Press release:


Today Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) took no action on a Humboldt County appeal of a factory farm permit approved by DNR in January, despite being denied at the county level.   However, county officials say they will be voting to appeal this in District Court at an upcoming meeting, if ultimately approved.

During the hearing it was brought to everyone’s attention that Iowa DNR did not do it’s due diligence after Iowa Select submitted an apparently erroneous application.  The nearest home to the proposed factory farm is also a business; which changes the points they received for separation distances from a commercial enterprise, item 3 on the Master Matrix.  This would lower the Master Matrix score from 445 to 420 – a failing grade which would automatically deny the permit to build the factory farm.

“It appears that Iowa Select is not a good neighbor because if they were they would have known about our business,” said Lynsy Harrigan, daughter of the nearest neighbors of the proposed factory farm in Humboldt County.  “It seems  like Iowa Select only cares about its profits, not about the Iowans they negatively impact.  We need local control.”

However, Iowa Select attempted to make a case that the neighbors business was not a business.  State law (567—65.1 (459,459B) Definitions) says:

“Commercial enterprise” means a building which is used as a part of a business that manufactures goods, delivers services, or sells goods or services, which is customarily and regularly used by the general public during the entire calendar year and which is connected to electric, water, and sewer systems. A commercial enterprise does not include a farm operation.

The business, located less than a quarter mile away, meets all the definitions of a commercial enterprise under state law.

To address this new finding, EPC member Bob Sinclair, made a motion to table the decision, which failed.  Then EPC member Mary Boote, motioned to approve the application, which also failed.

EPC member Howard Hill abstained from voting because of a conflict of interest having worked for Iowa Select most of his life. This conflict of interest comes in addition to the $275,000 in campaign donations to Governor Reynolds from the owners of Iowa Select.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will continue to organize community members in Humboldt County as they challenge Iowa Select’s unwanted expansion.

This hearing also comes after two more counties – Fremont and Fayette – recently passed resolutions calling for more protections from the factory farm industry.

According to the USDA Ag Census, in 1978, Iowa had 57,325 farmers raising hogs on diversified livestock operations all across the state.  But in 2012, we had just 6,266 farmers raising hogs,” said Shari Hawk, CCI member from Ankeny.  “As we’ve increased the number of factory farms in our state, we’ve lost our independent family farmers who were once the backbone of our communities.  It’s time for a moratorium on factory farms.”

Iowa Select is the largest hog producer in Iowa and the fifth largest nationally. The factory farm application contested by Humboldt County is one of 20+ factory farms that Iowa Select proposed in the span of about two months. The EPC was originally scheduled to hear Hardin County’s appeal of an Iowa Select factory farm as well, but Iowa Select withdrew that application in response to mounting public pressure.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement 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. CCI has been fighting to put people first for over 40 years. Follow us on Twitter at @iowacci.


Governor Branstad’s appointee to the Environmental Protection Commission Gene Ver Steeg was one of 76 factory farm operators to spill manure in 2013,  an audit of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) records by our members shows.

Ver Steeg owns four factory farms producing 20,000 corporate hogs a year in northwest Iowa.  He was the president of  the Iowa Pork Producers Association in 2006 and reappointed to the DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission  (EPC) in 2013 by Governor Branstad after serving a four-year term from 2008-2012.

Ver Steeg may reasonably be considered the face of the factory farm industry in Iowa.  According to DNR records,  which you can view here, Ver Steeg was hauling liquid manure before dawn the morning  of November 13, 2013 and spilled more than 1,500 gallons down 260th Street in Lyon County.  He called in the spill  about an hour after an anonymous caller reported it to the DNR.  The DNR’s investigation report reads:

 He started hauling while still dark and believed everything was closed and not leaking, but later discovered something had  leaked along one lane as he was going west for a mile and a half…They had the county clean and scrape most of it off and  Fire department will hose off the rest of it..He is contacting all of neighbors to offer them a car wash.

Gene Ver Steeg is an outspoken opponent of Clean Water Act regulations.  On March 15, 2013, Ver Steeg was featured  in a Wall Street Journal story “Livestock Waste Lands Iowa in Hot Water” and was reported saying Clean Water  Act enforcement was a waste of money.  “It’s not needed,” Mr. Ver Steeg said.  He has consistently used his influence as  an EPC commissioner to promote industry-friendly rules.

