Members to speak on spike in factory farm permits in Iowa
On November 15, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will meet in Wright County, where the Board of Supervisors recently approved a 20,000 kill-per-day slaughterhouse.
Iowa CCI and other community members will attend the meeting and call for greater protections from the factory farm industry, including better rules and regulations, inspections that find and fix problems, tough fines and penalties for polluters, local control, and a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms.
As reported by the Mason City Globe Gazette on October 31, there have been “95 permit applications or site approvals through Oct. 25, compared to 70 for all of last year and 43 for 2014” in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Region 2 field office [Figure 1]. Region 2 includes Wright County.
According to the DNR’s Animal Feeding Operations online database, applications for medium and large factory farms (those that house 500 animal units or more) have more than doubled in Region 2 this year compared to the previous two years [Figure 2]. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement anticipated this increase following the announcement in March that Prestage Farms wanted to build a massive slaughterhouse in North Central Iowa. The slaughterhouse proposal was voted down in Mason City in May, but was approved in Wright County in August.
The DNR Region 3 field office – which has the greatest concentration of factory farms – also saw a spike in medium and large factory farm applications in 2015 following the approval of the Seaboard Triumph Foods slaughterhouse in Sioux City. The slaughterhouse is currently under construction and expected to be operational in 2017.
“We knew from the get-go that Prestage’s proposal didn’t just include a slaughterhouse – it also included a massive expansion of the factory farm industry. That’s what we said all along, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now in North Central Iowa,” said Veronica Guyader, a Wright County resident who actively spoke out against the slaughterhouse project. “We have to remain vigilant and fight back against all of these new factory farm applications. We need better regulations from our legislature that protect the people of Iowa, not the factory farm industry.”
Cerro Gordo County Supervisors recently recommended denial of a 4,992-head factory farm application due to environmental and community impact concerns. The DNR approved the application anyway, and the supervisors appealed that decision to the Environmental Protection Commission. The Branstad-appointed EPC overturned that appeal in October.
“Since we’re seeing so many factory farms popping up in this area, it’s clear that we need more discretion at the local level. We have a right to decide what happens in our own community,” said Phyllis Willis, a CCI member from Fertile, Iowa. “Right now, the DNR and EPC hold all of the power, and their current rules and regulations don’t have our best interests at heart. We need local control and a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms.”
In the past month and a half, Webster County received and approved the applications of five hog factory farms. A sixth factory farm application in Webster County is slated for review at the upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting. In September, Webster County Supervisors also denied a large factory farm application after hearing public outcry due to environmental, health, and water quality concerns. After the county’s review, the applicant received a Master Matrix score of 315 points – a failing grade.
“I am deeply concerned and troubled by the sudden influx of factory farms coming into my community,” said Diane Keyser of Fort Dodge. “This is only going to get worse in the future unless we do something about it. We need our leaders to stand up to this industry, and we need more protections and local control to address this growing problem.”
In late October we put out a call for you to write letters to the editor to help advance our narrative around factory farming and the environment. We want to make sure our legislators hear loud and clear that:
Farming practices that protect our water should be mandatory – voluntary compliance does not work.
Big Ag polluters (like Cargill, Prestage, Farm Bureau, and Monsanto) must pay to clean up the water quality mess they’ve created – not taxpayers.
Every factory farm in Iowa needs a Clean Water Act permit, meaningful inspections, and tough fines and penalties when violations occur.
Iowa needs a factory farm moratorium now!
Wow! You knocked it out of the park. Check out these spot-on letters that were submitted by CCI members from around the state.
Is required to stop construction in soggy conditions to avoid negatively impacting future productivity of farmland – but they’re violating that term and have even been seen working in rain and standing water.
Is leaving trash and burying metal scraps in farm fields, which is not only disrespectful but a major safety hazard and obstacle for future planting and field work.
Has not been separating the fertile topsoil from the clay subsoil – a clear and major violation of the Agriculture Impact Mitigation Plan that was part of the IUB permit to ensure fertile farmland after construction.
Tuesday October 18th , the Department of Natural Resources and its Environmental Protection Commission had a chance to crackdown on factory farms and stand up for our people and planet– but they refused to…again.
EPC and DNR could have:
Closed corporate loopholes and protected our water. Instead, they took a step backwards and actually weakened the rules.
Listened to the Cerro Gordo Board of Supervisors and local community members and voted no on a new factory farm construction permit. Instead, they approved it.
DNR Director Chuck Gipp says changes must come through the legislature, but we know that’s not true. The DNR said multiple times – in its own report – that they have the authority to make improvements through rulemaking. They just refuse to do so.
That’s “business as usual” for our state leaders – putting the interests of corporate ag before people and planet. Infuriating, no doubt.
We can’t let this slide! Our water is too important!
In May, Iowa’s factory farm rules were opened up for a 5-year review. This was the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) and Environmental Protection Commission’s (EPC) opportunity to close loopholes within their factory farm permitting and enforcement authority.
DNR received 1,600 comments on the factory farm rules. Roughly 90% of the comments supported strengthening the rules, but instead of listening to the people, the DNR continued business-as-usual and listened to the industry.
TAKE ACTION! EPC to vote on DNR’s proposed rule changes on Tuesday, October 18. Click here.
This is our last chance to weigh in before the vote and demand DNR and EPC close the LLC loophole, hold factory farm corporations accountable, and protect our water. Join us at the CCI Office at 9 am Tuesday, October 18 to testify at the EPC meeting.
