During the 2008 legislative session, state legislators bent over backwards for the factory farm industry, providing little to no protections for everyday people. Sound familiar? The legislature even passed a bill to give $23 million in taxpayer money to the factory farm industry to “study” odor for 5 years.

We were up against a Democrat Governor and a Democratic House and Senate, working to hold those who were in power accountable – a good reminder that big money doesn’t care about the letter behind your name. Rich Leopold, the DNR director at the time, wouldn’t take a stand on factory farms one way or the other. But both Governor Culver and Director Leopold wanted to appear like they were doing something to take on the massive problem of factory farm pollution by passing this legislation.

So, we mobilized the “Odor Study Stinks” campaign, rallying at the capitol, contacting legislators in person and through emails and phone calls. We wrote letters to the editor and even did a direct action on Wendy Wintersteen at Iowa State University, Dean at the time and now the University president, demanding that ISU “Dump the Odor Study”.

The media attention and our public pressure helped stop this bad policy from being funded. The legislature approved the odor study, but with enough pressure on legislators from CCI members and supporters around the state, it became an “unfunded mandate” meaning that no public money would be used for the study. In the end, no funding was ever allocated, and the odor study went away.

This was not the first time nor the last time that the factory farm industry and elected officials tried to use “technology” to wriggle their way out of creating real solutions. But here is the thing, any solution that does not shift power away from the factory farm industry back to everyday Iowans is not a solution that puts people and planet first, it only serves to further entrench the powers that be.

Real solutions come from the people who are most impacted by an issue, like the hundreds of Iowans who organized to stop public money to fund the odor research in 2008. When public money stays invested in our communities, we shift the scale of power toward the people.

In 1985, CCI members like Virginia Genzen, a farmer from Crawford County in Northwest Iowa (photographed to the right leading a rally of hundred of Iowans outside the House chambers) were in the middle of the farm crisis. Farmers across Iowa and the country were faced with prices below the cost of production. As we know, those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, and this was no exception.

Virginia and other farmers understood the importance of guaranteeing a fair price that covered the cost of production and provided farmers a livable income. Meanwhile, corporate ag created and pushed a false “get big or get out” narrative pushing farmers out of business.

In 1985, it appeared that Democrats were on board with fighting for a fair price. With grassroots support, a state level minimum price bill passed out of both chambers, forcing Terry Branstad to show his true colors when he vetoed the bill.

The following year, in 1986, when Branstad was up for election, instead of doubling down and working for Iowa farmers who had been facing years of crisis, Democrats put their tail between their legs and backed down. Not only did this leave family farmers in the lurch it also solidified corporate ag’s stranglehold on our state and its elected officials of both parties.

When big-D Democrats left farmers in the lurch, CCI members didn’t stop fighting. We held rallies, and held Democrats’ and Republicans’ feet to the fire, even staging a two-night occupation of the state capitol. CCI members kept fighting because we understood what was at stake: the livelihood and lives of farmers, their families and their communities.

It’s important to look back at where we have been to guide where we are going. As we face many crises in 2020, we know; there is no room for half measures, even if it comes from someone with a ‘D’ behind their name; that real change starts from the ground up and that it’s everyday Iowans who are going to create the change we need; and when we say we want a better food & farm system for farmers, they aren’t just words, we mean it. This starts with a moratorium on factory farms in Iowa, and beyond that, dismantling the corporate control of our agriculture system, ensuring a fair price for what farmers produce.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the huge cracks in our highly consolidated industrial food system, proving it’s far less resilient than the diversified, regional operations it replaced. 

Now more than ever, it’s time to transition to a food and agricultural system that works for everyone – for farmers, workers, eaters and the land. Our food and farm system belongs in the hands of more diverse base of farmers and workers, not under the control of a small handful of giant corporations. 

We’re honored and excited to be hosting a four-part webinar series to dig in on this important topic. We hope you’ll join us online to learn alongside our allies across the Midwest region who are fighting alongside us for a better, more equitable food and farm system.

May 14 — Episode 1: “Workers”


Axel Fuentes — Board Member, Food Chain Workers Alliance; Executive Director, Rural Community Workers Alliance (RCWA)

The Food Chain Workers Alliance is a coalition of worker-based organizations whose members plant, harvest, process, pack, transport, prepare, serve, and sell food, organizing to improve wages and working conditions for all workers along the food chain. The Alliance works together to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food

Axel and RCWA are at the center of an ongoing lawsuit on behalf of workers against a Smithfield packing plant for poor working conditions during the Covid-19 crisis.

Navina Khanna — Director of HEAL Food Alliance

HEAL’s mission is to build our collective power to create food and farm systems that are healthy for our families, accessible and affordable for all communities, and fair to the hard-working people who grow, distribute, prepare, and serve our food — while protecting the air, water, and land we all depend on.