Ver Steeg’s 2013 manure spill was only one of 76 reported to the DNR in 2013, a frequency greater than one a week.  At least 10 of those spills reached a waterway and 60 spills originated from a hog operation.  The number of manure spills in 2013 nearly doubled the rate of 46 in 2012, 46 documented manure spills with 34 originated from a hog operation. [DNR’s 2013 manure release report can be viewed here]

Of the 23 spills since October 31st, 2013 four sites received inspections within a year of the spill and six sites had never received an inspection by the DNR.  At least three manure spills since October 31, 2013 have reached a waterway after pipes broke during the transport of liquid manure from manure pit to manure pit or pit to open-air lagoon – including a Maschhoff Pork facility in Van Buren County, Roanoke LLC in Audubon county, and an Iowa Select facility in Wright county.

Our members say this new information highlights the danger that factory farm pollution poses to Iowa’s water quality, particularly when the DNR continues to refuse to perform high-quality Clean Water Act inspections and issue tough operating permits that force the industry to play by stronger rules.

“Every factory farm in Iowa is a ticking time bomb that could have a spill at anytime, and the DNR needs to start holding them accountable for polluting our waterways by issuing them Clean Water Act permits so they have to follow stronger environmental standards,” member and Board President Lori Nelson explained.

“How many manure spills is it going to take before the DNR issues a Clean Water Act Permit?  We’re swimming in, fishing in, and drinking manure.  Governor Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp need to quit working for the factory farm industry and do what’s best for our water and environment,” said Larry Ginter, an independent family farmer and long-time Iowa CCI member.

CCI members will attend the Environmental Protection Commission meeting in February to demand the DNR do its job, perform good inspections, issue stiff fines and penalties to documented polluters, and start handing out tough new Clean Water Act permits that crack down on water pollution.

This new information about factory farm manure spills is part of an ongoing investigation by CCI members of manure spills and DNR inspections.


Join the Fight!

Bloomfield, Iowa —

Independent family farmer and small business owner Garry Klicker of Bloomfield told Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds to fire Iowa Regent Bruce Rastetter for ethics violations during a townhall meeting in Davis County in Southeast Iowa Wednesday afternoon.

“Rastetter did a real number on Davis county back when he was building factory farms down here with Heartland Pork, and now he’s trying to do the same thing in Tanzania,” Klicker said during a Q&A period.  “What he did was a conflict of interest.  Mr. Governor, I think you should ask Rastetter to step down from the Board of Regents.”

Branstad briefly defended Rastetter and said he would wait for an Aug 23 ruling by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board before considering the matter further.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members will attend an Iowa Board of Regents meeting in Cedar Falls on Friday and demand the regents enforce their ethics policy.


Do you agree with Garry? Add your name to the petition calling on Branstad to Fire Bruce Rastetter:

Join hundreds of other Iowans calling on Gov. Branstad to fire Bruce Rastetter —  the man unable to separate his role as an Iowa public Regent from his personal financial interest.

Click here to read more and add your name.





Join the fight



Cargill-linked developer withdraws factory farm application in Greene County


Local CCI members led factory farm fight-back campaign



Paton, Iowa –

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members in Greene County are celebrating a big win today after a Cargill-linked developer named Mike Pierson announced he was withdrawing plans for a 5,000-head factory farm outside of Paton, in Dawson township.

“This is great news,” said Evans McWilliam, a local CCI leader who helped galvanize his community to oppose the factory farm.

The site would have been built by Quality Ag, Inc, a factory farm construction company owned by Brent Rastetter, who was appointed by Governor Terry Branstad to the Environmental Protection Commission last year.

The Greene County Board of Supervisors took points off the Master Matrix score after public input and community pressure from CCI members and voted to recommend that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deny the construction permit.  Pierson withdrew his permit application on Friday.

Factory farm construction has skyrocketed across Iowa this year, and CCI members across the state are leading the fightback with 30 campaigns in 20 counties.   Iowa CCI members have successfully stopped eight factory farms from being constructed in six different counties this year.

Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways, and there have been more than 800 manure spills in the last 15 years, according to DNR and CCI records.  A 2007 study by the Iowa Policy Project stated that factory farm manure “may be the largest agricultural polluter of Iowa’s streams and lakes.”

58% of Iowans say “we need stronger laws to stop factory farms from polluting our air and water,” according to an April 24-26 telephone poll of 633 active voters conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Learn more

  • See the map illustrating the influx of new/expanding factory farms this spring and what CCI members are doing to fight back.

Take Action

Right now, while hundreds of families are worried about their quality of live, property values and environmental impact, the Assoc. of Business and Industry is trying to formalize a rule that would force the Iowa DNR to permanently take a “hands off approach” to factory farms.

Join the Fight

  • Join as an Iowa CCI member today or chip in $10 to support our organizing on this issue.
  • Sign up for our E-Mail Action list to get the latest updates
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter


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A big kudos to Ames Iowa CCI members for standing up for the Iowa they want to see!

