CCI members point to the growing in-state and national momentum ahead of the 2020 legislative session

For Immediate release: 12/17/19

Des Moines, IA – Yesterday Senator Booker (D-NJ) introduced a national factory farm moratorium. The Farm System Reform Act of 2019 would put a halt on all new or expanding factory farms amongst other policies to create a level playing field for independent family farmers.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) say that this is the solution needed in Iowa to restore vibrant rural communities and clean up the state’s water.

“The factory farm industry extracts profits from our rural communities and leaves us to deal with the pollution,” said Barb Kalbach a CCI member and 4th generation family farmer from Adair county. “We have over 10,000 factory farms in Iowa, a moratorium is the only solution that matches the scale of the crisis.”

Iowa CCI points to the growing grassroots support for a moratorium across the state. With over 6,000 Iowans signing a petition calling for a moratorium, and 26 counties passing a resolution calling for a moratorium and/or stronger regulations on factory farms.

“People across the state, rural and urban alike, understand that the factory farm industry isn’t working for us,” said Brenda Brink a CCI member from rural Story county. “It is time for our state legislators to respond to our needs, not corporate ag interests. That means passing a moratorium at the state legislature.”

Iowa is the leading hog producer in the nation with over 26 million hogs in confinement at any given time, meaning 1 in every 3 hogs produced in the United States. These factory farms generate over 22 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure that is dumped untreated onto farm fields across the state. Between human and animal waste Iowa creates the equivalent of 168 million people, in a state with only 3.2 million people.

In response to the inaction of the Governor and legislature, Iowa CCI, along with Food & Water Watch and Public Justice have filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa. This lawsuit addresses their failure to address the impact of corporate ag and the factory farm industry on Iowa’s water crisis. Iowa’s 767 impaired waterways prevent Iowans from fishing, swimming in and kayaking on state rivers and also results in higher drinking water costs.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics and polluters. CCI has been fighting to put people first for over 40 years. Follow us on Twitter at @iowacci.

How do we hold them accountable with our money?

We need to send IED Director Debi Durham a message. Sign the petition!

In 2016 the Prestage slaughterhouse received $24.3 million public dollars in subsidies to build in Eagle Grove. That’s money that could have been used for public schools, hospitals, and rural infrastructure. 

But that’s not the first time this slaughterhouse tried to hijack our public coffers. Before building in Eagle Grove, Prestage Foods attempted to build in Mason City. CCI members and clean water fighters successfully organized and pressured the Mason City City Council to deny the use of public money for Prestage shutting the project down.

After its loss in Mason City the Prestage slaughterhouse proposed a site in Eagle Grove. Despite strong local and statewide opposition, the Wright County board of supervisors approved the slaughterhouse proposal 3-0.

That is when Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IED) gave the Prestage slaughterhouse $24.3 million in “incentives”. In exchange for our money, Prestage promised to create 332 “high quality” jobs that pay at least $15.54/hour with some benefits.

A review process for Prestage began in August of 2019. We want to know will the IED hold Prestage accountable with our money?

CCI leaders from North Central tried setting up a meeting with Debi Durham (Director of the IED). After two months of “scheduling” the IED agreed to a meeting only to cancel two days before.

Now, they are trying to push our meeting off another two months.

Sign our petition demanding that Durham meet with CCI members and hold Prestage accountable for our public dollars.

If Prestage hasn’t fulfilled their promises, they need to pay that money back!

We know the true impact corporate ag has had on rural economies. Town squares with bordered up shops, fewer and fewer job opportunities, and hospitals that no longer deliver babies.

We can’t, and never have been able to afford the cost of propping up the factory farm industry. Join us in demanding that Durham meet with CCI members and hold Prestage accountable for our public dollars.

Sign our petition now – public money should be used for the public good.

NAFTA: Putting family farmers out of business since 1994

Since NAFTA’s start in 1994, “free trade” schemes have dramatically increased corporate profits at the expense of everyday people, including the hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers who have been pushed out of business since its inception.

