Local, State and National Groups Unite in Support of Legislation Critical to Protecting Iowans from Factory Farm Pollution

DES MOINES, IA—Today, a coalition of 70 environmental, community and agricultural organizations called on Iowa’s General Assembly to advance a legislative proposal for a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms in the state. View the full sign onletter here. 

Currently, Iowa is home to over 10,000 factory farms, which produce more than 22 billion gallons of manure per year. The pollution generated by industrial animal operations has resulted in widespread water contamination and diminished quality of life throughout the state.

“Factory farms are expanding in Iowa at an alarming rate,” said Emma Schmit, Food & Water Watch’s Iowa Organizer. “We can no longer sit back and allow our water, our communities, and our independent family farms to be destroyed by factory farms. Iowa’s General Assembly must act now to address these concerns by enacting a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms.”  

A harsh, unhealthy and environmentally risky form of food production, factory farming employs an unsustainable method of raising food animals that packs together large numbers of animals into confined spaces. Among the destructive results is the production of massive amounts of animal waste, creating risks to the local environment, natural resource contamination, and the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria and public health hazards, including respiratory infections, asthma, skin rashes, nausea, and headaches.  

“It’s clear to Iowans that the factory farm industry is out of control. Just last year, they added over 400 new facilities, with local communities having no say over the matter,” said Barb Kalbach of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “With nearly 25% of counties calling for stricter regulations on factory farms, and thousands of Iowans suffering daily from poor water quality, toxic air emissions, and a monopolized food industry the legislature must take action. The clock is ticking for the future of our state.”

A moratorium will allow legislators and regulators a chance to assess the public health, economic and societal impacts of factory farming. An unchecked rapid expansion of the industry is doing untold damage to our environment, our food, and our health. We must take meaningful action to fully understand the consequences of an industrial agriculture system.

On February 21st, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Food & Water Watch, and Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture members from across Iowa will be gathering at the State Capitol to pressure legislators to take bold action on factory farms.

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Every year county supervisors need to pass and submit the Master Matrix resolution to the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources before January 31st.

They HAVE TO pass this resolution to have the power to recommend factory farms for denial. Contact your county supervisors to make sure they pass and submit it on time! 

We know the Master Matrix is broken, but it is one of the tools counties and local people have to fight back. We also know it is time for supervisors to take a stronger stance.

DID YOUR COUNTY ALREADY PASS THE MASTER MATRIX RESOLUTION? Ask your county supervisors to pass a Moratorium resolution in addition to the Master Matrix. 

Resolutions send a powerful message to the elected officials at the state level. Already 23 counties have passed resolutions calling for a moratorium, stronger protections from factory farms and/or local control.

Contact your county supervisors and tell them to pass BOTH the Master Matrix resolution and the Moratorium resolution. Then give us an email at iowacci@iowacci.org and let us know what they said.

Do you care about clean water? Do you want to join the movement to create vibrant rural communities in Iowa? One way to do that is by meeting with your elected officials, and communicating the need for a moratorium on factory farms.

We’ve prepared a toolkit you can use when attending attending forums with your legislator. Forums are a great place for your voice to be heard and to raise your concerns with your elected officials. 

The session begins in January 2019, but you can begin reviewing the toolkit now

Iowa, we have a problem:

In Iowa,there are over 10,000 factory farms that produce more than 22 billion gallons of untreated manure which runs off our land and into our water.  In 2013, thanks to the de-delegation petition filed by Iowa CCI members, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)agreed that Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wasn’t enforcing the Clean Water Act for factory farms.

The DNR was given five years to come into compliance.  Their time is almost up, and soon, the DNR will submit a final report to EPA. DNR’s work may look good on paper but nothing has really changed in Iowa.

We still have manure spills, a record number of impaired water bodies and beach advisories, inadequate DNR staffing levels, and not enough data to know what’s really going on.

We deserve to have the Clean Water Act fully implemented in Iowa. 

Click here to download the full overview and timeline.

Tuesday in Calhoun County, County Supervisors appealed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources decision to permit Burr Oak Growers LLC.

Supervisors responded to efforts of Iowa CCI members who have been fighting to stop this factory farm because of water quality, air quality, and quality of life concerns. You held community planning meetings, gathered signatures, and contributed public testimony in opposition to out-of-state Burr Oak Growers LLC’s plan to expand factory farm operations in Iowa.

This was the first time the County Supervisors have voted to appeal an intent to permit by the DNR. The decision is a product of the inundation of factory farms in Calhoun County. There are already 164 factory farms in the county.

Contact:
Jess Mazour, Community Organizer, 515-282-0484, jess@iowacci.org

Des Moines, IA. – The Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) legislative committee finalized their 2019 legislative priorities at their annual meeting last week.  The legislative recommendations include changes to Iowa’s factory farm permitting and tax systems.

Iowa CCI members are pointing to the action as a sign of growing support for a factory farm moratorium on new and expanding factory farms in Iowa.

The ISAC legislative proposal includes addressing the failure of the Master Matrix and making factory farms pay their fair share of taxes:

  • “As this subject continues to be of growing concern to some county boards of supervisors, ISAC strongly encourages that this [Master Matrix] review be conducted by 2020.”
  • “The result is that the construction of any new agricultural building adds zero net value to Iowa’s property tax base.  This situation is doubly problematic because large-scale livestock operations and grain facilities impose significant additional costs on counties, such as for road maintenance, without expanding the tax base to help pay for those costs.”

“It’s about time that ISAC recognizes that factory farms are harming Iowa counties – not helping them,” said Barb Kalbach, family farmer and CCI member from Dexter. “We’ve tried small tweaks to the Master Matrix, filing complaints about manure management plans, lobbying against tax exemptions, and the legislature is unwilling to act.”

“As an independent family farmer, I pay my fair share of taxes. My corn and soybean farming operation adds revenue and value to Adair County. Our current tax policies allow factory farms to skirt their fair share of taxes. That forces everyone in the county to make up the difference.” Added Kalbach.

Iowa CCI members have pointed out that factory farms are exempt from all kinds of taxes that independent family farmers aren’t exempted from.  Factory farm buildings add no new tax revenues to county coffers.  Manure pits get a tax break under the Pollution Control Tax Exemption.  Wholesale rates on water and electricity are obtained, and factory farms don’t pay sales tax on key inputs, like feed and energy.

The lack of county revenue from the factory farm industry has forced some counties to change their Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) formula – a local program to offset propoerty taxes.

“My roads are constantly being torn up by the dozens of daily semi-trucks driving past my house.  I’m afraid my daughters are going to get in an accident because of the status of the roads,” said Nick Schutt, CCI member and resident of Hardin County.

“Now the Hardin County Supervisors want to change our LOST formula. If implemented, property owners property taxes will increase so the county can keep up with road maintenance,”  added Schutt.

The Hardin County Supervisors have proposed changes to the LOST formula.  Right now 80% of LOST revenue in Hardin County is going to offset property taxes.  The proposed formula would change that to 40% for offsetting property taxes and 40% for maintenance, improvement, and construction of roads and bridges.

The Hardin County LOST formula change will be on the ballot in November.

Last year, CCI members gathered input from Iowans affected by factory farms across the state and filed rulemaking to strengthen the Master Matrix with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  The DNR dismissed the entire rulemaking petition without considering changes to protect our air, water, land, and communities.

“We have already submitted our recommended Master Matrix changes to the DNR and the legislature.  They refuse to act.  That’s why we’re calling for a moratorium on all new and expanding factory farms.  We can’t wait for little tweaks anymore.  We need to stop the expansion now,” said Emma Schmit, Iowa CCI member in Calhoun County.

As of today, CCI members and allies have successfully organized 23 counties to pass resolutions calling for a moratorium, local control, and/or stronger protections from the factory farm industry.

 

Click here to view the ISAC 2019 legislative proposals