Onslaught of new factory farm applications

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) in eight Iowa counties this week caught wind of at least 19 new pending factory farm applications submitted by Iowa Select.  Together, the new hog factories would add 87,430 more hogs to Iowa, which already has more hogs than any other state, which directly contribute to Iowa’s water quality crisis.

Join 700+ Iowans that have said no to Iowa Select’s proposals.  Click here to sign the petition and tell Jeff Hansen to withdraw his applications.

Iowa needs a break

According to Iowa State University’s Swine Manure Calculator, the 19 new CAFOs would generate an estimated 36.7 million gallons of manure each year – waste that operators dump untreated on nearby fields. Iowa CCI members calculated it to be enough manure to fill 55.6 Olympic-size swimming pools. The vast majority of applications are in counties surrounding the new Prestage slaughterhouse: Hamilton, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Humboldt, Franklin, Palo Alto, and Bremer counties.

“Enough is enough.  Iowa Select is trying to slip these applications under the radar at the end of the year as counties and environmental groups across the state are calling for a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms,” said Rita Andersen, CCI member from Woolstock.  “I’d rather see 19 new independent family farmers in my community than 19 big factory farms that will ruin my quality of life.”

Applications come as public calls for a moratorium

Iowa Select is Iowa’s largest pork producer and the 8th largest factory farm corporation in the country.  The agribusiness corporation also has a long violation history, including at least 150 manure or ammonia releases polluting air and water, according to DNR’s facility spill database.

“Iowa Select is abusing loopholes with the factory farms in my county,” said Stacy Hartmann, farmer in Dallas County and CCI member.  “They are building these factory farms 10 hogs under the threshold that would trigger more oversight and regulations. In Iowa, we’re good neighbors, and Iowa Select is not.”

CCI members warned of an onslaught of factory farms if the Prestage slaughterhouse was built in Iowa, given Iowa’s weak regulations and enforcement.  This is part of the reason why CCI, along with Food & Water Watch, petitioned the DNR to strengthen rules that would give community members more protections from factory farms. However, the Environmental Protection Commission failed to make these commonsense changes last month.

“I’m sure Jeff Hansen, President of Iowa Select, doesn’t want 19 factory farms in his gated community lined with mansions in West Des Moines.  Why does he think it’s ok to do that to rural Iowans?  He gets the profits and we get the pollution,” said Hartmann.

Enough is enough

CCI members already organized to stop two Iowa Select factory farms in 2017 – one in Wayne County and one in Clay County.

“We’re calling on Iowa DNR to extend the permitting period for these 19 sites to give community members and county supervisors at least 90 days to review this onslaught of factory farm proposals.  We need to tap the brakes,” said Erica Blair, organizer with Iowa CCI.

People impacted by the influx of Iowa Select factory farms or concerned about a factory farm in their community are invited to call the CCI office at 515-282-0484 to learn more about what action steps they can take to stop these factory farms from building.

 

Humboldt County

Texas Finisher Farm – #69650 – 5,000 head – decision due by 11/25

Webster County

Newark Finisher Farm – #69649 – 7,490 head – decision due by 11/21

Dunco Finisher Farm – #69648 – 5,000 head – decision due by 11/21

Carter Finisher Farm – #69647 – 5,000 head – decision due by 11/21

Bremer County

Lafayette Finisher Farm – #69645 – 5,000 head – decision due by 11/20

Franklin County

Hansell Finisher Farm – #69641 – 5,000 head – decision due by 11/20

Palo Alto County

Fairville Finisher Farm – #69637 – 7,490 head – decision due by 11/17

Wright County

Ladd Finisher Farm – #69636 – 5,000 head – due 11/17/17

Buchanan Finisher Farm – #69635 – 5,000 head – due 11/17/17

Hamilton County

Doolan Finisher Farm – #69634 – 7,490 head – due 11/17/17

Abbott Finisher Farm – #69633 – 5,000 head – due 11/16/17

Chase Finisher Farm – #69632 – 5,000 head – due 11/16/17

Stagecoach Finisher Farm – #69631—5,000 head – due 11/16/17

Greenfield Fox Finisher – #68545 – 5,000 head (expansion 2,510 head) – due by 11/06/17

Dallas County

Connolly Pork Finisher Farm – #69576 – 2,490 head – unpermitted

Pauley Finisher Farm – #69577 – 2,490 head – unpermitted

Charlie Pork Finisher Farm – #69574 – 2,490 head – unpermitted

Kent Finisher Farm – #69575 – 2,490 head – unpermitted

Gift Pork Finisher Farm – #69573 – 2,490 head – unpermitted

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
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The Environmental Protection Commission denies petition to strengthen the factory farm permitting process 


Videography courtesy Rodger Routh

Des Moines, IA – Today at its monthly meeting, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) voted before a packed crowd to deny a rulemaking petition filed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch to strengthen the master matrix – a tool in the factory farm permitting process. At the meeting, the commission received over 1,500 comments in support of the petition and nearly 100 Iowans showed up to tell the nine commissioners to strengthen the fifteen-year-old scoring system.

