by Mark A. Kuhn, courtesy The Des Moines Register

As one of 12 legislators who drafted the bill in 2002 that created the Master Matrix, a current member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors tasked with reviewing Master Matrix applications, and a lifelong Iowa farmer, I have a unique perspective on the Master Matrix, its failings and how it could be improved.

I support the recent petition presented by the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch because it is needed to restore balance to a system that has failed to adequately protect the rights of all Iowans, and certain precious natural resources unique to different counties, such as Karst topography in northeast Iowa.

TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the list of Iowans that demand stronger factory farm rules.

The Master Matrix is a scoring system that awards points for livestock producers who adopt additional practices greater than the minimum required by state law. Points are awarded for increasing the minimum separated distances between concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and churches, residences, public-use areas, and bodies of water. More restrictive manure management practices score additional points. The Master Matrix has a total of 44 questions that could result in a perfect score of 880 points, but only 440 points are required to get a passing grade.

The Department of Natural Resources’ analysis of the Master Matrix shows that certain questions pertaining to separated distances are easy to score points on and nearly every application does. Points are also awarded for practices, such as concrete manure storage structures, that are the industry standard. Other questions requiring air-quality monitoring, the installation of filters to reduce odors, demonstrating community support, implementing a worker safety and protection plan, or adopting an approved comprehensive nutrient management plan are almost never answered.

Once an applicant achieves the minimum required points, they are not required to answer any further questions. It is a pass-fail test that has failed Iowans. It is out of date and needs to be changed.

The process also puts unreasonable time restrictions on counties. Once an application is received, a county has only 30 days to review the application for accuracy, call for a public hearing by publishing notice in official county newspapers, conduct the hearing, and make a recommendation to the DNR whether to approve the application or not. If the county doesn’t deny the permit, the DNR will approve it without any review.

To make matters worse, neither the applicant nor the company responsible for preparing the application is required to attend the public hearing to answer questions about the proposed CAFO. This happened twice recently in Floyd County, leading to misinformation and distrust between livestock producers and their neighbors.

It’s no wonder that Floyd County is one of 13 Iowa counties that passed resolutions or sent letters to leaders of the Legislature and former Gov. Branstad, asking them to strengthen the Master Matrix. But those efforts at the local level fell on deaf ears in Des Moines. The Legislature and Branstad did nothing.

A bill by Sen. David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan), calling for a review of the Master Matrix by the advisory committee that originally established it was never given a hearing in the Senate Ag committee. Another bill authored by Rep. Mike Sexton (R-Rockwell City) that required the DNR to include additional water-quality criteria in the Master Matrix suffered the same fate in the House Ag committee.

However, the Legislature did see fit to approve a nuisance lawsuit protection bill for CAFO owners that limits monetary damages and lawsuits to one per lifetime. This bill was pushed by the livestock industry in retaliation to Iowans who are forced to resort to litigation because they can no longer enjoy their own property.

As a lifelong farmer, I know the value that Iowa livestock producers add to the corn and soybeans I grow. With only 2 percent of all Master Matrix applications ever denied by the DNR since the law was created in 2002, I also know the current system is weighted heavily in favor of the livestock industry.

The livestock industry and the agri-business lobby have been successful for decades in dividing Iowans on this issue by labeling any legislator who supports change as being opposed to modern agriculture and the next generation of young farmers, while ignoring the real issue: Iowans have the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy their quality of life.

This issue is too important to Iowa’s future to be reduced to the politics of division. It is not a rural vs. urban issue. It is a neighbor vs. neighbor issue. There are plenty of rural residents and farmers just like me who support Iowa’s livestock industry, but object to a confinement barn with thousands of squealing hogs or hundreds of thousands of chickens to be built 1,875 feet from their residence, and allow the untreated waste from those animals to be spread immediately adjacent to their homes and farmsteads.

That’s why I support the petition for changes to the Master Matrix. It doesn’t call for local control of siting or a moratorium on new construction. It works within the existing system to balance the scale of justice for all Iowans.

MARK A. KUHN is the owner/operator of the Kuhn family farm, a member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors (1992-98 and 2011-present), and a former Democratic state representative (1999-2010).

 

TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the list of Iowans that demand stronger factory farm rules.

Learn more about our filing with the DNR!

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July 19, 2017.   Yesterday, we went on offense for clean water. Iowa CCI and Food & Water Watch filed a petition with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to strengthen rules on factory farms!

Click here to support the petition and demand stronger rules!

The Master Matrix – a tool used to evaluate applications for new factory farms – was created by the legislature in 2002 with the promise of giving communities a greater voice in factory farm construction and more protections from factory farm pollution. But, in its fifteen years of existence, that hasn’t happened.

Instead of working for everyday people, the Master Matrix only works for the industry.

We all know it: Iowa is in a water crisis. But, year after year, the legislature has failed to act. Iowans can’t wait any longer.

That’s why on Tuesday, we teamed up with our allies at Food & Water Watch to file a formal rulemaking petition with the DNR to finally strengthen the Master Matrix. We know it’s no substitute for local control or a moratorium, but the Master Matrix is one tool DNR can strengthen right now outside of the legislature to enact meaningful changes that will protect our communities and environment from factory farm pollution.

The DNR has 60 days to respond to our petition. During that time, we want to collect as many comments in support of this petition as possible.

Click here! Show DNR that Iowans demand stronger factory farm rules!

The petition asks for:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more points to obtain a permit;
  • A one-time enrollment for counties, rather than the current burdensome requirement for counties to readopt the Master Matrix every single year;
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution;
  • New criteria that consider more environmental factors, such as unique topography and existing water pollution impairments;
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits; and
  • Increased separation distances from things like schools, homes, public use areas, wells, etc.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Click here to support strengthening the Master Matrix!

