Iowa DNR rejected Cerro Gordo Supervisors request to deny a construction permit for a 4,992 head facility proposed by River Edge Farms, LLC.  Cerro Gordo Supervisors are standing strong with the factory farm fighters  and have filed an appeal with the Environmental Protection Commission.  Click here for more details on the appeal.

Over 60 CCI members in attendance push supervisors to recommend DNR denial of 5,000 head factory farm proposal

Des Moines, IA – Members of the grassroots community organizing group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) and other community members celebrated a Cerro Gordo county supervisors’ vote Tuesday (8/16/16) recommending denial of a 5,000 head factory farm. The unanimous vote followed testimony that was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal.

“Today’s vote sends a strong message to this industry: Factory Farms aren’t welcome in North Central Iowa,” said Iowa CCI member Phyllis Willis of Fertile, IA. “We’ll continue to organize for clean air, clean water family farms, and healthy communities”

The move by Cerro Gordo supervisors follows the Mason City council vote to turn down a massive slaughterhouse by Prestage Fams, the nation’s 5th largest corporate hog producer, as well as at least eight other counties that have taken a stand against factory farm expansion in their county. This includes “No” votes in Allamakee, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Hardin, Webster, Dickinson, and Greene counties. Johnson County supervisors weighed in strongly against an under-permitted site in recent weeks.

“It’s great to see more county supervisors standing with their voters instead of corporate ag.” said Iowa CCI member and family farmer Larry Ginter from Rhodes, IA. “Factory farms have tried to paint themselves as good neighbors but they just aren’t. They have been destroying our communities’ air, water, and quality of life for the last 20 years.”

The vote in Cerro Gordo County comes just days before members of the statewide people-power organization will be voicing their opposition to a proposed $11 million corporate handout package to Prestage Farms at the Iowa Economic Development Agency (IEDA).

“This is typical of big business: come in and demand millions of dollars in incentives under the guise of creating jobs.” said Iowa CCI board president Cherie Mortice. “But we see through it for what it really is: a race to the bottom. We want our government to work for everyday folks, not big business.”

“All Prestage will really be bringing to Iowa is more factory farms, more pollution, and more costs to taxpayers to clean up their mess. We have too many factory farms already. We need a moratorium now.” added Mortice.

The meeting Thursday is open to the press and to the public. A summary of the proposed award can be found here.

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. Iowa CCI has been fighting to put people first for over 40 years.

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.

LIKE and TWEET to stand against factory farms



This morning Wright County Supervisors voted 3-0 to approve the Prestage Slaughterhouse proposal in spite of strong local and statewide opposition.  CCI members say now it is more important than ever to fight for a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms until Iowa has less than 100 polluted waterways.

“I’m not done fighting for clean air, clean water, strong communities, and for the independent family farmer.  The Supervisors’ decision makes me want to fight harder than ever to stop the expansion of corporate ag in our state,” said Kathy Schnell, Belmond resident and CCI member.

Iowans across the state have been organizing since March to stop Prestage, an out-of-state corporation and the nation’s 5th largest hog producer, from building a 22,000 kill per day slaughter house.

In May clean water fighters organized and successfully pressured the Mason City City Council to deny the use of public money for Prestage which ultimately shut down the project.  This victory in Mason City shows that opposition to this polluting industry is growing.

“We’re not against agriculture – we’re against corporate ag’s system that traps farmers in a cycle of debt. We’re against agribusiness that puts their private profits above our communities and above our environment.  We can do better.  It’s time for big corporations like Prestage, Iowa Select, Monsanto, and others to get out of Iowa,” said CCI member and organizer Erica Blair.

CCI members say public taxpayer money should not be used to prop up a system of agriculture that pollutes our state.

Blair continued, “We will continue this fight by pushing for mandatory regulations that protect our communities and environment and demanding that corporate ag pay to clean up the pollution they create – not the taxpayers.



Water pollution and manure spill data show that efforts to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act (CWA) for factory farms are failing to clean up Iowa’s waterways or hold the factory farm industry accountable.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) submitted its 3-year progress report for the precedent-setting Work Plan Agreement between the DNR and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 1, explaining what it has done to date to better implement the CWA for Iowa’s thousands of factory farms.

DNR continues to boast that it is successfully meeting the benchmarks required in the EPA/DNR Workplan, yet Iowa’s polluted waterways continue to grow.

Click here to view DNR’s 2016 Clean Water Act Annual Progress Report.

“Iowa is in a water crisis.  We have a record number of polluted waterways, closed beaches, toxic algae blooms, and cities and towns threatening to violate safe drinking water standards, all while DNR fails to hold this polluting industry accountable,” said Brenda Brink, CCI member from Huxley.