May 21 — Episode 2: “Environment”


Shona Snater — Bridge to Soil Heath Organizer, Land Stewardship Project (LSP)

The Bridge to Soil Health Project works with crop and livestock farmers and other professionals that view soil as a long-term investment. LSP acts as a bridge between emerging soil health information and local farming practices, thereby uniting a community of farmers as the Soil Builders’ Network

May 28 — Episode 3: “Eaters”


Claire Kelloway — Reporter and Researcher, Open Markets Institute

Claire is the primary writer for Food & Power, a first-of-its-kind website, providing original reporting and resources on monopoly power and economic concentration in the food system. Her writing on food and agriculture has appeared in ProPublica, Civil Eats, Pacific Standard Magazine, and more.

June 4 — Episode 4: “Farmers”


Tim Gibbons — Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC)

Every day MRCC fights to preserve family farms and independent family farm livestock production, promote stewardship of the land and a safe, affordable high-quality food supply, support social justice and economic opportunity, and engage rural Missourians in public policies that impact their farms, food, families and communities.

This is a free event.

To RSVP for the webinar series, click here.

Governor Reynolds spending less on water quality improvement measures, while nutrient pollution from industrial agriculture isn’t getting any better

An Iowa Policy Project (IPP) report released yesterday echoes the state’s own March 2019 progress report showing that Iowa’s voluntary nutrient reduction strategy is insufficient to protect water in Iowa or downstream. The report calls out the state legislature for failing to create any meaningful steps to clean up Iowa’s water crisis.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), who recently filed a lawsuit against the state in the fight for clean water, say this new report adds to the mounting evidence that the voluntary nutrient reduction strategy is not helping nutrient pollution get any better.

The report shows that total state spending on water quality has rapidly declined over the last three years. In 2018 Governor Reynolds signed a bill she touted as increasing funding for water quality. In reality though the state is still spending less than before the voluntary nutrient reduction strategy was even created.

 “Governor Reynolds and Republican leadership claim that more money is going to fund nutrient pollution clean-up, but the reality is they are spending less on water quality than before the nutrient reduction strategy was created,” said Cherie Mortice an Iowa CCI member from Polk County. “It’s no secret that the levers of power in the state have been out of whack for a long time. They have continually put the profits of corporate ag over our water, our air, and our quality of life.”

As funding for water quality improvement has decreased, factory farms – a known non-point source polluter – continue to expand at an alarming rate. One in four counties in Iowa have passed resolutions calling for change to this corporate controlled, polluting system of agriculture.

Iowa has over 10,000 factory farms and each year another 200-400 factory farms are built – a number that is anticipated to increase as the Prestage slaughterhouse comes online.

 “The increase in factory farms each year is directly related to the diminished and dangerous quality of our water,” said Barb Kalbach, an Iowa CCI member and 4th generation farmer from Adair County,“They produce over 22 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure each year, that is spread untreated across Iowa and ultimately makes it way to our waterways.”

“If the nutrient reduction strategy remains voluntary and factory farms keep going up Iowa’s water crisis isn’t going to get any better,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, “We need mandatory measures and a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms if we want to see any improvement in the over 750 impaired waterways we have in the state.”

In March, Iowa CCI along with Food & Water Watch and Public Justice, filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa for failure to protect our right to clean water. The game changing lawsuit is calling for a mandatory nutrient reduction strategy and a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms.

“Iowan’s are tired of being told that our interests – our water, our health, our enjoyment of public waters, our drinking water, our pocketbook – must be compromised or balanced with those of corporate ag and other industries willing to destroy our lives for a profit,” said Mason, “Our lawsuit is holding our state to a higher standard – for us, for our kids, and for our grandkids.”

Every year county supervisors need to pass and submit the Master Matrix resolution to the Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources before January 31st.

They HAVE TO pass this resolution to have the power to recommend factory farms for denial. Contact your county supervisors to make sure they pass and submit it on time! 

We know the Master Matrix is broken, but it is one of the tools counties and local people have to fight back. We also know it is time for supervisors to take a stronger stance.

DID YOUR COUNTY ALREADY PASS THE MASTER MATRIX RESOLUTION? Ask your county supervisors to pass a Moratorium resolution in addition to the Master Matrix. 

Resolutions send a powerful message to the elected officials at the state level. Already 23 counties have passed resolutions calling for a moratorium, stronger protections from factory farms and/or local control.

Contact your county supervisors and tell them to pass BOTH the Master Matrix resolution and the Moratorium resolution. Then give us an email at iowacci@iowacci.org and let us know what they said.

Click the link below to view the resolution.

6 10 18 Hamilton Couny CAFO Resolution