CAFO group wins Purdue Agriculture Team Award

April 28, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A group of Purdue University specialists who collaborated on research and public information about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) has won the 2010 Purdue Agriculture Team Award.

The team, made up of 21 members representing five departments within Purdue's College of Agriculture and Purdue Extension, conducted an extensive study of Indiana CAFOs, hosted a public forum its results, launched an informational website and produced more than 20 CAFO-related Extension publications.

An award presentation will take place at 2 p.m. Friday (April 30) in the Pfendler Hall Dean's Auditorium on Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The Purdue Agriculture Team Award was created in 1995 to recognize interdisciplinary team achievements of faculty and staff.

"This team's work is a true multidisciplinary effort focused on an important issue facing both production agriculture and community decision-makers," said Jay Akridge, Purdue's Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture. "The group approached the research in a novel way and developed important fact-based information to help stakeholders make more informed decisions about CAFOs in their communities."

The CAFO team was formed in 2007 in response to public concerns about the growth of confined animal facilities in Indiana. CAFOs are livestock production operations where hundreds or thousands of animals are raised in buildings or similar enclosed facilities. There are more than 600 CAFOs operating in Indiana.

In 2007, team member and Purdue animal scientist Paul Ebner debuted the Purdue Extension CAFO website. The site provides up-to-date information on environmental, public health, social, economic and regulatory issues connected to CAFOs.

"We have 20 peer-reviewed fact sheets on the website on topics ranging from antibiotic use all the way to conflict resolution," Ebner said. "The information on the site has been accessed more than 20,000 times by people from all over the world. We've also held conferences with stakeholders to provide updates on the latest research both from Purdue and from around the world. We are available to anyone who might have questions specific to their communities, as well, whether they are producers, consumers or elected officials."

In 2007-08 the Purdue team conducted a two-year study of 50 CAFOs in the state's eight counties that have the largest concentration of the animal facilities. Team members examined CAFO demographics, labor, impacts on local government budgets, environmental violations and county planning and zoning rules. Study findings were reported in "Community Impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Indiana."

That report was presented during a broadcast carried live this past June by more than 35 Purdue Extension offices and other locations in Indiana and across the nation.

"Since the public presentation, several articles have been written for the CAFO website and more are currently in progress," said Janet Ayres, a team member and Purdue agricultural economist. "A second phase of the research will be conducted this summer, which includes a study of residents' attitudes toward agriculture and quality of life in this eight-county study area. A series of materials on working with controversial public issues, specifically written for local decision-makers, will be available later this year."

Other CAFO team research and public education efforts included:

* Coordinating the Purdue Livestock Siting Symposium. Representatives from commodity groups, regulatory agencies and county and state governments attended the 2008 Indianapolis conference, where the Purdue team shared the latest CAFO research findings.

* Studying the effect of CAFO odors on the respiratory and mental health of neighboring residents. The ongoing study is believed to be the first of its kind.

"We remain dedicated to working closely with all of our stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of food animal production in Indiana for future generations," Ebner said.

In addition to Ebner and Ayres, the CAFO team includes Michael Boehlje, Larry DeBoer, Roman Keeney and Kevin McNamara of Agricultural Economics; Alan Grant and Tamilee Nennich of Animal Sciences; Jane Frankenberger, Albert Heber and Don Jones of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Brad Joern and Phillip Owens of Agronomy; Jane Brown, Beth Forbes, Russell Merzdorf, Steve Leer and Chris Sigurdson of Agricultural Communication; and Jimmy Bricker, Dean Jones and Bryan Overstreet of Purdue Extension.

The CAFO team will receive a $10,000 cash prize to be used for further research and outreach projects.

For more information about CAFOs and to view the archived broadcast of the CAFO team's June 2009 presentation, visit the Purdue CAFO website at http://www.ansc.purdue.edu/CAFO/index.shtml  

Writer: Steve Leer, 765-494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Sources: Jay Akridge, 765-494-8391, akridge@purdue.edu

                  Paul Ebner, 765-494-4820, pebner@purdue.edu

                  Janet Ayres, 765-494-4215, ayres@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Steve Leer, sleer@purdue.edu
Agriculture News Page