If you’ve driven around Iowa, you may have noticed row after row of long metal buildings. These are factory farms run by giant corporations like Cargill, Smithfield, and Tyson Foods.
A land that was once populated by thousands of independent family farms, is now populated with over 10,000 factory farms — operations that pack thousands of animals into one building in order to maximize profits for Big Ag.
While these profits look good in a spreadsheet, they come with a horrific cost to our communities.
These factory farms create over 22 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure that is dumped untreated onto farm fields across the state, increasing nitrogen and phosphorus levels in our waters. Now Iowa has some of the most polluted water in the country, with over 760 impaired waterways, tens of thousands of contaminated wells, and an almost 50% contribution to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Pollution that everyday Iowans are forced to foot the bill to clean up. Despite this, the state and factory farm industry have continued to advocate for the current voluntary nutrient reduction strategy.
Our 3-Prong Strategy
To address factory farm and environmental issues and stand up for clean air, water, family farmers, and a decent quality of life for everyday Iowans, the Farm & Environment team centers our work around these three strategies.
Engage in local organizing campaigns to stand up for clean air and water, and slow down factory farms from building and expanding. This helps us get local people involved and active and keeps pressure on the Iowa DNR, state policymakers, and factory farm owners/developers.
Push for stronger statewide enforcement of existing laws and regulations. Together we can ensure that stiffer fines and penalties are being issued and Clean Water Act inspections and permits are being given by the Iowa DNR.
Push for stronger statewide policies, rules, and regulations. We do this be organizing for local control, stronger permitting standards, stronger water and air quality standards, fairer tax policies so factory farms pay their fair share, increased separation distances to protect our communities, and a mandatory strategy to clean up our water (versus the failed voluntary program we currently have).
Want to learn more about how you can get involved? Are you concerned about water quality? Is there a factory farm trying to build in your community and you want help fighting back? We can help! Contact us at email@example.com.
Clean Water Lawsuit
The Public Trust Doctrine guarantees the public’s right to use and enjoy navigable waters. Iowans have a right to clean water and, under this Doctrine, the state has a duty to protect that right but they have failed time and time again. Instead of providing mandatory measures, the state continues to push for a voluntary nutrient reduction strategy (NRS) which has resulted in the clean water crisis Iowa has today.
We need a mandatory nutrient reduction strategy that incentivizes farmers to implement a variety of practices that work for them and, requires polluters, not Iowa taxpayers, to clean up this mess.
The Raccoon River alone is the source of recreation and drinking water for over 500,000 Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, the largest utility in Iowa, has one of the most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world because the utility has struggled to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines residents and other utilities who buy their water.
This lawsuit is a wake up call to force the state to act, and now we are taking our case to the Iowa Supreme Court. Stay tuned for updates on our lawsuit and clean water work.
Our moratorium campaign works to stop the exploitative system of corporate ag and the factory farm industry through local campaigns, fighting for tougher enforcement, and better policies. There is growing support in Iowa for a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms. A 2019 poll of voting Iowans showed 63% support a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms. And 1 in 4 Iowa counties have passed resolutions calling on the state legislature to take action for a moratorium and stronger protections from the factory farm industry.
Iowans— across party lines—want good paying jobs, clean water and air, and vibrant communities. They don’t want polluting hog factories with a limited number of low paying jobs, with profits going to giant corporations. Factory farms are out of control in Iowa and the industry continues to expand at an alarming rate. State leaders need to put people and the planet before corporate profits, politics and polluters. This is why we need a moratorium.
Are you interested in passing a moratorium resolution in your county? Has a factory farm application come through and you want to organize your community to stop it? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ways To Take Action
Public Money for the Public Good Campaign
Public money should be used for the public good — invested in people and communities, not corporations. But recently Smithfield Foods hijacked $10 million of our public dollars for a manure-to-energy scheme. That ain’t right.
and time again factory farms are allowed to build too close to major water
sources like the Raccoon River. Pair that with zero accountability for manure
spills like this one and it’s a recipe for disaster. We need stronger laws and
regulations to mitigate this issue, otherwise it will be people downstream that
keep paying the price to clean up the mess,” said Linda Luhring, member of Iowa
CCI from Calhoun county, just south of the maure spill.
far this year, 9 factory farms have discharged liquid manure and raw feces, 4
of which reached Iowa’s 767 already impaired waterways. In the last 5 years,
over 100 manure spills have polluted Iowa’s waterways. This doesn’t take into
consideration the over 22 billion gallons of liquid manure from Iowa’s over
10,000 factory farms that is dumped untreated every year onto fields across the
state resulting in double, and sometimes triple, the amount of nitrates
being applied to farm fields.
Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed a clean
water lawsuit against the State of Iowa early last year after failures by the
Legislature and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds to take Iowa’s water pollution
crisis seriously. The groups’ lawsuit alleges that the state has violated
its obligation under the Public Trust Doctrine to protect the Raccoon River for
the use and benefit of all Iowans by failing to limit the pollution running off
industrial agriculture operations into the state’s waterways.
Raccoon River runs through one of the most intensely farmed areas in the United
States. If the state’s failed nutrient reduction strategy remains voluntary and
we continue allowing the factory farm industry to expand, Iowa’s water crisis
isn’t going to improve. Manure spills that have polluted our waters, like this
one, are why we are suing the state,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at
Iowa CCI. “We know that our water isn’t going to clean itself up, which is why
we need mandatory and measurable strategies to ensure the future of our water
is safe – for us and every generation after us.
Raccoon River is the source of drinking water for some 500,000 Iowans.
Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, has one of the
largest and most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world. The utility’s
struggle to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines metro residents was
documented in its 2015 lawsuit against upstream counties alleging that their
failure to regulate tile drains led to excessive amounts of dangerous nitrates
in the utility’s Raccoon River source water.
bill to establish a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms was introduced
in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives during the 2019-2020
Legislative Sessions. Despite growing concern from citizens and an increasing
number of legislative sponsors, leadership in the Iowa General Assembly refused
to allow the bill to even be debated in subcommittee.
lawsuit is a response to Iowa’s failed leadership,
which has allowed the agribusiness industry to degrade Iowa’s waterways,
leaving citizens with the burden of pollution and the cost of cleanup
efforts. The suit seeks actionable, mandatory solutions that will restore
the Racoon River and make it safe for people to recreate in and for those who
rely on it for drinking water.
The case is currently pending an interlocutory appeal granted by
the Iowa Supreme Court. The appeal will likely be heard by the Iowa Supreme
Court coming up in the fall of 2020.
Local, State, and National Groups Unite in Support of Immediate Moratorium on Factory Farms Amid Covid-19 Crisis
“Iowa has over 10,000 factory farms. Factory farms are a known public health hazard, causing a variety of health problems including respiratory issues especially for vulnerable populations. This is such a public health concern that the American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium. In the midst of a global health pandemic Iowans are overwhelmed with public safety and health. We should not have to worry about a factory farm moving in further threatening our public health during and beyond this crisis.”
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has rolled back environmental and health protections by allowing factory farms to cram extra animals into confinement buildings and suspending fines for environmental violations.
Additionally, despite DNR offices closing and limited activities being switched to virtual teleconference, permitting for factory farm construction is continuing. County boards of supervisors are being forced to determine how they will proceed with public comment.
“In the past, Reynolds and her administration have fought calls for local control and a moratorium at all cost in order to carry out the factory farm industry’s agenda. But now, during a global health pandemic, Reynolds and the DNR have pushed the responsibility onto each county regarding how they will handle public comment on factory farm applications,” said Louise Minor, CCI Member from West Des Moines, IA.
“The effects of the COVID-19 are and will continue to impact Iowans beyond even the immediate crisis we are facing. We are demanding that Governor Reynolds stand with the interests of everyday Iowans by protecting our public health, our right to clean water and our ability to participate in the democratic process by implementing an immediate 6-month moratorium on factory farms,” said Ava Auen-Ryan, Iowa CCI community organizer.
Iowa CCI members site growing support for a factory farm moratorium. A 2019 poll of voting Iowans showed 63% support a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms. One in four Iowa counties have passed resolutions calling on the state legislature to take action for a moratorium and stronger protections from the factory farm industry. In 2019, Iowa CCI along with Food & Water Watch and Public Justice, filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa for their failure to address the impact of corporate agriculture and the factory farm industry on Iowa’s water crisis.
