Who Does the Public Complain About Most - Farmers or Others?

The answer might surprise you - phone calls to agency tell a story.

Published on: Oct 26, 2011

If you're embroiled in a debate and controversy over where to locate a hog or dairy facility, you probably think the top complaint that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management gets on a routine basis is about animal agriculture, especially odor, dust and manure on the roads. Given all the play this subject has received over the past decade in both farm and popular press, it would be a good guess. But according to statistics released earlier this year, it's not true. Calls about farm issues rank way down the list.

Greg Slipher of Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc., recently called attention to the list. It was actually based on all calls IDEM received that were of the nature of a complaint in 2010. Slipher works as a livestock development specialist in his role with Indiana Farm Bureau. His job is to stay tuned in to possible issues that could affect livestock agriculture within the state.

Odor from farming activities actually ranked fifth, with 112 calls being about this concern. That was only 11.7% of 953 calls that made up the top five complaints. While it doesn't mean the problem ought to be ignored, it does put things in perspective.

Fugitive dust ranked fourth on the list with 150 calls. This category involves dust from a wide range of activities, certainly not just agriculture. Primarily, it's dust created by industry or other causes that moves offsite onto people's properties or around or even in their house.

Open dumping was a much bigger concern than ag odors. In fact, almost twice as many people called about this activity, at 220 calls. Odors in general ranked second, with 230 people calling IDEM in 2010 to complain about an odor problem in their area.

The number one reason for calls was trash and other materials. Some 241 calls went into this category. Note that of the top five, number one and number three, both related to disposal of trash in ways other than is publicly accepted, made up more than 40% of the complaints fielded by IDEM.

That's certainly not the impression you get sitting at a hearing or reading articles about hearings held when controversy arises over a proposed or existing livestock facility. Hoosiers have other environmental concerns on their minds besides agriculture.