As the issue of raising the minimum wage spreads from Iowa counties to finally garnering the attention of Governor Branstad, new research shows that single workers in Iowa must be paid $15.10 per hour just to cover basic expenses. Those paying off student debt must be paid $16.74 per hour.

Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reach, a new report from People’s Action Institute calculates living wages, both with and without student debt payments, for all 50 states and Washington, D.C.  The report shows that Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25 represents only 48 percent of the true cost of living for a single person. For families with children, the minimum wage lags even farther behind.

  • Read the full report, titled “Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reachhere.
  • Iowa specific data, with Polk & Story County breakdowns, can be viewed here.

Featured in the report is Iowan Tonja Galvan, who has been actively involved in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Polk County.  Tonja notes that even though she makes what is considered a living wage, her mother and daughter do not, so along with her granddaughter all must live under the same roof just to try and make ends meet.

A living wage would allow families like Tonja’s to cover basic expenses, such as housing and utilities, and save modestly for emergencies.

With wages falling far below the cost of living, many Iowans are working two or three jobs, cutting back on essentials like food, borrowing from predatory lenders, living in vehicles, or taking other drastic measures to get by.

These figures show how modest a $15/hour wage increase proposal is. We need to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr with no exemptions and no pre-emption. We cannot put the interests of big business corporations over everyday people. It’s time to raise the wage for all Iowans.

As we move the Fight for $15 forward to the Statehouse next session, it is crucial that as many people as possible know $15/hr is not just ideal, but a researched back necessity for hundreds of thousands of Iowans.

SPREAD THE WORD.  LIKE and SHARE this blog via social media and email.

We’re getting closer and closer to a living wage. Let’s keep going!

Join the Fight!

Keep the momentum going! LIKE and SHARE this blog to #Fightfor15

Do you want a voice when a factory farm tries to build in your neighborhood?

Dickinson County Supervisors have sent a local control survey to County Supervisors in all 99 Iowa counties to ask how many are in favor of local control.

Dickinson County doesn’t want factory farms near the valuable Iowa Great Lakes and believe they should be deciding what’s good for Dickinson County – not the industry friendly DNR.

 Your Supervisors have received this survey – can you help to ensure they put it on their agenda and vote YES for local control!

3 Easy Steps:

  1. Call your County Supervisors/Auditor and make sure the survey is on the agenda for their next meeting.
  2. Lobby your Supervisors and tell them to vote yes (tell your friends, family and neighbors, too!)
  3. Attend the Supervisor meeting and let us know how it goes.

Iowa’s 8,500 factory farms pollute our air, water and quality of life – it’s time we’re allowed to say “No” when they want to build in our neighborhoods.


Weather, Insufficient DNR Funding and Lack Of Regulation Show Need for a 180 on Factory Farm Policy and Enforcement 

Des Moines, IA.  A trifecta of problems within the factory farm industry have led to one of the largest threats to Iowa’s water in recent years, Iowa CCI members say.  Weather, the ever-growing quantity of manure being dumped untreated onto Iowa’s land and the lack of regulation of the entire industry shows that the amount of manure produced in Iowa is too much for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), our land and water to handle.



Weather is creating crisis on the frontlines of the factory farm manure pollution problem.  Iowa had unusually high rainfall and early freezing temperatures this year which delayed factory farmers from spreading manure in October and November.  Many factory farms knife-in the manure, a practice that injects the manure into the ground to limit the amount that could runoff into Iowa’s waters.  With the early freeze, DNR sent out a press release last week with instructions on how to get an emergency exemption to spread the manure without knifing it in.


Spreading manure on frozen ground increases the chance of runoff and pollution because the manure is less likely to be absorbed into the ground and is more likely to run into tile lines that are direct pathways to our water.  Last week Des Moines Water Works reported that high levels of Nitrates in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers may force them to turn on the $7,000-a-day Nitrate removal machine – which is unheard of in November.


CCI members believe the 11 manure spills that occurred in October and the massive amounts of manure being spread on frozen ground this year are a contributing factor to the high nitrate levels seen in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.


“What DNR is saying is basically we’re giving you all a free pass to pollute our water this season,” said Barb Kalbach, 3rd generation family farmer in Stuart.  “This is Iowa, we know temperatures fluctuate and with climate change these unusual weather changes will become more and more frequent.  DNR must come up with another solution other than granting hundreds of emergency exemptions to dump manure right into our water.  DNR needs to say Iowa cannot handle this much manure and we need to rethink how we produce pork in Iowa before we become the cesspool of the world.”


Factory farm construction continues to expand across Iowa, adding to the 10 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure already produced and spread untreated on Iowa’s farm land.  Throughout the spring and summer Iowans across the state have organized to stop new factory farms from infiltrating their communities, with success at the local County Board of Supervisor level.  However, the DNR has overturned nearly every Supervisor recommendation and allowed the factory farms to build.


