by Mark A. Kuhn, courtesy The Des Moines Register

As one of 12 legislators who drafted the bill in 2002 that created the Master Matrix, a current member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors tasked with reviewing Master Matrix applications, and a lifelong Iowa farmer, I have a unique perspective on the Master Matrix, its failings and how it could be improved.

I support the recent petition presented by the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch because it is needed to restore balance to a system that has failed to adequately protect the rights of all Iowans, and certain precious natural resources unique to different counties, such as Karst topography in northeast Iowa.

TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the list of Iowans that demand stronger factory farm rules.

The Master Matrix is a scoring system that awards points for livestock producers who adopt additional practices greater than the minimum required by state law. Points are awarded for increasing the minimum separated distances between concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and churches, residences, public-use areas, and bodies of water. More restrictive manure management practices score additional points. The Master Matrix has a total of 44 questions that could result in a perfect score of 880 points, but only 440 points are required to get a passing grade.

The Department of Natural Resources’ analysis of the Master Matrix shows that certain questions pertaining to separated distances are easy to score points on and nearly every application does. Points are also awarded for practices, such as concrete manure storage structures, that are the industry standard. Other questions requiring air-quality monitoring, the installation of filters to reduce odors, demonstrating community support, implementing a worker safety and protection plan, or adopting an approved comprehensive nutrient management plan are almost never answered.

Once an applicant achieves the minimum required points, they are not required to answer any further questions. It is a pass-fail test that has failed Iowans. It is out of date and needs to be changed.

The process also puts unreasonable time restrictions on counties. Once an application is received, a county has only 30 days to review the application for accuracy, call for a public hearing by publishing notice in official county newspapers, conduct the hearing, and make a recommendation to the DNR whether to approve the application or not. If the county doesn’t deny the permit, the DNR will approve it without any review.

To make matters worse, neither the applicant nor the company responsible for preparing the application is required to attend the public hearing to answer questions about the proposed CAFO. This happened twice recently in Floyd County, leading to misinformation and distrust between livestock producers and their neighbors.

It’s no wonder that Floyd County is one of 13 Iowa counties that passed resolutions or sent letters to leaders of the Legislature and former Gov. Branstad, asking them to strengthen the Master Matrix. But those efforts at the local level fell on deaf ears in Des Moines. The Legislature and Branstad did nothing.

A bill by Sen. David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan), calling for a review of the Master Matrix by the advisory committee that originally established it was never given a hearing in the Senate Ag committee. Another bill authored by Rep. Mike Sexton (R-Rockwell City) that required the DNR to include additional water-quality criteria in the Master Matrix suffered the same fate in the House Ag committee.

However, the Legislature did see fit to approve a nuisance lawsuit protection bill for CAFO owners that limits monetary damages and lawsuits to one per lifetime. This bill was pushed by the livestock industry in retaliation to Iowans who are forced to resort to litigation because they can no longer enjoy their own property.

As a lifelong farmer, I know the value that Iowa livestock producers add to the corn and soybeans I grow. With only 2 percent of all Master Matrix applications ever denied by the DNR since the law was created in 2002, I also know the current system is weighted heavily in favor of the livestock industry.

The livestock industry and the agri-business lobby have been successful for decades in dividing Iowans on this issue by labeling any legislator who supports change as being opposed to modern agriculture and the next generation of young farmers, while ignoring the real issue: Iowans have the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy their quality of life.

This issue is too important to Iowa’s future to be reduced to the politics of division. It is not a rural vs. urban issue. It is a neighbor vs. neighbor issue. There are plenty of rural residents and farmers just like me who support Iowa’s livestock industry, but object to a confinement barn with thousands of squealing hogs or hundreds of thousands of chickens to be built 1,875 feet from their residence, and allow the untreated waste from those animals to be spread immediately adjacent to their homes and farmsteads.

That’s why I support the petition for changes to the Master Matrix. It doesn’t call for local control of siting or a moratorium on new construction. It works within the existing system to balance the scale of justice for all Iowans.

MARK A. KUHN is the owner/operator of the Kuhn family farm, a member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors (1992-98 and 2011-present), and a former Democratic state representative (1999-2010).

 

TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the list of Iowans that demand stronger factory farm rules.

Learn more about our filing with the DNR!

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We have exciting news! Iowa CCI Board President Cherie Mortice put her name in the running to be appointed the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) Board of Trustees.

Cherie has a track record of fighting for Des Moines neighborhoods, DMWW ratepayers, and for clean water across the state.

