Here at CCI, we’ve long known that the Department of Natural Resources is failing at its job of protecting Iowa’s lakes, rivers, and streams. We know that more and more factory farm manure is filling our waterways every year, in direct violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

Last summer, our decades-long fight for the DNR to enforce environmental protections got a huge boost when the federal Environmental Protection Agency concluded an investigation, prompted by a petition filed by CCI members, into the DNR’s factory farm inspection program.

The EPA report confirmed what CCI members have been saying all along: the DNR is not enforcing the Clean Water Act. Specifically, the EPA found that the DNR:

  • Has an inadequate factory farm inspection program
  • Frequently fails to respond to manure spills and other violations
  • Fails to assess adequate fines when it does respond to violations
  • Had setback and other requirements that did not meet federal minimums

And perhaps most importantly, they confirmed that the DNR fails to issue NPDES permits to factory farms. These permits are the way that the Clean Water Act is enforced — any potential polluter needs one, so state environmental authorities can ensure that the operation is not polluting above safe levels.

The EPA report was a huge victory — but unfortunately the follow-up hasn’t measured up. 

The EPA issued their report 1 year ago on July 12th. On September 11th, they released a workplan of steps the DNR needed to take to address the massive problems with their factory farm inspection and enforcement programs. The workplan was an agreement between the EPA and the DNR that the DNR would:

  • Initiate new rulemaking beginning November 1, 2012 to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act
  • Ask the state legislature for more funding to hire 13 new full-time field staff
  • Develop a plan to inspect every factory farm in the state of Iowa
  • Change their protocols to respond to all violations and issue adequate fines

This workplan would have been a big step towards cracking down on factory farm pollution in Iowa. But in keeping with their history of kowtowing to corporate ag, the DNR refused to sign this agreement.

And so the EPA issued another draft workplan in March of this year. This workplan was watered down in many crucial ways, pushing back all of the deadlines and changing the strong wording of the first workplan to ambiguous terminology. For instance, this draft gave the DNR until the end of 2018 just to inspect all large and medium factory farms in Iowa — only the first step towards issuing NPDES permits to those operations. Further, unlike the first workplan, it does not specifically state that the DNR must perform on-site inspections of all factory farms in Iowa, only “comprehensive surveys.”

But the DNR has still refused to sign even this weak agreement. It has now been almost a full year since the EPA published its report, and no action has been taken. That’s twelve more months of degradation to Iowa’s waters while the DNR stonewalls implementation of the Clean Water Act. Thankfully, CCI members are keeping the pressure on both the DNR and the EPA with our Summer of Clean Water campaign. It took us six years to get to this point — we’re not going anywhere until Iowa finally comes into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

To read the summary report of the DNR’s obstruction of Clean Water Act implementation, click here.

To read a timeline of Iowa’s failure to comply with the Clean Water Act, click here.

 

Join the Fight!

2013 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year in the fightback against factory farming. Already, we’ve seen the corporate ag industry push bad bills at the statehouse, setting our state up for another influx of corporate hog manure. We need your help in fighting back, and here are four easy ways you can join the fight:

Last week, Iowa CCI and Food and Water Watch teamed up to host Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, author, and lifelong activist for a tour across Iowa. Wenonah talked to Iowans across the state about her new book Foodopoly – and what we can do in Iowa to end the corporate control of our food system.

Wenonah’s tour made stops in Des Moines, Davenport, and Iowa City. In all, nearly 200 people were in attendance – at each stop, we saw many familiar faces, as well as new folks hoping to get involved.

In each city, Wenonah gave a game-changing account of how corporate power has come to control our food system – and what we can do to fight back.

Wenonah started with an overview of farm policy in America in the past decades, outlining how it’s resulted in the system we’ve got today. Wenonah goes on to explain that agriculture policy has been hijacked by corporate power, and as a result, we see consolidation at every level of the food system. From producers to sellers, independent farmers have been squeezed out of agriculture in favor of corporations like Cargill, Tyson, Kraft, and ConAgra.

