Reaction continues to trickle in from the July 18 unveiling of the results of the findings of a Purdue University study on the impact of animal confinement units in Indiana. Perhaps overbilled as a study that would document the value of intensive livestock operations to Indiana communities for all time, the report, presented live over an Internet connection, pleased at least some looking for ammunition to combat those opposed to animal confinement operations, yet left others wondering what was really knew in the report.
One reporter told Indiana Prairie Farmer he drove home from the presentation, trying to latch on to a finding or two that he didn't know before. In the end, he came up empty. His conclusion was that it was ho-hum at best.
Not everyone agrees. Indiana Farm Bureau president and Edwardsport, Ind., farmer, Don Villwock, trying to capitalize on what he considered positive findings in the study, issued a news release that was intended to be used as a guest editorial, stating his opinions about the report and what it meant for livestock agriculture in Indiana.
"They discovered what most of us already know," Villwock says, "That regulated farm operations are environmentally responsible, and like any other business, the taxes they pay support county budgets and lower property taxes for local homeowners."
Several Purdue University Extension specialists helped conduct the survey and assemble the report. It's billed as a snapshot of 50 swine and dairy farms in eight Indiana counties,. Perhaps surprisingly, most reported no problems when getting permits and establishing or expanding their operations. In fact, 80% rated community response as mostly or all positive.
The findings indicate livestock farms pay about $4 more per hour than general or corps farms, at $12.38 per hour vs. $8.50 per hour. Most of the operators are younger and better educated than the average farm population in Indiana.
However, when it came to taxes generated and the economic impact, survey findings sent a mixed signal. Even Villwock acknowledges that in his opinion letter. "The impact of larger sheltered livestock farms on local government budgets and taxes was mixed, according to the Purdue study," he says. "Analysis showed that many operations generate enough added tax revenue to cover any costs they create. But in all cases, part of the tax burden born by livestock farms provides property tax relief for existing homeowners."
With only 645 CAFOs operating in Indiana, a study of 50 is significant. One conclusion in a release from Purdue itself indicated that fiscal and zoning issues were complicated related to large animal units. Is that really news? Maybe that's what led the reporter mentioned at the outset to conclude there wasn't much new in the findings, in his opinion.