And, we need a fighter.

Des Moines ratepayers need a strong leader to stand with Bill Stowe and the board — especially as Water Works faces tough decisions on how to deal with Iowa’s clean water crisis, including pollution to our source water caused by corporate ag upstream.

Add your name – support Cherie for the Des Moines Water Works board.

This won’t be easy. DMWW Board members are appointed by Mayor Cownie and subject to approval by the Des Moines City Council — both of which voted to support the legislative corporate-power grab attempt to dismantle DMWW.

We need to make sure Mayor Cownie hears from ratepayers across the city that appointing Cherie to the DMWW Board is one way to make up for that bad decision.

Add your name – tell Mayor Cownie to appoint
Cherie Mortice to the DMWW Board!

Get involved: 

 

A a new Statehouse bill (HF 316) would dismantle the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) board and distribute the utility’s assets to surrounding cities – which would kill the DMWW’s lawsuit.

But here’s the kicker: We’ve heard Des Moines City Council supports the bill and even helped draft it. They turned their backs on their own constituents and caved to corporate ag interests.

TAKE ACTION: 

  • ADD YOUR NAME – to show strong opposition to this bad move
  • RSVP NOW for Thursday 2/23 – an emergency community meeting with Bill Stowe and DMWW Board President Graham Gillette. 

HF 316 is another anti-local control, anti-local democracy measure designed to silence fearless truth-tellers like Bill Stowe and quell the growing citizen demand to crack down on corporate ag and factory farm polluters.

We’ve seen what happens to our water when elected officials side with corporate interests instead of everyday people — it looks like Flint, Michigan.

But CCI members aren’t ones to stand by and just let things happen. RSVP to join us here.

What:     Emergency CCI Clean Water organizing meeting with

                  Bill Stowe and DMWW President Graham Gillette

When:    Thursday, February 23 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm

Where:   Iowa CCI Headquarters, 2001 Forest Ave, Des Moines

 

Join us Thursday to learn more – RSVP here.

 

This bill is an obvious Farm Bureau power grab.  We’re hearing lots of excuses about why we should compromise and support this bill.  Here’s how you can respond.

Don’t Dismantle the Des Moines Water Works Talking Points

 About the bill, HF 316:

  • HF 316 would dismantle the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) board and distribute the utility’s assets and power to surrounding cities – which would kill the DMWW’s lawsuit.
  • HF 316 is another anti-local control, anti-local democracy measure designed to silence fearless truth-tellers like Bill Stowe and quell the growing citizen demand to crack down on corporate ag and factory farm polluters.
  • This bill is purely a retribution bill. They are trying to shut down a meaningful attempt to hold corporate ag polluters accountable under the Clean Water Act.
  • A corporate ag shill, Rep Jarad Klein from Keota (not DES MOINES), introduced this bill and is trying to call the shots for Des Moines residents. Klein has taken over $20,000 from corporate ag groups in recent years.
  • Four lobbyists, hired by the city of Des Moines, also represent the Iowa Drainage District Association. The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit directly  ties in with the drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun, and Sac counties where this lawsuit stemmed from.

 

Des Moines City Council demands and talking points:

  • 4 members of the Des Moines City Council support the bill. Shame on City Council members that support this Farm Bureau power grab over their own constituents. There has never been a public vote on this issue.
  • We’ve heard Des Moines’s own City Councilor Christine Hensley – on the board of Farm Bureau’s front group “Partnership for Clean Water” – is colluding with Big Ag to push and draft this bill. That ain’t right.
  • Withdraw your support.  We want to know which of you are siding with corporate ag.

 

Clean Water talking points:

  • Iowa has 754 impaired waterways in 2014 – up 15% from 2012. And, Des Moines Water Works had to run it denitrification machine 177 days in 2015.
  • Iowa has over 9,000 factory farms that produce 22 billion gallons of manure.
  • We need mandatory regulations, not voluntary. The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit seeks mandatory regulations through the Clean Water Act.
  • We’ve seen what happens to our water when elected officials side with corporate interests instead of everyday people — it looks like Flint, Michigan.

Take Action

  • ADD YOUR NAME – to show strong opposition to this bad move
  • RSVP NOW for Thursday 2/23 – an emergency community meeting with Bill Stowe and DMWW Board President Graham Gillette.

Join the Clean Water 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.

LIKE & SHARE for a clean water Iowa: 

What a day to wrap up our Clean Water Fight for the year! 20 of you stood up for a Clean Water Iowa at the DNR’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting.