Wenonah’s message to Iowans gets at the heart of what CCI stands for – we have to stand up and organize together to take on the corporate power controlling our food system. Voting with your fork is important, but it’s not enough to effect political and policy changes – we must organize politically, too.

At one of the tour stops, Wenonah said, “If there was a CCI in every state, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now.” Organizing is essential if we are to be successful in our fight for food justice.

The next step: join us at our annual CCI convention on Saturday, July 13th. Along with other powerful speakers, Director of Food and Water Justice at Food & Water Watch Michelle Merkel will be there to lead a workshop about the fight for clean water – and how our movement in Iowa can help shape policy at the national level, too.

For more information on CCI’s Bold Vision, Bold Action 2013 Statewide Convention, click here.

Join the Fight

 

A statewide clean water day of action brought two dozen people from eight counties to two events in Des Moines, IA on June 18th.

Two dozen members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) from eight different counties staged a direct action street protest inside the main office of the Iowa Pork Producers Association on June 18, just hours before the pork producers convened their quarterly board meeting.  Demonstrators chanted “put people first” and demanded the Iowa Pork Producers Association start standing up for clean air and water and stop lobbying to deregulate strong and effective public oversight of factory farms.

The day started at the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting where CCI members from Guthrie and Tama counties demanded the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deny construction permits for new factory farms proposed in their area.  A CCI staffer from Huxley, Iowa also read a letter from a Linn County CCI member fighting a factory farm near Center Point.

Some Des Moines-area CCI members also joined the statewide mobilization and spoke out about the unprecedented level of nitrates flowing down the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers, forcing Des Moines Water Works to turn on a $3.6 million nitrate-removal system that costs ratepayers $7,000 per day.  The system has been on for more than a month.

“Look at what we’re seeing out here,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and independent family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proved the DNR wasn’t doing its job and what has changed?  Hundreds of new factory farms are being built every year, water pollution has never been worse, floods and unpredictable weather events are proving just how unsustainable the factory farm model really is, and our state regulators are fiddling while Rome burns.”

Iowa CCI members demanded the DNR and EPC:

  • Stand with county governments and local-area residents that don’t want factory farm construction in their communities;
  • Deny factory farm construction permits for flawed plans in Guthrie and Tama counties;
  •  Sign the workplan with the EPA to inspect and permit all 8,000 factory farms across Iowa.

Iowa has more than 628 polluted waterways and 800 documented manure spills, according to DNR records.

 

Check out press on CCI’s Clean Water Day of Action –

 

 

Giant Factory Farm Proposal Near White Rock Conservatory in Raccoon River Watershed Draws Community Opposition

 Guthrie County CCI members directly impacted by proposal documented flaws in the Master Matrix application

 

The Guthrie County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 today to recommend that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deny a construction permit to a giant factory farm proposed by Brushy Creek Farms, LLC that would have been built near the impaired Brushy Creek, a tributary to the polluted Raccoon River, and two miles from the White Rock Conservatory.

Guthrie County-based members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) identified flaws in the permit application and Master Matrix that formed the basis for the county’s denial recommendation.  Iowa CCI is a statewide community action group that uses community organizing as a strategy to build grassroots power and win public policy that puts people first.

“I’m surrounded by 5,000 corporate hogs and this area is the only place left near me that I can ride my horses and still smell sweet air,” said Lori Nelson, a CCI member from Bayard, Iowa.  “These factory farms have forced me out of my own home and my own property and I’m here today to demand you stop them from pushing me out of my own county, too”.

The Iowa DNR has 30 days from receipt of the county’s letter to make a determination on the case.  If the DNR objects to the county’s recommendation, Guthrie county may appeal to the Environmental Protection Commission, a public oversight board stacked by Governor Branstad with factory farm insiders like Gene Ver Steeg and Brent Rastetter.

