To the editor:
I am writing in regard to the debate about setback restrictions for various agricultural enterprises in Hancock County.
There has been a proposed change in the setback for confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) from the present 750 feet to 5,200 feet, essentially a mile from any group of 10 or more adjoining home sites (subdivision). While I think there should be some setback restrictions specified for some agricultural enterprise, I believe this is a little over the top.
I am not debating this particular issue affecting Arthur Farms. I want to address the broader issue of agriculture in the county and the effect of various restrictions placed on it. To demonstrate what I am talking about, we can look at setback restrictions such as for CAFOs. There are about 16 animal-feeding operations in the county, mostly hogs.
These are some of the statistics from the Indiana Agricultural Statistics 2013-14 years: We had about 43,600 hogs of all types in the county. About 39,000 of these were sold as meat animals.
If they yield 140 pounds of meat per hog, this is about 5,460,000 pounds of pork. The average consumption per person across the U.S was about 42 pounds per person, so these hogs feed 130,000 people and brought close to $25,000,000 in sales into the county.
I give these statistics to show that pork is an important part of Hancock County agriculture. How many of you woke up smelling the bacon? Smelling the hog operation?
Hog operations, like any commodity-producing enterprise, only survive as they scale up production and gain efficiency.
If they are not able to expand and remain competitive, they likely will go away, either out of business or move to a less-restrictive area. What becomes of the land?
We have some of the most productive farmland in the world here in Hancock County. The land may be sold to other farmers, but it likely won’t be used for hog production. It may be sold for development, either residential, commercial or industrial, in which case, it is lost permanently for food production.
Is it smart to use the world’s most valuable food production resources in these ways? We must be as smart as we can in directing development and making the most efficient use of the land resources as we can.
Over-regulating and restricting agricultural only makes the situation worse. Randomly forcing agriculture out only leads to random development across the county.
Thomas E. Roney
Hancock Co. Farm Bureau member