- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - In a story Jan. 12 about a proposal to ban local limits on large livestock farms, The Associated Press misspelled the name of the executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. He is Jesse Kharbanda, not Jesse Kharbonda.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Senate panel weighs banning local limits on livestock farms

Indiana senate committee hears testimony on bill banning local limits on large livestock farms

By LAURYN SCHROEDER

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Opponents of a bill that would prohibit county or city regulations on large livestock farms in much of Indiana criticized the measure Monday as an attack on local authority, while supporters defended it as a way to protect farmers’ interests.

The Indiana Senate Agriculture Committee heard testimonies both for and against the bill, which would prevent local officials from adopting rules that go beyond what is required by state law regarding the construction of livestock structures in agricultural areas.

Lobbyists representing county officials said the proposal will wrongfully strip away local authority and may set a precedent for the state to govern future zoning and planning issues.

Environmentalists also expressed concerns that the bill would decrease necessary oversight and regulation of concentrated animal-feeding operations, or CAFOs, which house thousands of animals and produce millions of gallons of manure.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management allows CAFOs to be built near residential wells, wetlands, streams and homes. Without further restrictions, Kharbanda said CAFOs could negatively impact surrounding property values and create possible health problems from increased water and air pollution.

Supporters of the bill, including its sponsor, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, expressed concerns that various counties have displayed resistance against the construction of large animal operations.

“The rights of individual property owners are being eroded by their local government,” Leising said.

Some counties have pursued moratoriums on new livestock facilities or placed stringent restrictions on barn construction or expansion, according to Josh Trenary, executive director of the Indiana Pork Producers Association.

While the association has not taken a position on the bill, Trenary said the heavy restrictions placed on Indiana farmers could take a toll on the state’s economy.

“Agriculture is a main driver in the Indiana economy, and in many counties it’s the primary economic force,” Trenary said. “There are real concerns that more counties will make the ordinances so restrictive that livestock and poultry expansion will not take place in Indiana.”

Lobbyists for livestock organizations also said the cost of hiring an attorney to navigate the local process has deterred farmers from seeking expansion permits.

Currently, Jackson and Bartholomew are the only Indiana counties that have placed moratoriums on livestock construction. Leising said the agriculture committee needs more information about current county regulations before any action is taken.

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