Corporate lobby group’s proposed rule would weaken enforcement of environmental laws

 

Today, nearly 40 members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) delivered more than 600 public comments to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today demanding the DNR drop a rulemaking petition that would weaken enforcement of clean water laws and signal to the factory farm industry that the DNR is taking a “hands-off” approach to compliance.

A big-moneyed corporate interest group, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI), has petitioned DNR to pass a new rule that will weaken the DNR’s ability to enforce Iowa law against factory farm polluters.  The proposed rule will make it more difficult for everyday people to ensure strong and effective public oversight of factory farm polluters in the future by formally codifying already lax enforcement policies in writing, even if priorities shift in two years with a new governor and a new DNR director.

“The proposed rule basically tells factory farm operators that they will not be fined or penalized for a manure spill, fish kill, or other environmental violation, which could lead to more risk-taking, more manure spills and, ultimately, more water pollution,” said CCI member Barb Kalbach, a 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.  “We need strong deterrents if we are serious about cleaning up our polluted watersheds and the DNR absolutely must not kowtow to the influence of big ag money if they want to preserve what little credibility they have left with everyday Iowans.”

CCI members also met with ABI president Mike Ralston earlier today and pushed him to withdraw the proposal.

Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways, and there have been more than 800 manure spills in the last 15 years, according to DNR and CCI records.  A 2007 study by the Iowa Policy Project stated that factory farm manure “may be the largest agricultural polluter of Iowa’s streams and lakes”.

 

Take action

Join hundreds of fellow Iowans in telling the DNR to crack down on factory farms and say NO to the ABI’s proposed “hands off” rule. Take action here: http://j.mp/TelltheDNR

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  • This rule comes as Iowans are battling one of the biggest surges in new and expanding factory farm construction in years. Read the latest news and actions on our factory farm organizing.

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Branstad has packed DNR and EPC with factory farm industry insiders

 

It’s official. Gov. Branstad has appointed former House Majority Leader Chuck Gipp (R-Decorah) as director of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

This is only the latest step in Branstad’s corporate agenda to stack the decks of state government with factory farm industry insiders hostile to strong and effective public oversight of the environment.

The shakeup at the DNR comes as rural Iowans are experiencing the largest surge in factory farm construction across the state in the past five years alone, a serious threat to the long-term health of our air, land and water.

Chuck Gipp’s never met a factory farm bill he didn’t like,” said Larry Ginter, an independent family farmer and CCI member from Rhodes, Iowa. “Now he’s going to be the #1 guy at an agency he spent his entire legislative career trying to deregulate and dismantle.

In 2001, CCI members labeled Gipp one of the “Factory Farm Four” because of his long voting record to reduce and rollback citizen input and public oversight over the corporate factory farm industry.

  • In 1995, Gipp voted for H.F. 519 – a bill signed into law by then-governor Branstad that essentially rolled out the welcome mat for factory farm expansion in Iowa.
  • In 1997 and 1998, Gipp voted to outlaw local control ordinances and centralize decision-making authority with the state, expand the ability of corporations to purchase farmland and raise livestock, and grant immunity from fines and penalties to documented polluters.
  • In 2003, Gipp voted to rollback clean air rules, strip the DNR of its power to write ambient air quality standards, strengthen nuisance lawsuit protections for corporations, and expand the industry’s ability to build factory farms in environmentally-sensitive areas like flood plains and on karst soil.
  • In 2004, Gipp voted to legalize factory farm air pollution by creating a weak regulatory framework for air quality standards.
  • In 2005, Gipp voted to undermine law enforcement and corporate accountability by making it harder to refer habitual factory farm polluters to the Attorney General, and obstruct DNR rulemaking by making it easier for big-moneyed corporations to stop or stall rulemaking.
  • In 2006, Gipp voted to gut DNR’s authority to deny or modify a factory farm construction permit or manure management plan, empower the state legislature to stop or stall executive branch rulemaking, weaken manure management laws, and discourage and penalize citizen input by silencing everyday people who speak out against factory farm pollution.
  • In 2008, Gipp voted for a $23 million taxpayer-funded odor study that would stall action on mandatory and enforceable clean air standards and force Iowa citizens to foot the bill.

Iowa CCI members say Branstad’s political appointments to the DNR, Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), and Board of Regents – including Chuck Gipp, but also retiring director Roger Lande, Bill Ehm, and Bruce and Brent Rastetter – clearly demonstrate just how beholden Branstad is to the corporate ag interests that bankrolled his campaign for governor.

Branstad has packed the Board of Regents, the DNR, and the EPC with people who have made careers out of dismantling government of, by, and for the people and creating government of, by, and for the corporations,” Ginter said. “These kind of appointments clearly expose the corporate control of our democracy and highlights the need for the kind of systemic changes that Iowa CCI members continue to fight for.

 

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Here are two more great letters-to-the-editor published in the Des Moines Register in recent days.

Letters-to-the-editor are a great way to call attention to issues you care about and put them into public discourse. Kudos to Jane & Jo!