Earlier this week, Tama County recommended the DNR deny a factory farm owned by Iowa Regent President Bruce Rastetter.  Local Tama County-based CCI members led the campaign.  CCI members on the border of Story and Marshall county also convinced a local developer working with Cargill to cancel his plans to build a giant factory farm near State Center, Iowa.

Factory farm pollution in the Raccoon River has drawn statewide attention in recent weeks after Des Moines Water Works announced it had turned on a $3.6 million nitrate removal system because nitrate levels in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers were too high to meet federal standards.  The system costs $7,000 a day to run, a cost imposed on 500,000 customers in Central Iowa.

Iowa has more than 628 polluted waterways and 800 documented manure spills, according to DNR records.  The DNR has refused to sign a workplan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to begin inspecting and permitting Iowa’s 8,000 factory farms.

Tama County votes 3-0 to recommend that the DNR deny a construction permit for a giant factory farm owned by Iowa Regent President Bruce Rastetter

 

On June 10, the Tama County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to recommend that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) deny a giant factory farm proposed by Iowa Board of Regents president Bruce Rastetter’s corporation, Summit Farms, outside of Lincoln, Iowa.  If built, the factory farm would house 4,400 hogs and produce 1.1 million gallons of manure annually.

Neighborhood opposition to the site was led by local members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), a statewide citizen action group that uses community organizing as a strategy to build grassroots power and win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters.

The DNR now has 30 days to approve or reject the county’s recommendation.  If the DNR rejects the county’s position, Tama county may appeal the decision to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).  Bruce Rastetter’s brother, Brent Rastetter, serves on the EPC and owns a construction firm that was contracted to build this facility.

Over 100 of the 162 local residents of Lincoln have signed a petition opposing Rastetter’s proposal.

“Today Tama county stood on the side of people from my neighborhood and said no to factory farm pollution destroying our air, water, and quality of life,” said Dave McGowan, a CCI member from Gladbrook, one of the closest residents to the proposed factory farm.  “We call on DNR Director Chuck Gipp to put people first and deny the permit for this site.”

A Summit Farms representative testified during a county supervisors meeting that the hogs for the proposed factory farm would be owned by Smithfield, a giant meatpacker that has made international news in recent days after a Chinese corporation offered to buy the company.

Join the Fight!

2013 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year in the fightback against factory farming. Already, we’ve seen the corporate ag industry push bad bills at the statehouse, setting our state up for another influx of corporate hog manure. We need your help in fighting back, and here are four easy ways you can join the fight:

BREAKING: Following community pressure, a factory farmer near State Center has withdrawn his application to build a new 4,800-head, Cargill-backed site.

Two weeks ago, Story County residents received notification that the county had received an application to build a factory farm near State Center. Members of the community, already boxed in by several other factory farms, met with CCI staff to plan how to fight back. After a planning meeting, they met with Kevin Whitaker, the developer, to tell him the community didn’t wanted the corporate hog factory. They stood strong, citing health and environmental concerns — and their efforts paid off! Today, the day before a public hearing on the plan, Whitaker pulled his application.

This victory is the first that CCI has been involved in this summer, but this year is already shaping up to be another record-breaking building season for factory farms. Thanks to corporate ag control of the legislative process, the groundwork has been laid for yet another wave of corporate hog manure to hit our state.

But there is hope — today’s victory in State Center shows  the power of community pressure. The neighbor notice resolution that alerted community members was also the result of CCI members’ hard work — the county supervisors instituted it following the Hickory Grove fight last summer. All over the state, CCI members are leading their communities in standing up to the corporate model of agriculture that’s destroying our air, water, and quality of life.

Has there been a proposal to build a factory farm near you? Call CCI at 515-282-0484 today to find out how you can fight back.

 

 

Join the Fight!

2013 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year in the fightback against factory farming. Already, we’ve seen the corporate ag industry push bad bills at the statehouse, setting our state up for another influx of corporate hog manure. We need your help in fighting back, and here are four easy ways you can join the fight: