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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 07, 2017 10:02 pm

Long, Senate set aside 'bad' factory-farms bill

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A controversial confined animal feeding bill has hit a wall in the state Senate.

Fort Wayne Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long assigned the measure to the Rules Committee – a place where legislation generally is sent to die.

"It’s where I parked it for now. It may stay there," he said. "I think it’s just bad legislation."

Rep. Dave Wolkins, R-Warsaw, authored House Bill 1494 and has called it a streamlining of the regulatory process for factory farms raising hundreds or thousands of animals.

But confusion reigned in committee and on the House floor about what the bill actually does. It just passed the House chamber 66-25.

Opponents argue it limits notice to neighbors for expansions of a confined animal feeding operation, as well as other changes.

"I don’t see the value in that at all," Long said, noting neighbors deserve notice and the chance to be heard during the permit process.

He referenced a CAFO in Whitley County, saying he has heard from constituents.

Several Whitley County residents testified against Wolkins’ bill and generally support efforts to help neighbors instead of the CAFOs.

The Whitley County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a new operation consisting of 2,200 finishing hogs and 880 animal units after hundreds of people attended a meeting. Brent and Liza Emerick also have a permit pending with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for the operation, according to local news reports.

High-profile Roanoke businessman Pete Eshelman said about 1,000 residents live near the proposed farm, and the state’s one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for more populated areas.

Wolkins didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Kim Ferraro, senior staff attorney for the Hoosier Environmental Council, is pleased Long sees the bill clearly.

She said the fact that both sides interpret the language so differently shows it is not necessary, as well as being drafted inadequately.

"It definitely takes us in the wrong direction," Ferraro said.