The EPC responded to our report “Too much manure, no political will” by:

  • Making excuses for the factory farm industry
  • Not taking manure management issues seriously
  • Failing to show the political will to do their job

We’re not surprised by this. But, it proves decision makers are listening and know we won’t be ignored. To top the day off, a team of leaders met with Representatives Anderson, Hunter, and Kelley to present our Clean Water Bill and ask who would push for it during the 2016 legislative session. Rep. Kelley agreed to introduce the bill and Anderson and Hunter will co-sponsor!

Your hard work the past year has gotten us this far in the Clean Water Fight. Here are some of our favorite and biggest moments from 2015:

  • The Food and Ag Justice Summit where 130 of you helped us seize a big moment and inject our “people and planet first” message into the national coverage of Bruce Rastetter’s corporate ag summit for 11 GOP presidential hopefuls.
  • The stopping of two bad factory farm deregulation bills at the statehouse.
  • Des Moines Water Works deciding to pursue their clean water lawsuit to hold corporate ag polluters accountable, thanks to you!
  • CCI members collected 1,778 comments to turn into the DNR on the draft impaired waterways (the list jumped to 725) vocalizing support for increased enforcement of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in Iowa!
  • The top 10 responses to Branstad’s remark to “tone it down” on water pollution criticism.
  • The release of our report “Too much manure, no political will” – a case study that exposes DNR’s failure to crack down on factory farm manure pollution compiled thanks to hundreds of hours of work by a team of members!
  • When the EPC came to our house to hear powerful testimony from 50 members on our water crisis.

Thank you for all of your hard work, Clean Water Fighters. 2015 was an outstanding year. Stay tuned for the next moves in 2016!

Chip in $5, $10, $20, or more to help us start 2016 off stronger than ever in the Clean Water Fight! Just click here to donate.

 

They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ‘til they clean it up!

 

Join the Fight

 

IOWA’S “MANURE SPILL SEASON”

IN FULL FORCE

 

 

Iowans Demand EPA Return To Iowa To Force Factory Farm Compliance With The Clean Water Act

 

 

According to DNR records there have been at least five factory farm spills that reached Iowa waterways in the past three weeks:

  • FISH KILL: Osceola & Clay County – factory farm egg washing liquid dumped in Stony Creek polluting 18.2 miles of stream and killing 163,001 fish
  • FISH KILL: Cherokee County – Bear Creek, source unknown
  • FISH KILL: Buchanan County – factory farm manure overflowed from manure pit and entered West Branch Pine Creek
  • Mahaska County – valve on manure tank failed and 3,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered a tributary of the Skunk River
  • FISH KILL: Allamakee County – manure application equipment broke and 1,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered Clark Creek

 

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) members are outraged at the number of manure spills occurring in Iowa each year during what many call “manure spill season.”

“Right now, as crops are being harvested, thousands of factory farms across the state are starting to spread upwards of 10 billion gallons of toxic, untreated manure on Iowa farmland,” said Rosie Partridge, conservationist and small business owner in Wall Lake, Iowa. “We’re seeing equipment breaks, pits overflow, and careless practices like spreading manure on highly erodible land, on steep slopes and near waterways.  At what point is there too much manure in Iowa?  I think we passed that point a long time ago.”

CCI members say the DNR needs to start holding this industry accountable for polluting Iowa’s waterways.

“In 2012 the EPA investigated the DNR and found that the DNR has an inadequate inspection program, fails to respond to spills, and does not issue fines and penalties that deter future pollution,” said Larry Ginter, a retired family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa. “It’s 2015 and nothing has changed. The EPA needs to come back to Iowa and make the DNR implement the Clean Water Act with teeth.”

Like the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, CCI members want the DNR to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act for factory farms. CCI members believe that Clean Water Act permits, tough fines and penalties and on-site inspections that find and fix problems will drastically reduce the amount of manure polluting Iowa’s waterways each year.

“We’re sick and tired of corporate agriculture being exempt from any laws and regulations meant to protect people and the environment; they should be held to the same standards as every other industry in Iowa,” said Ginter. “Isn’t it obvious that voluntary doesn’t work?”

CCI members will be meeting with the DNR on November 3 to address the lack of enforcement and regulation of Manure Management Plans and application.

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 800 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 725 polluted waterways.

 

Join the Fight

  • Factory farm proposing to build near you? Have concerns about an existing facility? We can work with you and your community to fight back and stand up for clean air and water and your quality of life.

