Letter to the Editor Printed in the Des Moines Register 4/15/2017

President Donald Trump is violating our country’s basic democratic principle of transparency — and Rep. David Young is helping him get away with it.

During a February town hall, Rep. Young told us that when “you run for president, you’re president, you should release your tax returns. It’s a distraction and I think the American people should know.” Yet just a few days later, Rep. Young went back to Washington and voted against a resolution that would force Trump to release his tax returns from the past 10 years.

Rep. Young’s two-faced position on Trump’s tax returns is cynical even for a politician — and dangerous for our democracy. One of the most important constitutional responsibilities of Congress is to serve as a check on the president. Yet, despite the fact that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Rep. Young won’t stand up and ensure that the American people have a full understanding of their president’s potential conflicts of interest.

The American people need a full and complete picture of Trump’s income and investments to know all the possible ways he could make money off the presidency. That’s why I’ll be joining the Des Moines Tax March on Saturday, April 15. Our leaders — starting with Trump and Rep. Young — are accountable to the American people. Instead of hiding the truth and working in the shadows, Rep. Young should stand with his constituents and demand that Trump immediately release his tax returns.

— Adam Mason, State Policy Organizing Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement


FIND A TAX MARCH NEAR YOU: https://taxmarch.org/local-marches/


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April 14, 2017

Today, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released its bi-annual impaired waters report required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report found that out of 1,378 waterbodies tested over half are impaired. The list jumped from 736 impaired waterbodies in 2014 to 750 impaired waterbodies in 2016.

Since the Nutrient Reduction Strategy (NRS) was created, Iowa has not seen a reduction in the number of impaired waterbodies. The report demonstrates that Iowa’s NRS is a colossal failure and that the factory farm industry is a major contributor to Iowa’s water pollution crisis.

Iowa’s NRS has a goal of reducing Nitrate and Phosphorus pollution entering the Mississippi River by 45% with no deadline marking success or failure, and farmers are asked to voluntarily implement practices that reduce pollution. But members of Iowa CCI say a voluntary program that doesn’t address the expanding factory farm industry and has no meaningful monitoring, accountability, or enforcement is destined to fail.

In 2012, Iowa had 30,622,700 acres of farmland, but less than 2% of that land had in-field or edge-of-field nutrient management practices, according to the 2015-2016 Annual NRS Report. $112 million was spent in 2015 and $122 million was spent in 2016 to implement the strategy. This shows that investing in a voluntary strategy does not produce results.

“At this rate, we’ll never have water that we can swim in, drink from, or fish in. Voluntary does not work. No industry has ever successfully regulated itself. Big Ag corporations will always put corporate profits and yields above our water quality,” said Barb Kalbach, a CCI member and 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.  “The only way we’ll begin to clean up Iowa’s water is if the legislature passes meaningful, enforceable rules and regulations and make polluters pay the cost.”

The impaired waters report states the top three causes of impairments in Iowa’s rivers and streams are bacteria, biological, and fish kills, which point to factory farm manure as a major polluter in Iowa.

Iowa has over 9,000 factory farms that produce more than 22 billion gallons of manure annually. According to an Iowa Policy Project report, there are only 15.75 FTE inspectors in the state, meaning the factory farm industry operates unregulated in nearly all aspects.

“This industry is out of control. It’s obvious that our legislature is working for the industry because we continue to see false solutions that kick the can down the road using public funds to cleanup corporate ag’s water pollution,” said Kalbach.

CCI members call on the Iowa Legislature and Governor to 1) pass mandatory, meaningful regulations, 2) force Big Ag corporations to pay for the cost of clean-up, and 3) pass a moratorium on new/expanding factory farms in Iowa.

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.

April 13, 2017

Last year, CCI members pored through hundreds of Manure Management Plans (MMPs) to expose how the factory farm industry “double dumps,” uses incorrect application rates, and gets away with it because the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t adequately enforce MMPs. You can read our findings here.

Now, because of your work, the DNR is beginning the process of putting MMPs online.

Right now, they’re changing administrative rules to transition to this online process. Join us at next week’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting to help us deliver comments!

What will online MMPs mean for you? Ideally, these records will be more accessible to everyday Iowans and searchable on the DNR’s website. But, we need to ensure that’s really what will happen.

The proposed rule changes are a baby step in the right direction – they only apply to the short MMP update form – but there are some key things that must be strengthened. DNR should:

  1. Set a timeline for getting all MMPs – not just the 1-pager – online and accessible to the public.
  2. Describe how the new system will work for both operators and everyday Iowans.
  3. Ensure that the same level of transparency will continue under the new system so that counties know when updated MMPs are available.
  4. Require that factory farmers provide a detailed list of each and every change that has been made since the previous MMP – not just a general overview.

Tell the DNR and EPC that we need stronger MMP rules. RSVP here.

