The Downstream Project, sponsored by the Citizens Action Coalition Education Fund, works to promote the effective environmental regulation of industrial agriculture, such as concentrated animal feeding operations, at the local, state and federal levels.
We were contacted by several Montgomery County citizens who requested help in providing educational resources to the Montgomery County CAFO Task Force, which was formed to draft a CAFO zoning proposal for the county. We attended several task force meetings and were pleased that the task force chair welcomed our input and promised to pass it along to committee members. So, it was disappointing to read in media accounts that the information was not passed on to the task force because it came from a “lobbying organization.” Unfortunately, the chair of the task force was mistaken about that and the record must be corrected.
CACEF is organized as a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. We conduct education and research activities, but we do not lobby. Our sister organization, the Citizens Action Coalition is a 501(c)(4) not for profit organization and engages in lobbying. The grassroots kind of lobbying that seeks to raise the voices of average citizens so they have a fighting chance going up against wealthy special interests. Special interests like corporate agriculture, for example. But, CAC was not involved in the Montgomery County CAFO discussion.
For whatever reason, it is unfortunate that the task force was not given access to a complete set of facts before making their recommendation. In an effort to ensure the Montgomery County Commissioners, who are now the decision makers on this proposal, are making fully informed decisions, we offer this information to all concerned citizens in the community.
First, CAFOs hurt residential property values. The Indiana Business Research Center performed a study in 2010 that analyzed this very question. After studying three different Indiana counties, they concluded that regulated livestock feeding operations had a negative impact on the property values of nearby town residential properties. This study shows that property value reduction is not an unsubstantiated fear, but a reality. In order to sidestep this issue, we recommend that adequate setbacks be put in place and that those setbacks be measured from property line to property line, rather than from structure to structure. The property rights of farmers and homeowners alike should be fully respected and protected through the County’s zoning ordinance.
Second, CAFOs can harm human health. A North Carolina health study found that residents living near hog CAFOs reported more confusion, tension, depression and fatigue than other residents. Another study found that children who attended school within a half mile of a CAFO had a 19.7% chance of being diagnosed with asthma, while schools located as far as 10 miles away only had a 7% chance. These studies demonstrate the need to institute meaningful CAFO setbacks from homes and schools.
Lastly, the county should not forget about the goals it laid out in its comprehensive plan. In the plan, CAFOs were listed, along with landfills and heavily polluting industrial, as a kind of unwanted development in the county. On the flipside, natural resources such as lakes, wildlife and parks were listed as a key reason why Montgomery County residents have chosen to live here. Residents feel that the county needs to improve upon the way it protects its key natural resources going forward and that the county should work to protect and grow property values for residents. Adopting a strong CAFO zoning ordinance is the best way to honor the guidelines, intentions and public opinions laid out in the Montgomery County Comprehensive Plan.
We encourage all concerned citizens to voice their opinion on the draft zoning proposal when it is presented before the Montgomery County Commissioners at 4 p.m. Nov. 27. The meeting will be held in Room 103 of the Montgomery County Courthouse, 100 E. Main St., Crawfordsville, IN 47933.
To read our full-length memo to the Montgomery County CAFO Task Force, see our website at https://www.citact.org/montgomery-county-cafo-task-force-citizen-follow
Assistant Legal Counsel, Citizens Action Coalition
Assistant Director of the Downstream Project