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We can’t wait to see you Saturday!


Click here for details: Convention details 2014




Deb Bunka and Sandy Berkland are a part of a group of dedicated CCI members working to promote monthly giving. The pair came up with the great idea to put together prize baskets with gifts from generous local businesses as an incentive for members to become CCI Sustainers and for current Sustainers to increase their giving.

Sign up or increase today for a chance to win these great prizes!

  •  Join at or increase by $25 a month you’ll be entered to win one of two baskets-the “Ingersoll Basket” or the “East Village experience basket”-each valued at over $500.
  •  Join at or increase by $10 a month and you’ll be entered to win one of  three baskets- “Beer & Wine” , “Gardening” or “Cooking” basket, each valued at over $75.

Prize winners will be announced at the end of the July 12th Convention, no need to attend (but we would love to see you there!)

Being a CCI sustainer is easier on your budget and provides an ongoing and reliable source of funds month after month.

Become a Sustainer or increase your giving today!

The Convention is just around the corner!

Have you registered yet?


Our keynote speaker for our July 12 statewide Convention has been confirmed, and he’s makin’ progressive waves…drum roll please…

Please get ready to welcome U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison to our July 12 Convention!

We’re really excited to have him come to Iowa. Check him out in real life.


Here’s a little bit more about Keith:

He’s the first African-American to be elected to the U.S. House from Minnesota and the first Muslim to ever be elected to the U.S. Congress. He’s also the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – the ones working to drive the people first agenda in the halls of Congress.

You might be saying “A politician? That isn’t CCI’s style.” Well, he isn’t politics as usual. He works with community groups on the ground to co-govern. He’s a leading people power voice, and is going to bring some inspiration to our Convention by talking about how progressives and legislative allies can work together to fight for justice and democracy.

He’s pretty great to listen to. Here’s what he told a room full of organizers last December:

“Here’s the thing about Washington DC.  Who you talk to affects what you think.  You could be the most progressive person in the world and you will end up being a sell-out to your values if you stray from the people too much… You go to that city, you stay there, and you don’t connect with your people, and you will stray from them.  Anyone will do it.  So your goal is to keep them coming home, keep them coming home, and keep them engaged in the lives of real people.”


Register for the Convention now and save $10!



VIDEO:  Factory Farm Outside of Riceville With History of Pollution Problems Discharges Manure Into Impaired Wapsipinicon River Again


Iowa CCI members say the DNR failed to issue permits and penalties to the facility after a similar discharge into the Wapsi last year, raising questions about the DNR’s implementation of a Clean Water Act work plan as public hearings on draft new rules begin today in Mason City

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members released a video May 6 documenting an ongoing manure discharge into the Wapsipinicon River from Oak Grove Cattle, LLC outside of Riceville in Mitchell County.  The incident has been verified by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) field staff Trent Lambert, although the DNR failed to notify the public, and follows a similar discharge into the Wapsi River last year from the same facility.

The most recent discharge was first documented on April 8 and was ongoing at least through May 1, when the video was recorded by a next-door neighbor and Iowa CCI member.  Federal law states that operations may be fined as much as $30,000 per day for illegal manure discharges into waters of the United States.

Oak Grove Cattle, LLC is a mixed feedlot/confinement operation with approximately 1,000-head of cattle owned by David Eastman.  The manure discharge first occurred on or about April 8 after an earthen berm failed to contain manure on-site.  The DNR allowed Eastman to construct the berm after last year’s discharges and in February told Iowa CCI members the facility did not need a Clean Water Act permit because the engineering change would permanently remedy the problem.

Last year the DNR issued two Notices of Violation for discharging manure into a water of the state through a manmade conveyance, as well as for housing more than 500 cattle in confinement without having a Manure Management Plan, but failed to assess any kind of fine or monetary penalty.  The 2013 discharges began no later than April 2, 2013 and ended no earlier than May 5, 2013.

A previous discharge incident in 2009 at Oak Grove Cattle resulted in an Administrative Consent Order and a monetary fine.

Iowa CCI member and rural property owner Rita Dvorak, who raises a small herd of sheep outside of Riceville with her husband Lee, has been battling manure runoff from Oak Grove Cattle for years, and has spent thousands of dollars to clean up factory farm manure out of her family’s farm pond and adjacent property.

“This is all foam, this is the runoff,” Dvorak says at the beginning of the May 1 video, which begins at the bank of the Wapsi River before moving upstream to the source of the runoff.

“You can see in the background there where it’s coming out of the berm…that’s the beginning of the breach, you can see where it’s blown out,” Dvorak continues in the video as she records a mix of water and manure running off the factory farm property and into a gully that runs into the Wapsi River.  The feedlot and confinement buildings are both visible in the background near the end of the video clip.

DNR public hearings on draft new Clean Water Act permitting rules that Iowa CCI members have criticized as weak begin May 6 in Mason City and continue every day, minus the weekends, through May 13 in Spencer, Carroll, Des Moines, Calmar, and Ainsworth.  Rita Dvorak will testify at the May 12 hearing in Calmar.

There have been more than 728 documented manure spills since 1996, including at least five in April of this year. Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways.

Factory farm expansion is also up, with more than 900 of the state’s 8,500 factory farms being built since January 1, 2012.   Iowa’s factory farms produce nearly 10 billion gallons of toxic manure every year.

Iowa CCI is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.   

