When Indianapolis TV devotes a five-minute segment on the 10 o'clock news to a story about confined animal feeding units, you know something big is happening. The report aired on FOX-channel 59, Indianapolis, on Nov. 28, and concerned a request for a permit to expand a hog operation in Grant County. According to the report, opponents are once again trying to stop the expansion.
While the report was relatively balanced in some respects, it bantered the word 'factory farm' around repeatedly, and although the reporter interviewed the farm family and highlighted their reasons for wanting to expand, he failed to make the connection that even though their operation would be much larger, it would still be a family farm, not a factory farm. The other disturbing part about the report was that when they weren't interviewing the farm family, showing their pigs, or interviewing opponents, they continuously returned to 'B' roll footage of beef cattle which appeared to be on pasture, not in a CAFO setting at all.
The bottom line is that while there have been some victories for livestock expansion in Indiana, part of Governor Daniels plan to revive Indiana's economy, there is still confusion and lack of understanding by the general public. Even write a story about someone and their operation who almost everyone in the industry holds up as a shining example of doing things right and treating neighbors with respect, and someone, somewhere will call or email claiming the person is a bad actor- and isn't as portrayed at all- it's almost a guarantee this contact will come. .
The only problem is the information these people provide is often vague. Many times they don't want to be quoted, and won't submit rebuttals in writing as letters to the editor, even when urged to do so. It doesn't mean they're wrong, but it's a sign that CAFOS in Indiana are still an emotionally charged issue, and that well-meaning people on both sides often look at the same situation through different-colored glasses.
All types of issues concerning CAFOs are likely to be on the docket when the first annual Indiana Livestock Forum gets underway at the Convention Center in Indianapolis Dec 6. While the forum is free, pre-registration was required for meal count purposes. More than 200 people are expected to attend.
This event is actually sponsored by GINA, an acronym for Growing Indiana Agriculture. Surprisingly, it's main source of support originally came from the Indiana Soybean Alliance, not from livestock commodity groups. The Alliance, formed last year from the Indiana Soybean Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Board, devotes checkoff dollars to GINA. Jane Ade Stevens, a farmgirl who grew up with cattle and a media specialist today, produces an e-mail –based newsletter, usually weekly, that reviews articles and information printed almost anywhere, particularly in Indiana, about livestock operations. Sometimes the reports are positive, but sometimes they're negative. The newsletter informs people about the reality of placing CAFOs in Indiana.
The meeting is an extension of the newsletter, at least in some ways. Look for reports coming out of the meeting on coming regulations for CAFOS, and on updates on how permitting is handled in Indiana.