As a result of their hard work – meeting with their city council members to build support for an ordinance to stop payday lenders from expanding in Ames – Ames passed what looks like the most restrictive ordinance on payday lenders to date.This sets a great precedent for other Iowa communities looking to stop the wealth drain from payday lenders.

Below is our press release on the victory:


Ames City Council passes most restrictive ordinance on payday lenders to date

Iowa CCI members hail passage, look to other cities in absence of state legislation

Ames, IA – In a unanimous vote late Tuesday evening, the Ames City Council passed the toughest, most restrictive ordinance on payday lenders in the state of Iowa, if not the nation.

The ordinance, which uses a combination of zoning overlays and separation distances, effectively bans any new payday lender from opening within Ames city limits.

“I’m exceedingly pleased with this passage,” said CCI member Susie Petra of Ames. “Currently there are no payday lenders near the Iowa State campus and there won’t be with this ordinance. With massive student loan debt, the last thing students needed were payday lenders setting up shop nearby and driving them further into debt.”

The state legislature, not cities, has the authority to regulate interest rates on payday loans, which currently average just under 400% APR. Despite strong grassroots support for interest rate caps, the legislature has failed to bring a bill to the governor’s desk. This leaves cities to address the problem through zoning, with Iowa City next on the list of cities poised to take action.

“We celebrate this victory today, but continue pushing communities around the state to follow our lead,” added Jo Rod, another CCI member from Ames. “We are tired of corporate backed payday lenders putting profits and greed ahead of people and need.”

Iowa CCI members will continue to push for interest rate caps at the state level in next year’s legislative session. Until then, Iowa CCI vows to pursue all tools, including zoning ordinances, to curb the abusive practices of payday lenders.

Resulting headlines:

Join the fight

> Interested in replicating this in your community? Contact us today.

> Read more about our work to curb payday lending in Iowa here.

> Chip in $10 or more to helps us continue to push for an economy that works for all.

> Not yet a member? Join Iowa CCI today and help create the Iowa you want to see.


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Report from the New Bottom Line shows that bonuses would go a long toward helping struggling homeowners.



While the rest of us continue to struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over our head, Wall Street has once again handed out mammoth bonuses in 2011. The nation’s top six banks—Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs—paid out $144 billion in bonuses and compensation this year, making 2011’s payday the second highest on record for these six firms.

The New Bottom Line report, “Pulling Back The Curtain: The 1% Behind The Big Bank Bonuses” details this and more and is especially timely for two reasons:

1. The big banks are ballyhooing that their bonuses/compensation are way down and the press is buying the spin. They are still awarding themselves billions of dollars when they should be using that money for principal reduction, paying their fair share and providing good loans.

2. The Attorneys’ General and the White House are meeting today in Chicago to hammer out the final details of a settlement that will let the big banks get away with $20-$25 billion in principal reduction. This is nothing compared to the $700+billion of underwater homes right now.

Highlights of the report include:

  • The nation’s top six banks — Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs — paid out $144 billion in bonuses and compensation for 2011, second only to the record $147 billion they paid out in 2007 at the height of the economic boom.
  • Just half of the banks’ bonus and compensation pools would be enough to begin writing down the principals on all underwater mortgages in the country.
  • If the six banks took half of their bonus and compensation pool and put it directly into a public service jobs fund, they could create 1.8 million jobs, and still have enough money left over to pay the average employee $60,605.
  • Just 72% of the $144 billion in bonuses and compensation at the top six banks would have been enough money to plug the $102.9 billion in budget holes for all 50 states for the current fiscal year.
  • The report gives examples of how the money could be spent in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, and Ohio. For example, just nine minutes of bonuses and compensation at Wells Fargo would be enough to restore $1.9 million in cuts to the Iowa DNR.
  • The report states that average banker pay at the six biggest banks hit an all-time high in 2011. The average employee at these banks will take home $121,209 for 2011, more than twice the national median household income of $49,445. At pure investment banks such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, average bonuses and compensation in 2011 were double and triple the $121,209 figure.

“Pulling Back The Curtain” also provides a behind the scenes look at why these bonus and compensations numbers are approved by profiling a cross-section of the six big bank boards of directors.

Our Solution:

Given that the country is in an economic crisis triggered by the banks’ mortgage fraud, the report calls on Wall Street to reject these high bonuses and compensations and “start investing back in the 99%” by:

  • writing down principals on underwater mortgages;
  • doing fair and sustainable loan modifications to prevent foreclosures;
  • increasing lending to small businesses;
  • making affordable loans to families, states, and local governments; and
  • paying their fair share of taxes.

Iowa CCI is a proud and active member of the New Bottom Line, a coalition of community, faith-based and labor organizing groups from across the country working to make life better for everyday people everywhere.

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