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
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

LIKE and TWEET to stand against factory farms

Iowa DNR passes the buck again on clean water

In May, Iowa’s factory farm rules were opened up for a 5-year review. This was the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) and Environmental Protection Commission’s (EPC) opportunity to close loopholes within their factory farm permitting and enforcement authority.

DNR received 1,600 comments on the factory farm rules.  Roughly 90% of the comments supported strengthening the rules, but instead of listening to the people, the DNR continued business-as-usual and listened to the industry.

TAKE ACTION!  EPC to vote on DNR’s proposed rule changes on Tuesday, October 18. Click here.

This is our last chance to weigh in before the vote and demand DNR and EPC close the LLC loophole, hold factory farm corporations accountable, and protect our water. Join us at the CCI Office at 9 am Tuesday, October 18 to testify at the EPC meeting.

REGISTER NOW.

Iowans Demand Stronger Rules

The Iowa DNR says over and over again that “their hands are tied” and that improvements to water quality can only happen through legislation. We know that’s not true.

Here are three ways the EPC & DNR could improve water quality, but blatantly choose not to.

1. Close the LLC loophole

Again and again, we see unpermitted factory farms build one right next to another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from moving in next door are sick and tired of seeing factory farms build just one or two hogs under the permit threshold which allows them skirt around stronger permitting laws.  DNR has the ability through rulemaking to close this loophole —but is passing the buck to the legislature and choosing to do nothing.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “common area” so factory farms owned by the same person that spread manure on the same fields are considered one large factory farm.
  • Strengthen the definition of “common ownership” so multiple “small” unpermitted factory farms with the same owner(s) are considered one large factory farm, which must comply with manure management plans.

 2. Hold factory farm corporations accountable

Most factory farms in Iowa are operated as “contract growers,” meaning a local person owns the building and the manure, but a big ag corporation– like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc—own the hogs. Currently, when a violation occurs, only the “contact grower” is held responsible.  We think big ag corporations should be responsible for their own mess. The DNR acknowledges that this is possible through rulemaking, but hasn’t made this improvement.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “controlling interest” so corporate integrators like Prestage, Cargill, & Smithfield can be held liable for violations.
  • Strengthening the definition of “enforcement action” so fines or penalties can be issued to corporate integrators who actually own the hogs.

 3. Protect our water

Iowa is in a water crisis and mandatory manure regulations are one way we can clean it up.  DNR can strengthen manure management laws to make sure manure doesn’t runoff into our water but choose not to.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “public use area” in the permitting process to include a lake itself and tributaries of the lake, not just the dock or shelter areas.
  • Banning manure application on frozen/snow-covered/water-saturated ground and on karst terrain – no excuses!

Join us on Tuesday, Oct 18 to tell the EPC to strengthen the rules.  Click here to send a message to the EPC right now!

They Dump It, You Drink it, We Won’t Stop til they clean it up!

LIKE and SHARE to support the #cleanwaterfight

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.