What: Tell the DNR and EPC that MMP rules should be strengthened to work for everyday Iowans
When: Tuesday, April 18 at 9:15 AM
Where: Meet at the CCI office for a prep session (2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines) and then carpool to the EPC meeting (DNR Air Quality Building, 7900 Hickman Road, Windsor Heights)

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.

Senators Grassley and Ernst will be holding town hall meetings on April 18 and April 20.

Town halls are a great opportunity to raise our issues and hold elected officials accountable back home in their districts. It’s our job to remind them that they work for we the people, not big corporations and Wall St. that want to cut our safety net to line their already wealthy pockets.

Sen. Ernst’s town hall will be Tuesday, April 18:

  • 1pm: Wall Lake Community Center, 101 Boyer St, Wall Lake

Sen. Grassley’s two town halls will be:

  • Tuesday, April 18: 2:30pm at Keokuk County Courthouse, 101 S. Main St., Sigourney
  • Thursday, April 20: 10am at Iowa State Bank, 500 Audubon St., Sac City

Attend a town hall and ask a question about issues you care about the most!  We’ve heard that Medicaid and SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) could be on the chopping block during this Congress.  Here’s a few talking points if you’re able to ask a question on one of these issues:

  • Our Medicaid should be controlled by us, it is here to take care of our family, friends, and neighbors, it should not exist to line the pockets of private corporations with our tax dollars.
  • The average monthly SNAP benefit in Iowa is $108 dollars and for every dollar spent on SNAP, it generates $1.80 in economic activity in the state.
  • Block-granting these programs doesn’t provide “flexibility” to states – it’s a benefit cut.  Block granting eliminates the ability for these programs to respond to increased need that results from rising poverty and unemployment during economic downturns.

For more information or to run a question past us, call the office at 515-282-0484!

Iowans are banding together to stop a new hog factory by Reicks View Farms in Howard County.

At 2,499 head of hogs, the confinement is one hog under the permit threshold, thereby skirting the Master Matrix. The factory farm is proposed on karst terrain in an environmentally fragile area known for sinkholes, and it’s located near the headwaters of a naturally producing trout stream. It is about a mile from an estimated 40 neighbors, century farms, and an Amish community.

This isn’t the first time Reicks View Farms has done this.

In June 2016, the Des Moines Register reported that Reicks View Farms had applied to build a 7,499 hog facility in Allamakee County. However, after intense local opposition, the developer reapplied for a confinement at 2,499 hogs – which prevented county supervisors from reviewing the application. Highlighting that building at the proposed site was ill advised, Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp stated that “if a livestock confinement facility could be built on the proposed site, there is no place in Iowa one could not be built.

Now, the group of concerned citizens in Howard County are organizing to yet again to stop Reicks View Farms from building just one hog under the permit threshold on karst terrain. Residents are aware of sinkholes not shown on DNR’s map, but after being repeatedly asked, DNR has not agreed to revisit the area.

“This land should not have any factory farms on it. Karst terrain is like a sponge,” said Joann Wangen of Cresco, Iowa. “We want to protect our water. The smell of the confinement is going to be bad enough, but we’ll have a crisis if we don’t have our water.”

Help stop Reicks View Farms! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Write a letter to the editor.
    We need tell more people about this fight!
  2. Call Dale and Brady Reicks at (641) 364-7843.
    Ask them to withdraw their application.
  3. Call DNR Director Chuck Gipp at (515) 725-8282.
    Demand that Director Gipp visit the proposed site and meet with the community. He has the power to stop this.

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.

April 6, 2017

Iowa CCI members across the state have come together for five community meetings to discuss ways to strengthen the Master Matrix – one of the few tools counties and citizens have to weigh in on factory farm construction. Due to member interest, an additional two community meetings have been scheduled in Ottumwa and Davenport to gather input.

So far, everyday Iowans have identified several key items to address within the Master Matrix, including:

  • greater separation distances,
  • stronger environmental regulations,
  • revisions to the point structure, and
  • requiring all facilities – not just some – to use the Master Matrix.

Illustrating the failings of the Master Matrix, factory farm operators are allowed to skirt permit thresholds in order to avoid additional scrutiny. Last month in Cerro Gordo County, the DNR approved Wharam Creek Poultry’s 98,000 head chicken confinement – just shy of the permit threshold that requires using the Master Matrix. Following approval of the new Simply Essentials chicken processing plant in Charles City, the area has seen nine other chicken factory farm applications that are also just below the permit threshold.

Iowa CCI is looking for more input on the Master Matrix. This will be used to pressure the Department of Natural Resources to make significant and meaningful changes to the Master Matrix, in light of inaction from Iowa’s legislature.


Find a community meeting new you!

Saturday, April 8 at 9:30 to 11:00 AM
Le Mars Public Library
46 1st St SW, Le Mars, IA
RSVP here.

Thursday, April 20 at 6:30 to 8:00 PM (NEW)
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities
3707 Eastern Ave, Davenport, IA
RSVP here.

Thursday, May 4 at 6:30 to 8:00 PM (NEW)
St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church
216 N Court St, Ottumwa, IA
RSVP 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.