_MG_8518Our amazing members Binnie LeHew and Ben Zachrich are hosting a Mother’s Day Plant Sale!

The best part? A  portion of the proceeds will go to Iowa CCI!

 Hats off to Ben and Binnie for their creativity, and dedication to putting people first.

“As our government lurches head-long into a realm of being abject bidders for the extremely  rich, CCI is a firewall creating a model for our government: of the people, by the people, for  the people,” said  Ben Zachrich, a longtime Iowa CCI member.

So, they thought of a fantastic idea to support us, and we hope you can go check out the sale that Ben hopes will turn into an annual event! Help us spread the word!

Mother’s Day Plant Sale

 May 10 | 8:00 AM – 4 PM

1070 38th  St., Des Moines, Iowa

Check out some vegetable starts, herbs, flowers, and honey! Ten area growers are providing locally grown, non-GMO plants for your garden. Twenty differet varieties of tomatoes and peppers (sweet and hot) will be featured. Lettuce, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, broccoli, melons, brussel sprouts, and other vegetable starts will be available. Many of these plants are from heirloom seeds!

Have any starters or divisions you would like to donate? Give Ben a call at 515.255.4052.

Have your own amazing fundraising idea? Let us know!


Keep on reading the e-news

“Standing up for their quality of life”

“Members bring the fight for justice to D.C.”




DNR’s Draft Factory Farm Clean Water Act Rule Needs Stronger Permit Requirements

Community-Environmental Coalition Says the Department of Natural Resources Proposal Falls Short of Ensuring Factory Farm Discharges will Result in Clean Water Act Permits

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Iowa Sierra Club, and the Environmental Integrity Project have released a draft copy of new Clean Water Act permitting rules for factory farms, otherwise known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), being considered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A 2007 petition by CCI, Sierra Club, and EIP to the Environmental Protection Agency led to a Work Plan Agreement and this rulemaking, but the groups say the proposed rule does not go far enough to ensure that every factory farm polluter will apply for and obtain a Clean Water Act permit, and will leave too much discretion to the DNR to determine which facilities need permits.  The Clean Water Act permits, known as National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, restrict pollution discharges from sources like industrial animal factories to protect water quality, yet DNR has never issued such a permit to a hog or poultry operation.

A copy of the draft DNR Clean Water Act permitting rules is available at the Environmental Integrity Project website:

At a minimum, the coalition partners say, the DNR must amend the draft rules to reflect EPA’s position that “CAFOs that have discharged in the past will discharge in the future, and are therefore expected to obtain a permit, unless the conditions that led to the discharge are fully remedied.” As proposed, DNR does not address what a factory farm must do to meet this high standard, posing the risk that the agency will let facilities off the hook by giving them the benefit of the doubt that every illegal discharge is a one-time event.

Instead, the groups assert, bare minimum compliance with federal law requires DNR to presume that a discharger will continue to pollute and needs a permit.  This is particularly important when circumstances unrelated to operator error, such as steep slopes, outdated waste storage systems, or close proximity to waterways, make it unlikely an operator can prevent additional pollution.

Garry Klicker, a CCI member and independent family farmer from Bloomfield, said:  “Factory farms that have polluted in the past will pollute in the future and they have a clear duty to apply for a Clean Water Act permit, but the DNR’s draft rule attempts to bypass this very simple standard by creating a loophole large enough to drive a manure spreader through.  It’s time to stop pretending that the industry can just fix a broken pipe and get back to business as usual, because our water quality can’t afford that kind of kowtowing anymore.”

Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project representing CCI, said: “The DNR has the authority and duty to require every factory farm discharger to apply for a Clean Water Act permit, but its proposal is ambiguous. Without a clearer standard for when a facility requires a permit, Iowa factory farms will continue business as usual, to the detriment of the state’s hundreds of impaired waterways.”

Wally Taylor, an attorney with the Iowa Sierra Club, said: “CAFOs are not farms; they are factories. They should be required to have NPDES permits just like any other industry that discharges pollutants into the water. The DNR rule must protect our waters from CAFOs that discharge pollutants.”

In addition to clarifying that certain facilities require permits, the coalition will ask DNR to strengthen its standards for waste application so the agency’s permits adequately protect water quality.

The September 11 Work Plan requires the DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission to propose draft rules and open them up for public comment within 180 days.  Coalition members have requested DNR open up a 60 day public comment period and hold in-person hearings in Ames, Bloomfield, Carroll, Des Moines, Iowa City, and Keosauqua to ensure adequate opportunity for input from the citizens most impacted by factory farm water pollution.

In a January 23 letter, EPA informed DNR that the draft rule meets minimum federal requirements and gave its preliminary approval.  CCI, the Sierra Club, and EIP note, however, that the approval essentially sets a floor, not a ceiling, for the rules, and that the bare minimum simply cannot clean up Iowa’s polluted waters and hold factory farms accountable for the widespread pollution they cause.


The Environmental Integrity Project ( is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws.  EIP has three goals:  1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement ( is a 39-year-old statewide non-profit grassroots organization.  Iowa CCI has led the fight against factory farms in Iowa for the past 20 years and has pushed for better environmental and permitting laws for factory farms on the state and national level.

Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest grassroots environmental organization.  Its 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect our communities and the planet.  Through litigation and administrative and legislative advocacy, the Sierra Club has worked for the past decade to improve controls over factory farm water and air pollution.