This is just one step in our clean water fight. We’ll keep pushing for mandatory – not voluntary – water protections, and a budget where Big Ag – not taxpayers – pays to clean up its pollution.

Together, we can make the changes we need for clean water and healthy communities!

 

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We’re teaming up with our friends at SEIU, and looking for someone like you!

Do you want to work for economic and social justice in Des Moines?   

Do you want to carry on the tradition of social movements and organize people’s strength in numbers to protect and advance freedom, justice, and equality for all?

Do you want to join with others to build movements across the Midwest – where they are most needed – and help change the direction of the nation?

Do you want to learn to be more skilled, effective and smarter about organizing?

If you answered yes, then we want you!

We seek serious and highly committed applicants for our paid summer canvasser program. We look for people who want to fight the nation’s hardest political battles, happening today in America’s Heartland in order to take the country in a different direction.

Key Responsibilities: To identify and sign up workers in the workplace and greater community. This includes engaging workers at or near their work place, areas of public transit, and in the community.

Ideal Candidate: The ideal candidate will have (i) passion for economic and social justice, (ii) ability to engage and inspire people regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, language, class and/or experiences, (iii) ability to work flexible hours and adapt to a changing schedule.

Required: Possession of a valid U.S. driver’s license, proof of auto insurance, and an automobile for business use.

Compensation: $15.00/hour

Position Term: This is a temporary position with potential to last up until September 8th.

Hours: Canvasser could work up to 40 hours, but no more than 40 hours per week. May include some weekends.

Start the application process by clicking here!

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Are you sick of establishment, “business as usual” politics?

Here at Iowa CCI, we certainly are!

That’s why we’re excited to announce that we are holding four Doing Politics Differently meetings across the state

At these meetings, we’ll discuss the political moment that we’re in, how we can use elections to advance our issues, and some big-deal upcoming events to change the way we do politics.

Click on one of the events below for all the details and to RSVP:

We know that “business as usual” politics got us into this mess – join us at one of these meet like-minded Iowans and to talk about how we can start Doing Politics Differently.

 “[The Welcoming City resolution] is an issue where local government can step up to the plate and put its citizens ahead of division and partisan politics. We’ve seen actions at the state and federal level that have bullied immigrants and our communities, and Des Moines has an opportunity to stand up and say we won’t let that happen here,” said CCI member John Noble. 

Over 100 Des Moines residents gathered at Monday night’s City Council meeting to demonstrate overwhelming support for the ‘Welcoming City’ Resolution – a resolution that would make Des Moines a more inclusive and welcoming place for immigrants and refugees.

Check out the resolution here.

In April, Iowa CCI members, AFSC Iowa, and community leaders presented their resolution to the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission who voted unanimously to support it. On May 8th, we pushed the Des Moines City Council to take up the resolution.

Dozens lined up to share their personal stories with the Council about their struggles as immigrants in the United States, many non-English speakers. One commonality they all shared was their love for their Des Moines community and their pride in calling this city home.

If this resolution becomes a city ordinance, Des Moines would join a wave of cities across the country moving to create and promote inclusive communities for immigrants and refugees – despite some hateful rhetoric coming from Washington, D.C.

“Immigrants breathe life into Des Moines through their culture, labor, and entrepreneurship. It’s time we put our promises into practice through a tangible and enforceable ordinance,” said CCI board member Vanessa Marcano-Kelly.

We know this fight will be an uphill battle – but we’re not backing down!

Take Action to Make Des Moines a Welcoming City:

  • Call the Des Moines City Council’s Office at (515)283-4944. Tell them you support the “Welcoming City” resolution.
  • Join us on Thursday, May 25th at 6:30 pm for teach-in on the resolution. RSVP here.
  • Add your name to our petition to show widespread support.

Join the Fight: 

In a rare turn of events, Rep. Rod Blum will be holding four town hall meetings next week in the 1St Congressional District.

Here are the details:

  • May 8th at 7pm: Dubuque Senior High School Nora Gym, 1800 Clarke Drive, Dubuque
  • May 9th at 7pm: Kirkwood Community College Johnson Hall Gym, 6301 Kirkwood Boulevard SW, Cedar Rapids
  • May 10th at 7pm: Cedar Falls High School Gym, 1015 Division Street, Cedar Falls
  • May 11th at 12pm: Marshalltown Community College Babe Harder Gym, 3700 South Center Street, Marshalltown

Rep. Rod Blum has been avoiding his constituents like the plague, but finally emerged to hold some town halls in the district. But not without quite a few requirements from you (**ie, read this**):

  • You must register for the town hall at https://blum.house.gov/townhall
  • You must bring a photo ID, if your photo ID does not reflect your current 1st District address, please bring a utility bill or statement reflecting your current 1st District address along with your photo ID.
  • Information listed on ID must match the information provided on RSVP.
  • Children under 16 will be admitted without ID but still require RSVP.
  • Doors will open 60 minutes prior to events
  • No backpacks, signs, banners, or artificial noisemakers will be allowed into the event.

Attend a town hall and ask a question about issues you care about the most!

>>Also, we’ve heard that Medicaid and SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) could be on the chopping block during this Congress.

If you’re able to meet Rep. Blum’s stringent requirements to exercise democracy, ask if he stands with his constituents or big money corporations that prioritize profits over our health and safety.

For more information or to run a question past us just shoot us an email or give us a call the office at 515-282-0484!

Join the Fight: 

 

LIKE and TWEET to share this rare opportunity! 🙂