“Iowa already produces and spreads 22 billion gallons of untreated liquid manure on our land every year.  This industry is out of control and it’s time we regulate them or issue an immediate moratorium until there are fewer than 100 polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Brink.

The DNR/EPA Work Plan Agreement followed an EPA investigation report that found DNR was not effectively inspecting factory farms, failing to issue CWA permits to polluting operations, and taking inadequate enforcement actions that do not deter further illegal pollution. The Work Plan requires DNR to improve on all fronts.

After three years, DNR has assessed thousands of facilities for unpermitted pollution and has updated its permitting rules. But despite showing progress on paper, the number of polluted waterways in the state continues to grow, there have been 67 manure spills into waterways since 2012, and DNR has yet to issue a single CWA permit to a hog confinement that has illegally discharged. Instead of issuing permits, DNR is allowing violators to choose to “permanently remedy” the cause of their violation without getting a permit. The loophole has undermined the entire Work Plan process and called the quality of DNR’s inspections into question.

“Any factory farm that has a discharge needs to be held accountable through a Clean Water Act permit, not just a slap on the wrist.” said Barb Kalbach, 4th generation family farmer from Dexter.

The report also reveals that in the course of conducting the Work Plan’s required state-wide CAFO inventory, DNR has discovered more than 5,000 animal feeding operations—not accounted for in the Plan—that it will need to assess for unpermitted discharges to Iowa waterways. It plans to postpone these evaluations until after the Work Plan is concluded.

“Three years into the five-year Work Plan, DNR is just learning of thousands of facilities that may be contributing to the state’s widespread water pollution,” said Tarah Heinzen, Staff Attorney with Food & Water Watch. “If DNR is incapable of truly bringing the program into compliance within five years, we will expect EPA to take a more active role.”

Public records obtained by CCI further indicate that DNR is allowing some of the few factory farms with permits to “cancel” permit coverage, without so much as a DNR inspection of the facility to confirm it is no longer discharging first.

Public records also show DNR is changing its factory farm spill data entry practices to avoid public scrutiny, particularly from Iowa CCI.  The statement was located under the ‘Data Entry in HIS or FOCD for Manure Releases/Spills’ section of the FOIA, saying “Generally do not enter as an incoming report in FOCD (database) as that flags it for ICCI.”

“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 and enforcement seriously, and EPA should step in and conduct independent investigations of Iowa manure spills,” said Jess Mazour, Farm & Environment Organizer at Iowa CCI.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly 22 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. Water data collected from Iowa’s 2014 list of impaired waterways shows manure as a leading cause of impaired waterways in Iowa lakes and rivers.

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.

For more information, visit www.iowacci.org.

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 2

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here! 

We’re demanding DNR close corporate factory farm loopholes as part of the rule strengthening. Here are 3 examples of loopholes that must be closed.  


Should Iowa close the factory farm loopholes?People before polluters

  • LLC Loophole. We’re seeing 2,499 head factory farms build one right after another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from coming in next door are sick and tired of them building just one-or-two hogs under the permit threshold so they can skirt around permitting laws.  We think it’s time they close this LLC loophole and regulate them like any other factory farm that houses 2,500 hogs or more.
  • County Extensions.  Did you know that the factory farm applicant and Iowa DNR can ask for a 30 days extension on an application but the County Board of Supervisors cannot? Under Iowa law a notice about an incoming factory farm must be published in the local paper.  But, most neighbors don’t find out until it’s nearly too late to fight.  We believe that counties should be allowed extensions just like the developer and the DNR.
  • Commercial businesses. In 2012, Iowa DNR and Prestage Farms told CCI member JoAnn that her business wasn’t considered a “commercial enterprise” because it wasn’t open in the winter.  This meant the factory farm could build closer to her than if they ruled it was commercial enterprise.  This is Iowa – we have harsh winters.  Lots of Iowa businesses, like landscape companies, vacation resorts, and ice cream shops, close down in the winter. That doesn’t make them less of a business.  DNR needs to expand its definition of a commercial enterprise to make sure all of Iowa’s family-owned businesses are protected from factory farms.

These are just three ways we’re suggesting DNR close corporate loopholes to even the playing field for Iowans across the state.  We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here tell the Iowa DNR to close corporate factory farm loopholes by strengthening the factory farm rule!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

If you missed our last post about how we want to strengthen the rules click here.



Open letter written by Lisa Ketelsen to the Mason City City Councilors regarding the proposed Prestage slaughterhouse. More about this ongoing fight can be found here.


Yesterday morning I woke up exhausted and heartbroken. I was exhausted because I watched every second of the nearly seven-hour city council meeting that ended around 2am and heartbroken because it was Earth Day. Changes, it seems, are coming to this town. None of them are good for the Earth.


