For Immediate Release: March 27, 2019

Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, drakestraw@fwwatch.org, 202-683-2467

Adam Mason, adam@iowacci.org, 515-282-0484

Aidan O’Shea, aoshea@publicjustice.net, 202-861-5240

Suit alleges state of Iowa is failing to protect its waterways from factory farms

Follow along on our Facebook livestream as we announce the lawsuit

Des Moines, IA – Today, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed a lawsuit against the State of Iowa claiming that the state has violated its obligation to protect the Raccoon River for the use and benefit of all Iowans.

This obligation is called the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires the state to protect the public’s use and not abdicate control to private interests. With well documented water pollution and only voluntary agricultural pollution controls, the suit alleges that the state is failing to uphold its duty. The groups are represented by Public Justice, Food & Water Watch, Roxanne Conlin & Associates, and Channing Dutton, of Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch gathered at the Capitol building in Des Moines today to demand accountability for the failure of the state to uphold its duty to protect the Raccoon River, particularly from factory farm pollution.

“Iowans are tired of being told that our interests – our water, our health, our enjoyment of public waters, our drinking water, our pocketbooks – must be compromised or balanced with those of corporate ag and other industries willing to destroy our lives for profit,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, “Our lawsuit is holding the state to a higher standard – for us, for our kids, and our grandkids.”

Emma Schmit of Food & Water Watch said, “There is a well-known, statewide water crisis in Iowa, and the Raccoon River in Polk County has been particularly harmed by pollution from factory farms. The Raccoon River runs through one of the most intensely farmed areas of the United States, where runoff from animal manure and fertilizer poses a threat to tap water and recreational use of the river. Once again, the legislature has failed to take any action on water quality, so the citizens of Iowa have stood up to say enough is enough.”

The Raccoon River is the source of drinking water for some 500,000 Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, has one of the most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world. The utility’s struggle to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines residents was documented in its 2015 lawsuit against upstream counties alleging that their failure to regulate tile drains led to excessive amounts of dangerous nitrates in the utility’s Raccoon River source water.

A bill to establish a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms was introduced in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives during the 2019 session. Despite growing concern from citizens and an increasing number of legislative sponsors, leadership in the Iowa General Assembly refused to allow the bill to even be debated in subcommittee, and the bill died in the first funnel on March 8. No bills to address the factory farm or water quality crises remain alive in this legislative session.

Roxanne Conlin of Roxanne Conlin & Associates said, “Iowans have waited patiently for our elected officials to fix our state’s polluted public waters. As it is clear those elected do not have the willpower to take any substantive action, every day Iowans are now turning to the courts to make Iowa’s waters clean and to protect their ability to enjoy the many outdoor activities that so many Iowans hold dear.”

“The State of Iowa has an obligation to protect the public’s use of the Raccoon River,” said Brent Newell, Food Project Attorney at Public Justice. “Farmers know what practices work for their farms, communities, and the environment. But we are clearly seeing that voluntary compliance does not work in a system controlled by corporate agriculture. Iowans need a system that empowers Iowa’s farmers to be the solution and restores rural communities economically.”

This lawsuit is a response to Iowa’s failed leadership, which has allowed the agribusiness industry to degrade Iowa’s waterways, leaving citizens with the burden of pollution and the cost of cleanup efforts. The suit seeks actionable, mandatory solutions that will restore the Raccoon River and make it safe for people to recreate in and for those who rely on it for drinking water.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement works to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities; involve them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.

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You can get involved by helping to support this case. Chip in $5, $10, $15 today!

As you know, legal action isn’t cheap. And, the Farm Bureau is going to come out swinging.

That’s why we’re asking you to dig deep. DONATE TODAY. Whatever you can give will fund the legal work, and help us the counter corporate ag’s misinformation at every turn.  

We’ll keep you updated as this case develops.

They dump it, you drink it, we won’t stop till they clean it up! 

Compared to zero in the last three years, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are worried about what this means for Iowa’s water crisis

Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued 110 “emergency exemptions” allowing factory farms to dump untreated liquid manure and raw feces onto snow covered ground over the past three months. That compares to zero in each of the last years and only 15 in 2014. The winter manure ban is in place because spreading manure on snow covered or frozen ground leads to hog manure contaminating Iowa’s waterways.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) are worried about what this means for Iowa’s already polluted water as the spring thaw,heavy rainfall, and floods hit the state.

“When the snow melts, it drains off into our waterways, and so does everything that was spread on top of it. That includes the untreated liquid manure from these corporate-owned hogs,” said Barb Kalbach, retired nurse, 4th generation family farmer, and Iowa CCI member. “We already have 750 impaired waterways, and this is not going to help make it better.”

According to the DNR, weather conditions have left factory farm manure pits nearly full. The record number of “emergency” exemptions mean that Iowa’s already polluted water is more susceptible to pollution from factory farm manure.

“Last summer my family and I tried to go swimming at a public beach, but when we arrived there was a sign posted saying the water was too polluted to swim in. With 110 “emergency exemptions” it doesn’t look like water quality is going to improve this next summer,” said Kristyn Arnold, an Iowa CCI member, “The only emergency is the impact that factory farm and industrial agriculture pollution is having on our water in Iowa.”

Currently the state of Iowa is using the nutrient reduction strategy to combat pollution from factory farms and industrial agriculture. The program uses public dollars and is voluntary, meaning that corporate Ag can decide if and how much they would like to participate in the clean up of Iowa’s water ways.