The Iowa DNR says over and over again that “their hands are tied” and that improvements to water quality can only happen through legislation. We know that’s not true.
Here are three ways the EPC & DNR could improve water quality, but blatantly choose not to.
1. Close the LLC loophole
Again and again, we see unpermitted factory farms build one right next to another under different LLCs. Iowans who have fought factory farms from moving in next door are sick and tired of seeing factory farms build just one or two hogs under the permit threshold which allows them skirt around stronger permitting laws. DNR has the ability through rulemaking to close this loophole —but is passing the buck to the legislature and choosing to do nothing.
EPC & DNR can fix this by:
Strengthening the definition of “common area” so factory farms owned by the same person that spread manure on the same fields are considered one large factory farm.
Strengthen the definition of “common ownership” so multiple “small” unpermitted factory farms with the same owner(s) are considered one large factory farm, which must comply with manure management plans.
2. Hold factory farm corporations accountable
Most factory farms in Iowa are operated as “contract growers,” meaning a local person owns the building and the manure, but a big ag corporation– like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc—own the hogs. Currently, when a violation occurs, only the “contact grower” is held responsible. We think big ag corporations should be responsible for their own mess. The DNR acknowledges that this is possible through rulemaking, but hasn’t made this improvement.
EPC & DNR can fix this by:
Strengthening the definition of “controlling interest” so corporate integrators like Prestage, Cargill, & Smithfield can be held liable for violations.
Strengthening the definition of “enforcement action” so fines or penalties can be issued to corporate integrators who actually own the hogs.
3. Protect our water
Iowa is in a water crisis and mandatory manure regulations are one way we can clean it up. DNR can strengthen manure management laws to make sure manure doesn’t runoff into our water but choose not to.
EPC & DNR can fix this by:
Strengthening the definition of “public use area” in the permitting process to include a lake itself and tributaries of the lake, not just the dock or shelter areas.
Banning manure application on frozen/snow-covered/water-saturated ground and on karst terrain – no excuses!
They Dump It, You Drink it, We Won’t Stop til they clean it up!
LIKE and SHARE to support the #cleanwaterfight
***Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. The police department and judge will decide charges, bail amounts, and fine amounts. The information below is just an idea of what to expect based on our experience with peaceful civil disobedience while fighting to stop the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa.***
What is peaceful civil disobedience?
Peaceful civil disobedience is a symbolic, non-violent violation of the law, done deliberately in protest against some form of perceived injustice. By peacefully and openly violating the law and submitting to punishment, those engaging in civil disobedience hope to draw attention to the law they want changed, the injustice they hope to stop, or the policy or practice they hope to end.
Examples of civil disobedience include, but are not limited to, blockading construction, blocking an access road, a sit-in, locking down to equipment, etc.
Will I be arrested?
You should be prepared to be arrested if you participate in civil disobedience. Different forms of civil disobedience come with different risks. Each county and each law enforcement department may respond differently to civil disobedience so the answer to this question can vary.
What will I be charged with if I participate in peaceful civil disobedience?
So far in Iowa’s fight to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, folks who have participated in civil disobedience have received a simple misdemeanor trespassing charge. The minimum fine for a simple misdemeanor trespass charge is $65 plus court costs. These actions have included blocking construction sites and locking down to construction equipment. Folks that used their vehicles to blockade construction sites in Boone County were charged with a $200 traffic ticket (stopping on a traveled way).
Police have responded differently in each county. For example, in Boone County, water protectors were taken to jail and had to pay a $300 bail to get out of jail. The bail money was refunded a couple weeks after the water protector appeared in court. However, in Lee County, folks were cited and released at the site of the protest without going to jail.
Keep in mind that it is up to the police department and judge to determine the charge, the bail amount, and the fine amount.
Will it go on my record?
This depends on the civil disobedience that you engage in. A trespassing charge will go on your record, but other actions, like blockading a construction site with your vehicle, may only be traffic violation. If you ever intend to engage in civil disobedience, you should plan to have it go on your record.
What should I do to prepare to participate in peaceful civil disobedience?
Attend a peaceful civil disobedience training before your action begins. This is where you’ll get the most information about the specific risks you will be taking. You will also learn about the plan and meet fellow water protectors.
If you plan on participating in civil disobedience you should ask a friend or family member to be your support person. Your support person should have cash on them to bail you out if you go to jail (so far it’s been about $300 but this can vary). Your support person should know about any prescription medications, dietary needs, emergency contact information, etc. Your support person should also be prepared to stick around for as long as it takes to get you out of jail (so far it’s been anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours after the arrest) and in other circumstances you may receive a ticket without going to jail.
Before the action begins, give all your personal belongings to your support person – the only thing you should have on your body is your government issued photo id.
Another good idea is to let your employer know what you are doing to make sure your actions do not jeopardize your job.
What if I want to participate in peaceful civil disobedience but don’t have bail money or money to pay my fine?
If you cannot afford bail money or fine money ask friends and family to support your actions by donating to your legal costs. You’d be surprised how many people will support you if they know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you are arrested and you have not lined up bail money, be prepared to stay in jail until a judge can hear your case.
Anything else I should know?
Follow the plan, remain peaceful, and have fun. Participating in civil disobedience for the first time can be scary, but remind yourself that the risks of this pipeline being built are far greater than any risk we take through civil disobedience. We stand with Standing Rock to protect our water, land, and future generations.
***Disclaimer: We are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice. The police department and judge will decide charges, bail amounts, and fine amounts. The information above is just an idea of what to expect based on our experience with peaceful civil disobedience while fighting to stop the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa.***