My husband and I moved here 8 years ago. We did not plan to stay here and certainly did not plan on falling in love with this community. But, we have. We love it here—the culture, the architecture, the neighborhoods, the kind people, the excellent schools and teachers, the fantastic medical care available, the stores and restaurants, the beautiful parks and nature trails, the river. Mason City is a good place to live.


For the past six years, I have taught writing and argumentation at NIACC. I am familiar with the three foundational pillars of a good argument and how to present a case to others and show them how and why you’re right and they’re wrong. I train students to use logical and emotional appeals to research and argue for what is true and right and good.


A lot of people in Mason City (and surrounding areas) do not want Prestage to come here. These people have come to the council with logic—the facts, the evidence, the historical proof that shows bringing Prestage here will damage our air, our water, our schools, our access to excellent medical care, our Earth, our town. We have used emotional appeals and spoke of the morality of the issue as well. At the last meeting, a woman, who has admitted to getting rich off of hog farming, stood before the council, crying, and pleaded to keep Prestage away. Parents, pastors, teachers, students, farmers, business owners, doctors, the people who think and breathe and move and exist within this community have come to the council with our ethos, too.


After logos (the logic) and pathos (the emotional appeals), ethos is the final segment of the argument trifecta. Ethos means credibility; it means why an individual is worth listening to. We have come to the council with our ethos. We are educated. We are invested. Several individuals the night before last shared they are fourth-generation inhabitants of this town. We have researched. We have collaborated. We have argued, and we have argued well. And yet, still, the council is not listening, which was the exact request of speaker after speaker: “Listen to your constituents.” One councilman, in his closing remarks, patronizingly retorted, “Listen, listen, listen … all we’ve done is listen.” I beg to differ. The council is hearing us, yes. However, you are still not listening to us. Hearing and listening are two quite different verbs. Look them up, please.


My understanding of the city council is that it’s a group of individuals who have promised to listen to and fairly represent those who elected them. I urge the council to do better. Many people gave the council specific requests at the last meeting. Answer the questions we typed out and handed to you. On May 3rd, instead of bringing in biased speakers who only present one side of the hog plant picture, have members of the council read our questions and then share the answers you have carefully sought for us. Prove to us how and why Prestage is good for our town. Give us the independently contracted environmental study we’ve demanded. Do your due diligence. Listen better. Represent those of us who are terrified and heartbroken over this proposal. Represent us better. Your votes are not representing us.


My oldest son started kindergarten this year, and I, with our younger two children beside me, have walked with him to school. Every single day of this school year so far—rain, shine, sleet, and blizzards—we walk. My husband is a teacher and coach here. He served on the Blue Zones committee and has dedicated much of his personal time (and our family time) to set up a community-wide running club to promote running, overall wellness, and an enjoyment of being and moving in nature.


I walk my son to school, because I believe in the importance of exercise as a lifestyle and because, quite frankly, Mason City is a beautiful place to walk. I grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa—a town similar to Mason City. My parents still live there. I witnessed, first-hand, how the hog processing plant there irrevocably harmed the community. Anyone who disagrees with me is either wrong or has a very different idea of what a thriving community looks like or both.


I do not want to walk my son to school in a town that reeks of hog rendering.
I do not want to play outside with my children in a town of compromised air quality.
I do not want to support and send my children to schools that are not thriving.
I do not want to own a home and spend money in a community that supports what Prestage is, does, and represents.


Yes, Iowa was built on farmers and agriculture. Every day, but especially around Earth Day, we should celebrate farmers—the stewards of the land, our land. Prestage is no such steward. Quite the opposite, I would argue. And, Mason City does not need Prestage to continue to be a beautiful place to exist.


Council Members, I ask you, I beg you, I implore you to listen to your constituents and to be faithful stewards of this most precious community.



Lisa Ketelsen


 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.


Water — think about it for a minute.

We drink it; we bathe in it. We cook with it; we swim in it. Literally, we can’t live without it.

We expect it to be clean. We need it to be clean. But what if it isn’t?

Factory farms are putting Iowa’s water at risk. At Iowa CCI we’re doing everything we can to keep our water clean – for us, for our kids, for our grandkids.

  • Each year, factory farm hogs in Iowa produce as much raw, untreated waste as 45 million people. That’s 15 x the population of Iowa!
  • It gets dumped on fields and ends up polluting the water we drink, swim in, fish in and enjoy.
  • 60% of Iowa’s tested waterways are polluted.

Industry is pushing for “voluntary compliance” of clean water measures. But we know voluntary doesn’t work. We need tough rules and regulations that crackdown on polluters.

There’s no other way to describe it: we have to fight for clean water. And the time is now.

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