Join our letter campaign on Action Network! Send an email to your elected official now tell them to vote NO to NAFTA 2.0.

USMCA is nothing more than NAFTA 2.0. Tell your elected officials in the US House of Representatives to vote NO on NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) until we have a fair trade agreement that works for workers, farmers, communities and our healthcare.

It is better to take the time needed to get this right then get it wrong and worsen the problems we’ve had for the last 25 years.

Right now, the political establishment is pushing for NAFTA 2.0, which will continue to maximize corporate profits at the expense of farmers, workers and communities.

Send an email to your elected official now tell them to vote NO to NAFTA 2.0.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) finally released the Impaired Waterways List and the public comment period is officially open. Submit your comment by December 28.

Did you know?

This report is supposed to be released on April 1 of even numbered years according to federal Clean Water Act requirements. Yet, the DNR released it more than 19 months late.

Of the over 1,400 segments from streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands that the DNR investigated:

  • Only 363 segments fully met Iowa’s water quality standards
  • 767 segments are impaired
  • 523 segments are still in need of further investigation

The DNR has no timeline to finish the investigations that need to be done. With the status of over 500 segments unknown, there is a possibility that over 90% of the segments are impaired.

This confirms what Iowa CCI members have been saying all along: the state of Iowa is failing to protect Iowa’s waterways.

Despite this, the supervisor of the DNR water monitoring and assessment program, Roger Bruner, described the number of impairments as “fairly minor” and claimed the list is “like going to the doctor and finding out you have high cholesterol”.

Clean water is a basic human right! And, downplaying the severity of over half our waterbodies being impaired is a gross misrepresentation of the clean water crisis we are in.

What do I want for Christmas this year? CLEAN WATER!

Help us get the clean water we have a right to and submit your comment to the DNR here.

Report spotlights state inaction on continually growing problem, failure of nutrient reduction strategy, lack of political will

For Immediate Release 11/14/2019
For more information, contact:
Adam Mason, State Policy Organizing Director
adam@iowacci.org
515-282-0484

Des Moines, IA – Today members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) are pointing to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) release of the 2018 303d list – better knowns as its impaired waters report as evidence the state is failing Iowans when it comes to water quality. The report released this morning, required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is typically released every two years in the Spring.  However, the DNR claimed difficulties during this reporting cycle leading to the release six months later than normal.

The 2018 report found that Iowa’s impaired water bodies has increased to 767, up from 750 two years ago. Upon initial review, Iowa CCI members also flagged several problematic details:

  • Over half of those waterbodies assessed came back with level 4 or level 5 impairments
  • 57% of Iowa’s rivers and streams that were assessed came back as impaired
  • 57% of Iowa’s lakes and reservoirs that were assessed came back as impaired
  • 523 waters are in need of further assessment
  • Only 27 waterways were “delisted” or removed from a level 4 or level 5 impairment
  • Of the impairments identified, a majority are potentially byproducts of industrialized ag practices within the state (i.e. fish kills attributable to manure spills, fertilizer and pesticides; or bacteria levels and algal growth as a symptom of possible farm runoff)

“Today’s report is woefully inadequate and insufficient. Iowans are being hurt physically and financially by the quality of water in Iowa. We need definite numbers to really see the trends in Iowa’s water quality.” Said Betty Salmon, a retired teacher and Iowa CCI member from Urbandale, IA.

Iowa’s primary strategy for improving water quality has been the Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS), adopted in 2013 to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading in Iowa’s waterways. However, when it comes to nonpoint sources of nutrient pollution – industrial agricultural operations and practices being one of the main examples – the strategy is merely voluntary.

This voluntary NRS has been proven to be a complete failure and according to a report from the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC), the state is hundreds, possibly even thousands of years behind where we should be to reduce Iowa’s contribution to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. 

“This is one more sign that the state’s nutrient reduction strategy is a complete failure. The report fails to differentiate the magnitude of impairments in many of Iowa’s waterways. But the reality is that any impairment is unacceptable.” said Cherie Mortice, retired teacher and Iowa CCI member from Des Moines. “That’s why are suing the state – every Iowan has a right to clean water and the state has a duty to protect that right.”

Earlier this year, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed a lawsuit against the State of Iowa because the Legislature has failed to take Iowa’s water pollution crisis seriously. The groups’ lawsuit alleges that the state has violated its obligation under the Public Trust Doctrine to protect the Raccoon River for the use and benefit of all Iowans by failing to limit the pollution running off industrial agriculture operations into the Raccoon River and its tributaries.

The lawsuit asks the Court to order the state to adopt a mandatory clean-plan and a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms – the main contributors to the elevated nitrogen and phosphorus pollution found in the water. The groups are represented by Public Justice, Food & Water Watch, Roxanne Conlin & Associates, and Channing Dutton, of Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP.

In spite of the mounting demand for action on water, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to tout her investment in the failed NRS. Recent Iowa Policy Project reports show her claims ring untrue as well, with the level of water quality funding being lower than it was ten years ago in terms of real dollars.

“We know that DNR is overworked and understaffed. They want to do a good job, and care about our natural resources.” said Tom Mohan, Iowa CCI board president from Sioux City. “This is really a question of political will. We call on Governor Reynolds and the Legislature to provide all Iowans the clean water we demand and deserve.”

Disparaging comments by Ag Secretary Perdue about the future of independent family farms should spur Congressional action

Press Release: October 23, 2019

Contact: Adam Mason, adam@iowacci.org (515) 282-0484

Family farm groups from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with members of Congress on the causes of the current Farm Crisis, and the failure of the proposed new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to address those challenges. 

The meetings came two weeks after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s controversial comments about the viability of small family farms and the need for farm operations to get big in order to survive. 

At the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, Perdue told a group of small and mid-sized, mostly dairy farmers: “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” This, while the Trump Administration is subsidizing the largest meatpacker in the world, Brazilian owned JBS, with millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayers.

The big getting bigger and pushing out the small has been strategically sold by corporate agriculture interests to farmers and the general public as the inevitable destiny of U.S. agriculture since the Nixon era. The groups questioned whether Perdue can effectively serve all farmers, including small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers, as Agriculture Secretary.

The groups make up the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, which called on Congress to reject the Trump Administration’s proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA, or NAFTA 2.0). For agriculture, the USMCA is a status quo deal that does nothing to address excess corporate control of the agriculture economy where most farmers are losing money and have to rely on off-farm jobs to survive. Instead, the USMCA locks in a system that has greatly benefited multinational agribusiness firms. The Trump Administration chose to ignore a major ask from farm groups – the inclusion of mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for meat products that would benefit both U.S. ranchers and consumers.

“NAFTA has allowed large corporations like JBS and Smithfield to pad their bottom line at the expense and loss of hundreds of thousands of family farmers,” said Frank Jones, a farmer from SE Iowa and member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, “Elected officials need to create fair trade policies if they want to help farmers in Iowa and across the Midwest. Not pass another `free trade’ scheme like USMCA.”

“I urge our elected representatives to pass policies that restore and protect an independent family farm system of agriculture, including policies that address corporate control, overproduction and low prices,” said Darvin Bentlage, 4th generation cattle and grain producer from Barton County, MO. “Concentration and corporate ‘free trade’ have allowed multinational corporations in the meatpacking industry to extract wealth from our rural communities and put independent family farmers out of business. Our elected reps need to do better and address what is going on out here and not follow lock-step the policies written by corporations and lobbyists at the expense of our farms, families and communities.”

Kathy Tyler, a Dakota Rural Action member affected by factory farm expansion said, “Somewhere, sometime, somehow, Congress and our local legislators and officials need to start caring about and doing something about the exodus of farm families. They are the backbone of our state and are what keep our small communities alive. If we don’t support them, we will all vanish.” 

Independent family farmer leaders from the four Midwestern states outlined their concerns with the new NAFTA in an oped that ran in the Des Moines Register in August. 

The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment is composed of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Dakota Rural Action, Land Stewardship Project (MN), Food & Water Watch, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

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