“I feel betrayed by the Environmental Protection Commission for voting against the people of Iowa today and deciding to do nothing to improve the factory farm permitting process,” said Rosie Partridge, CCI member from Sac County. “It is clear that the DNR and the EPC lack the political will to stand up to the factory farm industry and make these much-needed improvements for thousands of Iowans. Shame on them!”

Despite 17% of Iowa counties sending Letters of Support for the petition and/or passing resolutions that call for more protections from the factory farm industry, none of the eight commissioners present today voted to move forward with the rulemaking petition.

The denial was based on a recommendation by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the agency overseen by the EPC. Rather than responding comprehensively to the detailed petition, the DNR cherry-picked just a few proposals to justify denying the entire petition outright – even though the department could have given its own revisions and recommendations on the proposal.

“This vote against strengthening the master matrix is a vote for increasing Big Ag’s profits at the expense of Iowans’ health and environment. The DNR clearly lacks the political will to fix its broken regulations, but we will continue to fight for commonsense regulations to hold factory farms accountable and protect rural communities,” said Tarah Heinzen, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch.

The master matrix is supposed to provide a comprehensive review of environmental and community risks, allowing counties to recommend denial of facilities that will have harmful impacts. But the matrix developed by the DNR has proven so easy to pass that it has amounted to little more than a rubber stamp: Applicants only need to satisfy enough of the listed criteria to obtain 50 percent of the available points – an “F” by most standards. DNR records show that only 2.2 percent of applications have been denied since the master matrix was created in 2002.

The petition asked for:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more points to obtain a permit;
  • A one-time enrollment for counties, rather than the current burdensome requirement for counties to readopt the master matrix every single year;
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution;
  • New criteria that consider more environmental factors, such as unique topography and existing water pollution impairments;
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits; and
  • Increased separation distances from things like schools, homes, public use areas, wells, etc.

“My private well is a perfect example of why we need to strengthen the master matrix. In just three years, my well’s nitrate level has risen from 8 parts per million to 12, and this summer it tested at 19, almost double the federal safe drinking water standard,” said Janis Elliott, CCI member from Warren County. “Over 300,000 Iowans rely on private wells. How many of us are drinking poison?”

Meeting attendees vowed to continue pressuring the EPC, DNR, Governor Reynolds, and the Iowa Legislature to crack down on the factory farm industry and finally address Iowa’s growing water crisis. Following the EPC meeting, CCI members delivered letters to Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix, and Governor Reynolds putting them on notice to take action during the 2018 legislative session.

“We won’t stop fighting the corporate cronyism that pollutes Iowa’s water. Today was only the beginning,” said Nick Schutt, farmer and CCI member from Hardin County. “To fix the problem, we need to hold our elected officials accountable and make sure they stand with the people of Iowa. Governor Reynolds and Iowa legislators, we are putting you on notice. We will see you in January!”

The citizen letters demanded:

  • a moratorium on new and expanding factory farm construction;
  • local control over the siting of factory farms;
  • mandatory – not voluntary – regulations to clean up our water;
  • tough enforcement of existing regulations; and
  • a plan to make industrial ag pay to clean up the $5 billion pollution problem it has created.

“It’s clear – the master matrix is broken. In the face of more inaction by Iowa DNR, it is the duty of Iowa’s elected officials to stand with everyday people,” the letters read. “We need a farm and food system that works for farmers, workers, eaters and our environment  – not just industrial ag’s bottom line.”

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

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

 

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Last week, we learned that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is recommending denial of the formal rulemaking petition filed by Iowa CCI and Food & Water Watch to finally strengthen the Master Matrix.

While their recommendation comes as no surprise, we are disappointed and angry that the agency sworn to protect Iowa’s people and environment has chosen to pass the buck. Their decision to deny commonsense water protections signals that the DNR is not truly invested in making sure our communities are adequately protected from the factory farm industry.

We proposed a Master Matrix that is more than just an automatic pass. But it’s clear that DNR wants to ensure this tool remains a rubber stamp for corporate ag.

DNR cherry-picked just a few items in the petition to justify denying it outright, while ignoring everything else. And in their response, DNR completely failed to even mention that the factory farm industry has expanded exponentially since the Master Matrix was created 15 years ago and is a major contributor to Iowa’s water crisis.

