things turned out, yet.

Just in case you didn't know, Fair Oaks received a DOE funding in 2002 for the first digester to the tune of $95,723 -- here's the details:
Fair Oaks Dairy Farm will demonstrate the feasibility and document technical and economic performance of a high rate anaerobic digestion process that can be used in dairy and swine flush systems. A state-of-the-art anaerobic digestion facility will be constructed at Fair Oaks Dairy Farm at one specific site which houses 3000 milk cows.
Was the above DOE Funding for the same digester which has failed expectations? If so, I'm guessing the so-called "demonstrate" part didn't go so well.

I won't even go into the subsidies they've received over the past 5 years for growing their own feed. Let's not go there for the moment.

But hey, we're not the only State dishing out cash for McClosky/den Dulk related farms. For example, the Ravena Farm (owned by Timothy den Dulk) in Michigan was "awarded a million dollars to build a bio-digester plant" there. According to the news article, the digester should be operational and producing power by October 2007. (link to full story)

Really, it should be no surprise to any of us when we see our taxes keep going up ...and up ...and up in Northwestern Indiana. By all accounts, the BZA is actually helping to make that happen when you consider how careless they are about trashing a Triple AAA (in my humble opinion) subdivision (which could have brought many more taxpayers into the region) by allowing yet another calf operation into the region -- to be built right on that subdivision's doorstep.

In other news, we have another Canadian visitor staying with us, this time from Ottawa, Canada. We'll be escorting him on the CAFO tour later this week. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Walker Township Meeting Tonight

This was in the paper last week. Thought I should let all of you know about it:

Walker Township

Hearing to Consider
Establishment of Cumulative Fire Fund
to Build a New Fire Station

Tuesday July 10th at 7:00 pm
At the Wheatfield Ambulance Center

If approved, the tax will be levied on all taxable real and personal property within Walker Township and will not exceed $.0333 per $100 of assessed valuation. Taxpayers appearing at this hearing shall have the right to be heard.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Farming Facts

If you've been searching for high quality AIR and WATER factsheets, you're going to love this site!

Check out the IATP

And that's just the beginning. The website above is a virtual library of information at your fingertips -- both for farmers and consumers. They've really done their homework.

For example, I clicked on: "Smart Meat and Dairy"

The short 2-page Smart Guide was both educational and helpful, providing excellent health tips for consumers.

Before your next trip to the grocery store, you might want to spend some time on this site. It will be worth it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ball State University Studies

Since I've been so rushed for time these past several weeks, I'm writing about two topics in one today.

Ball State University Studies

First, the Ball State studies, which Seth Godin wrote about in The Star Press the other day. Not sure how long it will be up on their site, but here's the link.

I've skimmed a bit in both studies.

1. Randolph County study.
2. Jay County study.

Interesting reading for everyone on both sides of the CAFO issue. The studies were conducted by Ball State University and reflect a poor ecomonic return on Indiana's hog industry - the very industry that Mitch and his buddies have been pushing to double here in Indiana.

Seth has presented both sides of the issue, with comments from GRACE Factory Farm Project (anti-cafo), the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (pro-cafo) and the Indiana Pork Producers Association (pro-cafo).

But, surprisingly, the side of the issue understated (in my humble opinion - least represented) is the farmers' side of the issue, which includes people from both sides of the fence.

Yes, there are farmers that are anti-cafo, just as there are farmers on the pro-cafo side.

But one commenter on the above referenced article brought forth some excellent points on the farmers' side -- the comment regarding integrated corporations.

Integration and Market Power

This is an area I've also been researching lately.

Integrated marketing approach to farming is a touchy subject for most farmers. For most, to speak up could quickly result in losing important contracts. For several, doing nothing means continued farming for little to no profits.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of the illegal sweatshops you sometimes hear about. Only, in this case, it isn't the fear of immigration laws (or worse) keeping "farmers" silent. It's the very real fear of losing the farm. And it's also one of the biggest reasons some farms are forced to make the choice to "go big or get out."

We've all heard the expression, "The truth shall set you free."

Sadly, not in this case.

You see, there are very powerful corporations, and yes, government entities/key officials, that would much rather this story not be investigated to deeply. There's a bit too much money at stake.

Hint: As they say in journalism schools, follow the money.

For example, let's take this cute little corn check-off thing. Ummm, best not to go there -- right now. (I'll explain more at a later date.)

I tip my hat to the brave person who posted the integrated marketing comment. Good job. I'm wondering when mainstream press will expose the full story. Personally, I feel Big Ag has a lot to answer to. They've managed to gobble the profits at the farmers', the consumers' and the taxpayers' expense for a very long time... in my humble opinion.

Oh, by the way... coming next week - the NEW farm subsidy experiment that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES - but might make one farmer very, very happy.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Celebrating Independence

As many of us are celebrating Independence Day here in the USA this week, and with a national election on the horizon, I've been getting a few requests from new writing clients of late relating directly (and indirectly) to the political arena.

I'm not sure how many of these new projects I will be taking on as yet.

You see, I've been buried in a 72-hour non-stop crash course in screenwriting for a potentially new television series for a fairly large network. I'm only one third of the way through the "treatment" and "overview" stages ...and ready to dive into the presentation script. Well, 4 episodes of script, actually. And I'm LOVING every minute of it!

Even so, I did decide to "test the temperature of the waters" out there on the political scene, since writing copy is my bread and butter writing full time from home.

I was a bit surprised by some of my findings.

For example, did you know that "...nearly three-fourths of 17- to 29-year-olds say they're registered to vote." [source]

Equally interesting is that "a recent CBS-New York Times-MTV poll finds that one-third of Americans aged 17 to 29 have visited a presidential candidate's Web site and that 15 percent say they've been to a candidate's MySpace or Facebook profile."

(Sidenote: They don't know yet what's happening behind the scenes at Time4me. I'll tell you more next month.)

I'm curious to see how this young group will be influencing the next elections, considering that -- 1968 was the last year when the USA registered a voter turnout better than 60 percent -- and then factor in the results from the poll referenced above.

I'm guessing there might be more than a few politicians seeking to beef up their web presence.

Speaking from experience, writing for the Internet is different than writing emotional t.v. campaigns, snappy radio spots and slick 4-color brochures.

And yet, in all cases, WORDS MATTER.

Happy Independence Day to all my visitors, relatives, friends and neighbors. And belated Happy Canada Day to our neighbors to the north. Stay safe and enjoy the fireworks!

PS: Special thanks to Debbie and Scott for an excellent show Saturday night! We loved it!