CCI members point to the growing in-state and national momentum ahead of the 2020 legislative session
For Immediate release: 12/17/19
Des Moines, IA – Yesterday Senator Booker (D-NJ) introduced a national factory farm moratorium. The Farm System Reform Act of 2019 would put a halt on all new or expanding factory farms amongst other policies to create a level playing field for independent family farmers.
of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) say that this is the solution
needed in Iowa to restore vibrant rural communities and clean up the state’s
factory farm industry extracts profits from our rural communities and leaves us
to deal with the pollution,” said Barb Kalbach a CCI member and 4th
generation family farmer from Adair county. “We have over
10,000 factory farms in Iowa, a moratorium is the only solution that matches
the scale of the crisis.”
CCI points to the growing grassroots support for a moratorium across the state.
With over 6,000 Iowans signing a petition calling for a moratorium, and 26 counties
passing a resolution calling for a moratorium and/or stronger regulations on
across the state, rural and urban alike, understand that the factory farm
industry isn’t working for us,” said Brenda Brink a CCI member from rural Story
county. “It is time for our state legislators to respond to our
needs, not corporate ag interests. That means passing a moratorium at the state
response to the inaction of the Governor and legislature, Iowa CCI, along with
Food & Water Watch and Public Justice have filed a lawsuit against the
state of Iowa. This lawsuit addresses their failure to address the impact of
corporate ag and the factory farm industry on Iowa’s water crisis. Iowa’s 767
impaired waterways prevent Iowans from fishing, swimming in and kayaking on
state rivers and also results in higher drinking water costs.
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.
In 2016 the Prestage slaughterhouse received $24.3 million public dollars in subsidies to build in Eagle Grove. That’s money that could have been used for public schools, hospitals, and rural infrastructure.
But that’s not the first time this slaughterhouse tried to hijack our public coffers. Before building in Eagle Grove, Prestage Foods attempted to build in Mason City. CCI members and clean water fighters successfully organized and pressured the Mason City City Council to deny the use of public money for Prestage shutting the project down.
After its loss in Mason City the Prestage slaughterhouse proposed a site in Eagle Grove. Despite strong local and statewide opposition, the Wright County board of supervisors approved the slaughterhouse proposal 3-0.
That is when Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IED) gave the Prestage slaughterhouse $24.3 million in “incentives”. In exchange for our money, Prestage promised to create 332 “high quality” jobs that pay at least $15.54/hour with some benefits.
A review process for Prestage began in August of 2019. We want to know will the IED hold Prestage accountable with our money?
CCI leaders from North Central tried setting up a meeting with Debi Durham (Director of the IED). After two months of “scheduling” the IED agreed to a meeting only to cancel two days before.
Now, they are trying to push our meeting off another two months.
If Prestage hasn’t fulfilled their promises, they need to pay that money back!
We know the true impact corporate ag has had on rural economies. Town squares with bordered up shops, fewer and fewer job opportunities, and hospitals that no longer deliver babies.
We can’t, and never have been able to afford the cost of propping up the factory farm industry. Join us in demanding that Durham meet with CCI members and hold Prestage accountable for our public dollars.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) finally released the Impaired Waterways List and the public comment period is officially open. Submit your comment by December 28.
Did you know?
This report is supposed to be released on April 1 of even numbered years according to federal Clean Water Act requirements. Yet, the DNR released it more than 19 months late.
Of the over 1,400 segments from streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands that the DNR investigated:
Only 363 segments fully met Iowa’s water quality standards
767 segments are impaired
523 segments are still in need of further investigation
The DNR has no timeline to finish the investigations that need to be done. With the status of over 500 segments unknown, there is a possibility that over 90% of the segments are impaired.
This confirms what Iowa CCI members have been saying all along: the state of Iowa is failing to protect Iowa’s waterways.
Despite this, the supervisor of the DNR water monitoring and assessment program, Roger Bruner, described the number of impairments as “fairly minor” and claimed the list is “like going to the doctor and finding out you have high cholesterol”.
Clean water is a basic human right! And, downplaying the severity of over half our waterbodies being impaired is a gross misrepresentation of the clean water crisis we are in.
What do I want for Christmas this year? CLEAN WATER!