Insufficient Funding

Every factory farm is required to submit an updated Manure Management Plan (MMP) to the Department of Natural Resources annually and a full MMP update every four years.


With limited funding and lack of an adequate inspection staff this means the 8,500 MMPs are going basically unchecked by the DNR.  MMPs are required by the DNR to make sure factory farmers are not over-applying manure on fields, spreading manure in environmentally unsafe areas and to make sure factory farmers are using proper equipment and procedures when applying manure.


“There is no way that the inspectors can respond to manure spills, inspect 8,500 factory farms, review new or expanding factory farm applications,  and inspect all 8,500 MMPs. It’s just not possible and the consequence of this is the increased pollution of our water,” said Kalbach. “In the 2013 legislative session we pushed for funding for 13 additional inspectors and the DNR said they only needed five.  This shows the DNR doesn’t grasp the severity of our manure pollution problem.”


Lack of Regulation

Finally, DNR has proven to Iowa that they cannot address Iowa’s water crisis because they are too heavily entrenched with factory farm industry insiders.  CCI members have highlighted 10 of the worst manure spills in the past year help the DNR start issuing Clean Water Act permits.  DNR has still not made any meaningful changes in the way they handle manure spills, issue permits, or issue fines and penalties.


“We’re seeing massive manure spills that pollute our water, kill thousands of fish and other aquatic life and take up massive amounts of time and resources of the DNR inspectors, yet they get away with little to no fines at all.  DNR still hasn’t issued any Clean Water act permits to these egregious factory farms,” said Larry Ginter, retired family farmer from Rhodes.  “The DNR says they won’t issue Clean Water Act permits if a factory farm can prove they have fully remedied the problem.  These factory farms have had three, four or sometimes even five spills.  Isn’t it obvious they can’t and haven’t remedied the problem?”


CCI members say this trifecta of problems highlights the need for a dramatic change at the DNR to get a grasp on the 10 billion gallons of manure already produced and spread on the land in Iowa.


“The truth will be in the numbers come March or April 2015 when the DNR releases the new number of polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Ginter.  “We’ve seen an increase in polluted waterways every year since they started keeping track and we expect nothing different this year because the DNR isn’t doing anything about pollution.”


Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 758 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.


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.



DNR Fails To Collect More Than $400,000 In Fines and Penalties For Environmental Violations, Some Going Back 10 Years

18 factory farms owe state of Iowa nearly $60,000 in uncollected fines

 The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has failed to collect $401,154 in unpaid fines and penalties from industrial and agribusiness operations who have violated state environmental laws, including $59,204 in uncollected fines from 18 factory farms.

A DNR spreadsheet obtained by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement documenting these uncollected fees and fines is available here.

“We will never be able to clean up Iowa’s waters if it continues to be cheaper to pollute than to protect,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “We need to start holding these polluters accountable and that means tough regulations, tough inspections, and tough fines when there is a violation.”

“If I got a speeding ticket I’d be required to pay it or lose my license.  If a factory farm fails to pay their fine, they should be closed down, too.”

“$400,000 would provide the DNR an additional inspector for 3 years to help with the 5,000 inspections required by the Clean Water Act,” said Ginter.

In addition to the unpaid fines, the number of manure spills charged with a fine or penalty dropped significantly from 2000 to 2013 DNR records show.

In 2001, 80 percent of all manure spills or other environmental violations received a fine.  Now, less than 15 percent of manure spills or other environmental violations receive a fine.  CCI members say this shows the lack of will of the DNR to crack down on polluters and clean up Iowa’s waters.

spills charged with penalty

“Our water continues to become more polluted, we have an increasing number of manure spills, an inadequate number of inspectors and factory farms are getting away with a slap on the wrist for polluting our water,”  said Barb Kalbach, CCI member and 4th generation farmer from Dexter. “This system isn’t working.  Governor Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp aren’t working to clean up our water.  In fact, they’re making it worse.”

With 728 manure spills since 1995 and 630 polluted waterways in Iowa, CCI members say this problem also shows that the current Clean Water Act rule, being considered by the Environmental Protection Commission in August, needs to be strengthen or the DNR will continue business as usual.

“There needs to be a three strikes and you’re out provision and every factory farm polluter needs a Clean Water Act permit,” stated Kalbach.

On August 19, the Branstad appointed EPC will be voting on precedent setting rules to implement the Clean Water Act for factory farms in Iowa.  CCI members say the rule is weak and would continue business as usual.  They plan on attending the EPC meeting in mass to demand the rule be strengthened.

225+ Iowans Picket Terrace Hill, Demand Branstad Sign Clean Water Fight Pledge To Crack Down on Factory Farm Manure Pollution

Iowa CCI members say Iowa needs local control of factory farm siting and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force the industry to play by tougher standards or get shut down

Chanting: “Whose House?  Our House!”  and “Put People First!” – more than 225 everyday Iowans marched up Terrace Hill July 12 to the governor’s mansion to demand Governor Terry Branstad stop kowtowing to corporate ag and start cracking down on factory farm manure pollution.