 

 

Factory hog farms are not just a rural issue

It was good news that owners of a proposed Dallas County factory farm withdrew their request after pressure from the community. However, many other factory farms continue to be built in Iowa in areas where there are fewer people and therefore less pressure to stop them.

Iowa regulations don’t provide many options for community members to stop the construction of these farms. These factory farms often end up polluting the water, including the river basins providing drinking water to Des Moines and other cities, so this is not just a rural Iowa issue.

Let’s not stop at saying “no” to the proposed Dallas County farm. It’s time for all Iowans to push our legislators to get serious about protecting Iowa’s water, environment and rural neighbors by strengthening regulations so citizens and communities have more of a say about whether a new factory farm is established in their community.

— Jane Alderman, Ankeny

 

Factory farms destroying Iowans’ way of life

Last Sunday, I read the letter by Charlotte Witry (“No Fairness in the Way Neighbors Are Treated,” May 13) telling of her family’s life on their century farm with a factory hog farm one mile from their residence. Now they are faced with three more factory farms being built around them, and they have no recourse to stop it.

I personally know others who are facing this travesty all over the state. It brings tears to my eyes.

These families have been on Iowa land for decades and out-of-state corporations are destroying their way of life with the blessing of our politicians. Shame on those in our Legislature who put greed and corporate donations ahead of our own citizens. It really comes down to “they just don’t care.”

— Jo Rod, Ames

 

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates

 

Please LIKE or TWEET to share ask your friends to take action. Help us get 500 emails sent to the DNR. 

GOOD NEWS: Monday morning, thanks to members’ hard work and testimony, the Greene County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to recommend that the DNR deny the permit for a 5,000-head, Cargill-backed factory farm near Jefferson.

This is a great first step! The DNR now has 30-days to make their decision.

But, members aren’t done yet. Next Tuesday, they’ll return to the Supervisors for a public hearing on ANOTHER proposed 5,000-head, this time Prestage-owned hog factory near Rippey.

 

Join the Fight!

If we want to see more wins like Greene County all across the state, there are four things you can do right now to help:

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Click LIKE  or TWEET to share this good news and to cheer on Greene Co. member for their work to stand up for our air, water and quality of life.

We won!

Organizing works. Just ask the CCI members who have, in just a few weeks time, mobilized their neighbors to stop a proposed 5,000-head Cargill-backed hog factory in Dallas County.

The neighbors responded quickly – engaging the developer directly on his doorstep, sending a Mother’s day card to the developer’s wife, and picketing outside the car wash owned by the developer.

And just as the neighbors were preparing to testify at the Dallas County Board of Supervisors, they received this note from the developer:

It’s proof once again that positive change works best when real people are telling their stories, engaging their neighbors, and standing up to confront corporate power and change hearts and minds.

We faced huge odds; there’s no doubt this was an uphill battle. But it shows that People Power pays off. We were only able to do this because of the support and hard work of members like you.

This is a big win, but it’s critical that we stay hopeful and keep fighting. There are a number of other factory farms across the state still moving forward and we need you to get involved.

Join the Fight!

If we want to see more wins like Dallas County all across the state, there are four things you can do right now to help:

Finally, click LIKE or TWEET to share this great news with your networks:

A truthful, and heartbreaking, letter-to-the-editor from Iowa CCI member Charlotte Witry from Waterloo.

She ask the telling question: who do our government protections, rules and regulations work for – everyday people or corporate ag?

Read the letter, then add your name to the growing list of Iowans telling the Iowa DNR to crack down on factory farms here: http://j.mp/TelltheDNR.

 

 

No fairness in the way neighbors are treated

It is 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. I just opened the door to let the dog out and was greeted by a foul-smelling manure odor from the factory hog farm that is located 1 mile west of our residence. I have a heartsick feeling because there are three more factory hog lots of 2,400 head each under construction within 1.5 miles of our home.

Thus, we are surrounded. No matter from which way the wind blows, we will get the noxious, possibly health-threatening stink.

Our farm has been in our family for more than 100 years. We have lived here, farmed the land, raised our family, cared for, worked for and improved our farmstead through the years. Not only has our quality of life been stolen, but our greatest asset, our home’s value, has been diminished and is now worth a fraction of its prior value.

Even a criminal gets his day in court. We get nothing. No hearing, no judge, no jury, no compensation. Is this what our founding fathers in our Constitution meant by freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Have our esteemed rulers in Des Moines decided that huge corporations’ rights to greedy profits supersede the rights of the individual? The government is charged with guaranteeing these rights for all citizens. It has failed miserably in this obligation.

The courts have ruled that government cannot take individual property for new roads, etc., without just compensation. Can the government make laws to enable the individual citizen’s property to be diminished in liveability and in value without compensation? What is fair and where is the logic?

As a result of events not of our making and beyond our control, a life’s work, savings and all of our dreams are destroyed with no hope or possibility of reversal. Is this really America?

— Charlotte Witry, Waterloo

 

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates

 

Please LIKE or TWEET to share ask your friends to take action. Help us get 500 emails sent to the DNR this week.