Since mid-2016, the Chicago Tribune has been publishing an investigative series highlighting the many human and environmental harms caused by confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). One shocking revelation came from IDNR records that show that half of all fish kills in Illinois rivers are related to spills from livestock operations.
In response to these reports, and numerous complaints to legislators from farmers living near CAFOs, Senator Dave Koehler introduced legislation to address some of these concerns this Spring. While these bills did not move forward, a subcommittee was created to further study the issue. On the morning of Tuesday, November 7, a subject matter hearing was held to discuss these issues and give impacted neighbors a chance to share their stories.
The panelists supporting changes to the Livestock Management Facilities Act (LMFA) to improve oversight and siting of CAFOs included Prairie Rivers Network Executive Director Carol Hays, Attorney Danielle Diamond from the Illinois Citizens for Clean Air and Water, Farmer Cindy Arnett from Fulton County, and Farmer Karen Hudson from Peoria County.
Each of these experts testified about the lack of transparency of the LMFA process, and the frustration local residents experience when seeking to stop inappropriately sited livestock operations. Many of the experts also discussed potential solutions to ending pollution from these facilities.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also testified about current regulations. Finally, a panel of livestock farmers discussed the need to protect their family farms.
Senator Koehler, who sponsored the LMFA reform legislation, ended the hearing by reiterating his goal, which is to protect family farmers in all form – both those with livestock operations and those impacted by them. He expressed concerns about out-of-state, or often, out-of-country, owned factory farms that don’t follow the rules and cause concerns for neighbors.