Learn more

 

 

DNR/EPA CLEAN WATER ACT WORKPLAN AGREEMENT FAILS TO PREVENT MANURE SPILLS

2 Years Since Historic Clean Water Act Agreement And Still No Permits For Hog Factory Farms

 

Des Moines, IA.  In early August Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted its 2-year progress report of the precedent-setting Work Plan Agreement between the DNR and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to implement the Clean Water Act (CWA) for factory farms in Iowa. Iowa CCI is calling out the DNR for the lack of detail in the report about the outcome of DNR inspections and why no Clean Water Act permits have been issued.

Click here to view DNR’s 2015 Clean Water Act Annual Progress Report.

“This is an absolute disgrace.  We’ve been saying for 8 years that the DNR is failing to do its job to hold factory farms accountable for their pollution and sadly we’re proven right,” said Larry Ginter, CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “We’ve already had at least 17 manure spills this year.  If DNR was completing good inspections, you’d think the number of manure spills would go down significantly each year, but it doesn’t.”

The DNR agreed to assess twenty percent of Iowa’s 8,500+ factory farm facilities each year to determine which operations need permits.  The 2-year progress report states they have completed 41% over the past two years.

The DNR touts the number of inspections as a success but CCI members think otherwise.

“It’s not just about the quantity of inspections – it’s about the quality of inspections,”  said Ginter.  “Who cares how many you’ve completed if they don’t result in anything but more pollution?”

The Work Plan also required the DNR to “timely issue [Clean Water Act] permits that meet federal requirements to all CAFOs that DNR determines discharge to Waters of the U.S.”

According to DNR records, since the Work Plan was signed on September 11, 2013 there have been at least 99 documented manure spills in Iowa yet the DNR failed to issue a single Clean Water Act permit to any of the polluting hog factory farms.

Barb Lynch, DNR Chief of Field Services and Compliance was quoted saying ‘Since the majority of larger facilities in Iowa are confinements, with animals housed under a roof and state law requiring manure containment, most facilities we inspect do not have problems with manure runoff’.

However, water data collected from Iowa’s 2014 list of impaired waterways shows manure as one of the leading cause of impaired waterways in Iowa lakes and rivers.  CCI members say this and the fact the DNR has issued no CWA permits shows how the DNR continues to work for factory farm corporations by misleading the public about the cause of Iowa’s polluted waterways and not holding them accountable for the pollution they create.

Also, CWA permits aren’t just targeted at runoff problems, they are for any kind of pollution discharge leaving a facility.

“We see dozens of cases of factory farms with multiple manure spills,” said Barb Kalbach, 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.  “Any factory farm that has a discharge needs a CWA permit and needs to be held accountable, not just a slap on the wrist.”

Another demand of the DNR to meet the Clean Water Act Work Plan is “to implement enforcement program that ensures penalties are sought in accordance with DNR’s [Enforcement Management System] and creates a stronger deterrent to noncompliance”.

In the past 2 years, DNR has only issued 23 Administrative Orders and 1 Attorney General referral against factory farm polluters with manure spills or other violations.  That means out of the 99 polluters, 75 of them received no meaningful penalty for their manure spill.  CCI members believe that the lack of penalties sends a message to the industry that manure spills are just a cost of doing business.

DNR is also failing to meet the final Work Plan requirement, which is to keep the public informed of its Work Plan progress.  So far the Work Plan progress updates have been vague and contain very little real information. The annual report lacks detail about the outcome of inspections and why no Clean Water Act permits have been issued to a hog factory farm.

“The 2-year report lacks detail,” said Kalbach. “DNR provided no detail on the outcome of assessments and how they determined that a factory farm does not need a CWA permit. The DNR needs to take a presumption that every factory farm has a potential to discharge and therefore every factory farm has the duty to apply for a permit.”

“This Work Plan will only be successful if it leads to real oversight of factory farm pollution in Iowa. That means serious inspections, strong permits, and enforcement actions that ensure it doesn’t pay to pollute. DNR hasn’t shown that it takes permitting seriously, and EPA should step in and conduct independent investigations of Iowa manure spills,” said Jess Mazour, Farm & Environment Organizer at Iowa CCI.

CCI members are calling on the DNR to strengthen the Clean Water Act implementation with four demands:

  1. Issue a Clean Water Act Permit to every factory farm in Iowa.
  2. Complete quality on-site inspections that find problems and fix problems.
  3. Issue tough fines and penalties that deter future pollution.
  4. Create a transparent database of manure spills, inspections and details of specific factory farms.

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 800 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 725 polluted waterways.