The crowd, all members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), demanded Branstad support local control of factory farm siting, and stronger Clean Water Act rules to force factory farms to obtain federal permits with tougher environmental standards or get shut down with a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.

The large crowd of family farmers, retired teachers, church pastors, students, and others also built a giant display of cardboard “factory farms”, a “river”, and “manure spills”, along with big signs that read “They Dump It.  You Drink It.  We Won’t Stop Til They Clean It Up.  Governor Branstad, Sign the Pledge.  We Want A Governor Who Will Clean It Up.”

Rosie Partridge, a CCI member from rural Wall Lake in Sac county, said she was there to ask Governor Branstad to sign a giant “Clean Water Fight Pledge” card that read “I pledge to fight for Iowa’s right to clean water and put people before profits, politics, and polluters.”

Partridge testified:  “Governor Branstad, during your long terms in office, you have rolled out the welcome mat for out-of-state corporate factory farms to come in to Iowa and run independent family farmers out of business.  You have vetoed money to clean up our rivers, lakes, and streams, and packed the Iowa DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission with factory farm insiders.  You have fought to put big money corporate ag lobbyists inside Clean Water Act negotiations between government regulators, and consistently put the interests of your political donors ahead of the interests of all Iowans and the environment we depend on.”

The Iowa DNR’s EPC commission will vote on draft Clean Water Act rules in August.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten billion gallons of toxic manure every year.  There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.

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.   

Iowa CCI members held their annual statewide convention in Des Moines July 12 headlined by Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison.

July 8, 2014



Factory Farm Being Built By Branstad Donor & EPC Appointee Would Sit Between Two Creeks That Feed Into The Des Moines River Two Miles Away

Woodward –

Fifty Boone County CCI members took their meeting to Brodie Brelsford’s house, developer of a giant hog confinement that would house 2,480 corporate hogs and produce over 630,000 gallons of toxic liquid manure annually, after he failed to show up at a community meeting.

The factory farm would be operated by Dallas County resident Brodie Brelsford but the facility would actually be built by Brent Rastetter, a top political donor to Governor Terry Branstad and a Branstad-appointee to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).  The submitted Manure Management Plan does not state what corporation will actually own the hogs.

Many of the neighbors were upset that Brodie didn’t show up for the meeting.  They feel that he doesn’t care about their concerns about quality of life, health and environmental impacts.

A caravan of over 20 cars traveled from the meeting near the Des Moines River to a golf course community in Perry where Brodie Brelsford lives.  After knocking on the door with no answer, neighbors of the proposed confinement posted their letter to his door demanding he cease construction immediately.

Jan Danilson, another nearby neighbor and CCI member said:  “We live on a century farm that has been in my husband’s family for over 100 years.  It’s our legacy. I want it to be a beautiful place, like it is now, in 20 years when I can give it to my children and grandchildren. We don’t want his factory farm.”

Danielle Wirth, a CCI member, neighbor, and Environmental Science Professor at Drake University, said:  “One of our biggest concerns if this factory farm builds are the environmental impacts.  This site sits in between Eversol Creek and Catum Branch Creek which meet up with the Des Moines River less than 2 miles away.  This site could have a direct impact on the Des Moines Water Works ability to keep Des Moines residents water safe to drink.”

Mark Edwards, retired DNR Trails Coordinator said: “I’m very concerned about the impacts from this factory farm and other factory farms affecting the expanding recreational economy related to the High Trestle Bridge and the master plan to develop other trails along the Des Moines River in Boone County.”

2 years ago CCI members in Dallas County stopped Brodie’s dad, Mike Brelsford, from building a 5,000 head factory farm near Minburn.  Mike Brelsford said community concerns were the reason he withdrew his application.  Boone County neighbors are upset because Brodie Brelsford didn’t ask for neighbors concerns or even tell them he was starting construction.

The Brelsfords are utilizing a loophole in DNR factory farm permitting that allows construction of a factory farm under 2,500 head of hogs without notification of neighbors or a public hearing with the county.  If built, Brodie’s factory farm would house 2,480 hogs – just 20 hogs under the permit threshold.

Iowa CCI members are in the middle of a seven-year campaign to enforce the Clean Water Act against Iowa factory farms and has called on Environmental Protection Commission member Brent Rastetter to recuse himself from an upcoming vote on new Clean Water Act rules because of a conflict of interest.  Rastetter owns Quality Ag, Inc as well as factory farms housing more than 9,000 hogs.

Local CCI members in several Central Iowa counties have fought new factory farm construction by Rastetter in the last two years.

There have been more than 728 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has at least 630 polluted waterways.  Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs produce nearly 10 billion gallons of toxic waste 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.

 Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 39 years. 

 For more information, visit