When the Indiana General Assembly adjourned on Sunday evening, April 29, it did so without passing a confined animal feeding bill that Senator Bev Gard, R-Greenfield, introduced this session. Versions of the bill passed both houses, but the four conferees couldn't agree on a compromise that both houses could support.
No doubt there are some producers who don't see it as a bad thing. They figure than anytime a legislative body fails to further regulate them, it must be positive. Besides, both versions of the bill would have increased fees in one form or another to producers. The money would have helped fund inspections conducted through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Those relieved that the bill failed may find that their joy is short-lived. Insiders who understand both sides say that one scenario paints those who wanted the bill coming back asking for a similar measure next time. Aroused to action because this bill failed, they could come back even stronger next time.
Perhaps more importantly, failure for the legislature to pass a bill and resolve this issue means Indiana goes another year with counties dealing with the issues associated with confined feeding operations, both existing ones and those proposed for various areas, and dealing with them on their own.
Some fear that the result could be a patchwork of various regulations affecting such details as required setback from the road or other properties, and a myriad of other regulations. There are widely-varying opinions among both environmentalists and even animal agriculture insiders as to what's appropriate for some of these parameters.
The threat, of course, is that county officials in some locations may make decisions based upon emotion and pressure from the community, rather than facts and common sense. The hope, livestock insiders say, was that the state would pass legislation that was fair-minded. Then counties would fall in line.
Don't expect this issue to disappear, experts promise. The Indiana State Department of Agriculture continues to follow the goal of doubling hog production over the next 10-15 years. That strategy was laid out soon after Governor Mitch Daniels took office. As long as that's the goal, there will be potential conflict between producers wanting to erect new hog production facilities, and neighbors who don’t want such a facility in their backyard.