Decatur County

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Extension website a cache of info for CFOs

August 6, 2018
Paul Ebner talking to Indiana 4-H students

Confined feeding operations (CFOs) in Indiana agriculture operate under a diverse set of regulations at both the county and state level. To keep lawmakers, industry leaders, and concerned citizens up to date, Paul Ebner, associate professor of animal sciences and Purdue Extension Specialist, along with postdoctoral researcher Yingying Hong, have developed a website to serve as a repository for the latest rules and scientific research on CFOs.

There are roughly 1,800 CFOs in Indiana, housing tens of millions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management regulates CFOs at the state level, but local governments create standards or provisions that may determine where the CFO can locate within a county and how close a farm can be to residential areas, waterways, and such buildings as schools or churches.

“It’s highly variable. You have counties in Indiana that don’t have zoning at all and some that have pretty restrictive zoning ordinances,” Ebner says. “Purdue has done extensive research comparing these ordinances, and one section of the website hosts that research, which is helpful not only to those applying to operate a CFO but also to decision-makers and concerned citizens.”

The site has other useful tools, such as “odor models” that can help minimize potential effects of odors on neighbors as well as guidelines for resolving individual or community conflicts that arise over CFO decisions. The site is updated regularly as regulations change and new scientific research related to CFOs becomes available.

“A lot of the information on CFOs — what they are, how they are regulated — is pretty straightforward,” Ebner says. “In some cases, though, we explain, ‘Here is the research we have right now and what we know, and here are the conclusions we can draw.’”

Ebner is happy to talk with anyone who has questions about CFOs, and Purdue Extension Educators also are available to travel the state and present more information on the website’s contents, as well as answer questions for government entities, organizations, or community groups.

Related Links

Confined Feeding Operations

Paul Ebner, associate professor of animal sciences

The Efforts

Across Indiana, there are roughly 1,800 confined feeding operations (CFOs) for agricultural animals – housing tens of millions of chickens and pigs. CFO sites balance environmental responsibility, agricultural production, and quality of life – uniformly regulated by state government but less so at local levels, where county ordinances vary in substance or specificity. 

Commissioned by the State of Indiana, Purdue Extension partnered with Paul Ebner, a Purdue University associate professor of animal sciences, to create an online repository for CFO rules and research.

The Impact

Thanks to the website, Indiana lawmakers, agriculture industry leaders, and concerned citizens are regularly up to date on research that informs laws regulating CFO sizes and sites – such as buffers determining CFO proximity to residential areas, waterways, schools, and churches.

The interactive tools and expert information let all individuals involved in the CFO process assess existing research and rules to draw informed conclusions based on the most current knowledge.

The Numbers

70%: Percentage of Indiana counties with zoning-ordinance provisions for CFOs

81%: Percentage of counties with CFO provisions whose plan directors / employees consult Extension data

8: Months it took Purdue Extension to compile CFO information from all 92 Indiana counties

The Future

Purdue Extension will continue to regularly update the CFO information to provide necessary information to people involved in all stages of the CFO process.

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