Here’s our rebuttal to DNR’s weak excuses: 

  1. DNR says our proposed Master Matrix is not feasible for the industry to pass. We disagree. Our petition is feasible because it is “capable of being done or carried out” – which DNR even acknowledged in its review.
  2. DNR says we’re demanding too much by asking them to select appropriate separation distances. This excuse is unacceptable. Protecting our natural resources is their job.
  3. DNR says certain criteria in our proposal are “improper” – like taking into consideration an applicant’s violation history. Everything that we proposed in the petition is legally possible and justifiable.
  4. Even if DNR disagrees with certain items in our petition, that is no reason to deny it outright. Our proposal is a place to start – DNR could still move forward and offer their own alternatives.
  5. But, because they chose to deny it in whole, DNR is yet again passing the buck and losing out on an opportunity to make changes right now.

This doesn’t mean our fight is over! The ultimate decision rests with the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).

Join us on September 18 to tell the EPC to vote with the people and strengthen the Master Matrix. 

We need to show up strong to tell the DNR, EPC, Governor Kim Reynolds, and our state legislature that we’re sick and tired of the factory farm industry running roughshod over Iowa.

When: Monday, September 18 @ 9 AM
Where: Iowa State Capitol, Room 116 (1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines)
RSVP: Click here!

Learn more

 

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
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April 13, 2017

Last year, CCI members pored through hundreds of Manure Management Plans (MMPs) to expose how the factory farm industry “double dumps,” uses incorrect application rates, and gets away with it because the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t adequately enforce MMPs. You can read our findings here.

Now, because of your work, the DNR is beginning the process of putting MMPs online.

Right now, they’re changing administrative rules to transition to this online process. Join us at next week’s Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting to help us deliver comments!

What will online MMPs mean for you? Ideally, these records will be more accessible to everyday Iowans and searchable on the DNR’s website. But, we need to ensure that’s really what will happen.

The proposed rule changes are a baby step in the right direction – they only apply to the short MMP update form – but there are some key things that must be strengthened. DNR should:

  1. Set a timeline for getting all MMPs – not just the 1-pager – online and accessible to the public.
  2. Describe how the new system will work for both operators and everyday Iowans.
  3. Ensure that the same level of transparency will continue under the new system so that counties know when updated MMPs are available.
  4. Require that factory farmers provide a detailed list of each and every change that has been made since the previous MMP – not just a general overview.

Tell the DNR and EPC that we need stronger MMP rules. RSVP here.

What: Tell the DNR and EPC that MMP rules should be strengthened to work for everyday Iowans
When: Tuesday, April 18 at 9:15 AM
Where: Meet at the CCI office for a prep session (2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines) and then carpool to the EPC meeting (DNR Air Quality Building, 7900 Hickman Road, Windsor Heights)

Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
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Lots of us recreate on lakes with friends and family. For hours at a time, we boat, canoe and kayak. Needless to say, we congregate there.

But the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t see it that way.

In their recent revisions to factory farm rules, the DNR decided lakes are no longer considered a “public use area.” They erased the word “lakes” from the definition, meaning factory farms can build even closer to these precious water bodies.

Why would DNR do this, you ask?

As revealed by Iowa CCI’s Freedom of Information Act request, the change was made at the behest of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. That’s right: the very industry DNR is charged with regulating.

It’s clear as day that Gov. Branstad’s DNR isn’t working for the people of Iowa and certainly isn’t protecting our natural resources. All Iowans should be up in arms about this deliberate decision to weaken factory farm rules at the expense of our water and communities. The continual deregulation of this industry leaves us with no choice but to call for a moratorium on any new or expanding factory farms!

Published in the Marshalltown Times Republican.

Tuesday October 18th , the Department of Natural Resources and its Environmental Protection Commission had a chance to crackdown on factory farms and stand up for our people and planet– but they refused to…again.

EPC and DNR could have:

  • Closed corporate loopholes and protected our water. Instead, they took a step backwards and actually weakened the rules.
  • Listened to the Cerro Gordo Board of Supervisors and local community members and voted no on a new factory farm construction permit. Instead, they approved it.

DNR Director Chuck Gipp says changes must come through the legislature, but we know that’s not true. The DNR said multiple times – in its own report – that they have the authority to make improvements through rulemaking. They just refuse to do so.

That’s “business as usual” for our state leaders – putting the interests of corporate ag before people and planet. Infuriating, no doubt.

We can’t let this slide! Our water is too important!

As clean water continues to stay hot in the public debate, with talk of throwing tax payer dollars at the problem, we must continue to keep the pressure on and lift up our common sense solutions.

Can you write a letter to the editor to help us shift the narrative?

  • Call out the DNR and the EPC on their blatant inaction.
  • We need mandatory rules and regulations and tough enforcement, not voluntary compliance.
  • Make polluters pay to clean up their own messes, not taxpayers.
  • We need a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms now!

We want to get ten letters to the editor published in the next month. Email Erica at ericab@iowacci.org if you need assistance.

They dump it, you drink it. We won’t stop until they clean it up!

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.

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