“The factory farm industry claims to be a 112 billion dollar industry. They have the money, they made the mess, and they should be responsible for cleaning it up,” said Brenda Brink, a retired dietitian and Iowa CCI member, “Why are we using public dollars to clean up a mess these giant corporations made?”

The Road to a Green New Deal Tour, a star-studded 9-city tour across the US talking about climate change and good jobs, is coming to Des Moines, IA on Monday, April 22, 2019.

At this event, hundreds of attendees will be treated to a multimedia experience and an emotional journey through the pain of the climate crisis and pollution to the hope of the Green New Deal. The stop in Des Moines will highlight, among other issues, how a better farm and food system can address climate change. The tour will also include over 200 town hall events in churches, classrooms, and union halls across the country.

Speakers for the Des Moines, IA tour stop include:

  • Leading climate luminaries Bill McKibben & Naomi Klein live by video;
  • Rural community leaders Kim Stephens from Nevada, IA & Nick Schutt from Alden, IA;
  • Native & Indigenous leaders Lakasha Yooxot Likipt, Touches Lightning – an enrolled Cayuse member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation & Trisha Etringer, Cax-Sep-Gu-Wiga, Eagle-That-Returns – of the Ho-Chunk Nation;
  • Youth leaders Hannah Dorf from Grinnell College & Shantal Hernandez from Ankeny High School; and
  • Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement Varshini Prakash.

On Monday April 22nd, hundreds of Iowans will gather in Des Moines to listen to stories of loss to climate change and hope that can be found in the Green New Deal. The truth is that most Americans want changes such as clean air and water, jobs in renewable energy, and preparing our infrastructure for the changing planet. As part of a greater American tour, this event in Des Moines will inspire and equip attendees to truly be the change that is necessary to move the Green New Deal forward.

WHAT: A multimedia event featuring political and community leaders discussing the promise of the Green New Deal for Iowa and the Heartland

WHEN: Monday, April 22nd at program at 7:00 pm CT, doors at 6:15 pm

WHERE: Sheslow Auditorium, 2507 University Ave. Des Moines, IA 50311. Tickets are $5 and available at sunrisemovement.org/tour.

WHO: This event is organized by Sunrise Movement and Iowa CCI. We expect hundreds of Iowans to attend to learn more about the Green New Deal and get the tools and resources they need to pressure their policymakers to get behind it.

WHY: In 2018, young people put the Green New Deal on the national agenda and permanently changed the conversation on climate policy in this country. The movement backing the Green New Deal has exploded since. The proposal has the backing of 91 members of the House, 13 Senators, as well as the support of 14 of 19 of the declared 2020 presidential candidates. A recent poll from Business Insider showed 66% of Americans say that each and every component of the plan was somewhat, very, or extremely important. And in Iowa,polling shows 91% of caucus-goers support the Green New Deal.

>>GET YOUR TICKET HERE<<

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Rep. Dean Fisher from House District 72 is single-handedly blocking our moratorium bill, H.F. 203. That’s not right!

Thousand of Iowans are calling for a moratorium and 25 counties have passed resolutions calling for a moratorium, local control, or stronger permitting standards. We know people want change.

Still, Fisher is refusing to assign this bill a sub-committee.A sub-committee would allow for debate, discussion and public input.

Iowans deserve to see this bill discussed and a chance to weigh in. If Fisher does not assign the bill to a sub-committee it will die next Friday, March 8.

Give Rep. Fisher a call at (888) 724-8946!

yellow image box with an icon of a sunrise and black text that says, "GREEN NEW DEAL NOW 
STEP UP OR STEP ASIDE"

Here’s the deal. The Green New Deal that introduced in Congress this month was only a resolution. It is not a full bill with detailed policies.

That’s the beautiful part. This resolution is a starting point. And that’s why we’re so excited about it. 

This is our chance to fight for the climate solutions we need to save the planet and save our communities.

Like all things with the potential to undermine corporate power, Republicans – and even some Democrats – are spreading misinformation to derail one of the most incredible organizing opportunities we’ve seen in our lifetime.

Take action now: join our letter campaign. Write Senator Ernst and your U.S. Representative telling them that you support the Green New Deal and they should, too.

This package is a chance to push for climate solutions we need – for us, our kids and our grandkids. Naomi Klein has a great new piece out in The Intercept called “The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn in the Green New Deal“. It’s about the GND, its relationship to the New Deal, and why we need to use it to grow the power of our movements, now. 

The article recalls that back in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a landmark reportinforming us that global emissions need to be slashed in half in less than 12 years, or the planet faces dire consequences. 

That is why we have to start organizing now. Our current president is a climate change denier, but we may have a new administration ready to jump into action in January 2021.

If so, meeting the IPCC’s targets may be technically possible, but will be extraordinarily difficult.Losing another four years to a Republican or a corporate Democrat and starting to act on climate in 2026 would simply be a joke. 

That’s why it is so urgent to use the Green New Deal framework as a potent tool with the power to unite and dramatically expand movements. 

But in Iowa, none of our members of Congress have spoken out in support of the Green New Deal (and Joni Ernst is in deep denialabout climate change’s coming impact on our state.) 

We’ve got to start organizing. Today we’re asking you to join the growing call – from the youth to the grandparents – demanding our elected officials support the Green New Deal resolution. 

Take action now: join our letter campaign. Write Senator Ernst and your U.S. Representative telling them that you support the Green New Deal and they should, too.

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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