Center Point, Iowa –

CCI members spent the morning of June 17th preparing to weigh in at a public hearing demanding the Linn County supervisors block a factory farm near Center Point, IA.

Later that morning, over thirty community members packed the hearing express opposition to the plan. Citing threats to air and water quality, quality of life, and the local tax base, the residents of rural Linn County asked supervisors to once again oppose the plans of Matt Ditch and huge out-of-state corporation Maschhoff Pork to bring thousands of hogs and millions of gallons of feces into their community. June 17th’s public hearing comes one day before the supervisors make a decision on how to handle the application.

Last fall, the Linn County supervisors denied Ditch’s plans to build a similar hog factory, but the developer and his corporate backers submitted another application last month, claiming that a loophole meant they did not have to submit the public oversight document known as the Master Matrix.

Ditch and Maschhoff claim that they are merely expanding an existing confinement.  State law allows an existing confinement to expand beyond normal thresholds without a Master Matrix if the original facility was built before 2003.   However, the 300-head operation Ditch claims he is expanding has operated as an open feedlot, with access to the outdoors  and an unfinished roof, since 1996.  In addition, the original site is not owned by Matt Ditch, but by his father, Ken.

The new proposal will house up to 4,180 hogs, nearly double the normal threshold requiring a matrix score.

“Maschhoff attorneys are trying everything they can to sidestep the voice of the people of Linn County,” said Regina Behmlander, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) member who lives near the proposed factory farm, at the hearing. “They lost fair and square last year, they should have just given up these plans then.”

Supervisor Linda Langston echoed the concerns of the neighbors of the site. Speaking on the possibility that the manure would not be knifed into the ground properly, she pointed out that “sometimes fields are hard and cold and no one is looking,” meaning that untreated manure could run directly into local streams.

The Supervisors will meet again tomorrow at 9am at the Jean Oxley Public Service Center, 935 Second Street SW, Cedar Rapids, to issue a final decision on how to handle the Ditch application.

Guthrie and Tama counties both recommended the DNR deny similar factory farm construction last week after local Iowa CCI members mobilized community opposition to the proposals.

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.


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:

Governor Branstad appointed Bob Sinclair and Gene Ver Steeg, both with deep roots in corporate ag,  to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). There is still one open spot on the EPC that has not been filled.

The EPC is the citizen oversight board of the Iowa Department of National Resources (DNR) and is charged with overseeing DNR decisions, rulemaking and factory farm applications, permits and violations.

Gene Ver Steeg raises about 20,000 corporate hogs per year on 4 factory farms in Northwest Iowa, is the former president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and former EPC member from 2008-2011.  He is quoted by the Wall Street Journal saying that implementing the Clean Water Act in Iowa is a waste of money. 

Bob Sinclair is a former employee of Cargill and currently owns a tractor dealership outside of Sigourney, Iowa. 

The EPC now consists of 8 members with the following ties to the factory farm industry:

  •  Bob Sinclair – Former president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and factory farmer
  • Gene Ver Steeg – Former Cargill employee
  • Brent Rastetter – Owner of Quality Ag, factory farm construction
  • Mary Boote – Former agriculture advisor to Governor Branstad
  • Nancy Couser – Owner of Couser Cattle Company
  • Cindy Greiman – Factory farm owner, sales associate for Monsanto & member of the Iowa Beef Board
  • Max Smith – Board Member and President of Agribusiness Association of Iowa & General Manager of Smith Fertilizer and Grain
  • Joanne Stockdale – Owner and President of Northern Iowa Die Casting
CCI members regularly attend EPC meetings for clean water issues like the ABI rule and the ban on manure application on soybeans.  This summer we will be engaging the EPC again when the DNR begins the rulemaking stage of the Federal Clean Water Act.
This is why we know that elections are important.


We need elected and appointed officials that work for the people, not corporations.  As we gear up for the summer of clean water we will continue to hold Govorner Branstad and the Iowa EPC accountable to work for The People, not their personal business interests. 

At the annual CCI convention there will be an in depth workshop on our work with the Environmental Protection Agency, the DNR and the Clean Water Act.  Join us on Saturday, July 13th to learn more about how we hold polluters, elected and appointed officials accountable.

Meeting will focus on community, legal objections to proposed Maschhoff Pork factory farm


Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members from Linn County will meet with top officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Center Point Tuesday night to press their demands that a construction permit for a giant factory farm near Center Point be denied.

The meeting will be held at the Center Point Public Library at 7pm Tuesday night.

“Matt Ditch and Maschhoff Pork’s proposal does not meet the legal requirements for a construction permit and the DNR must stand up, do their job to protect the environment from factory farm polluters, and deny the construction permit for this bad proposal,” said Regina Behmlander, a CCI member from Center Point who has helped galvanize community opposition to the proposal.

See also:

Linn County CCI Wins First Step Victory

Linn County Factory Farm Fight Heats Up

Calling Linn County Factory Farm Fighters

Join the fight

Click LIKE and TWEET to share with friends and family in Linn Co.

CCI members to push EPC, EPA to crack down on factory farm pollution

The fight for clean water and a more democratic society that puts people before profits, politics, and polluters heats up this week with two high-profile public hearings with state and federal environmental regulators.

On Tuesday morning at 10am at 7900 Hickman Road, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR’s) Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) will vote on a proposal to ban the application of liquid manure on fields going into soybeans – a bad environmental practice that can lead directly to more runoff and more water pollution with no increase in crop yields.

“I’m a corn and soybean farmer and putting manure on ground going to soybeans is ridiculous,” said George Naylor, an independent family farmer and CCI member from Churdan, Iowa.  “Beans won’t use the nitrogen so it will enter the surface and ground water.  If manure was applied the year before corn, there will be plenty of phosphorus and other nutrients for a soybean crop already in the soil.  We need to ban the application of liquid manure on ground going into soybeans.”

On Thursday, Karl Brooks, the Region 7 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will meet with Iowa CCI members and our allies the Environmental Integrity Project and the Iowa Sierra Club to discuss a new DNR factory farm enforcement work plan.  The meeting will begin at 7:00pm at the State Historical Building, 600 East Locust Street.

“The bottom line is, every factory farm in Iowa needs a Clean Water Act permit that is strictly enforced with tough fines and penalties for violators, and there is very little in the DNR’s response that shows they are serious about cracking down on this kind of corporate pollution,” said Barb Kalbach, a fourth generation family farmer and Iowa CCI member from Dexter, Iowa.

One notable aspect of the new DNR work plan is its admission that DNR field staff is woefully underfunded and needs more resources from the state legislature in order to fulfill its obligations under the federal Clean Water Act.

The September 11 DNR work plan was mandated by a July EPA report that itself was a response to a nearly five-year-old petition by Iowa CCI members, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa Sierra Club, which alleged widespread failures to regulate illegal factory farm discharges.  The de-delegation petition asked EPA to withdraw Iowa’s authority to run the state’s Clean Water Act permitting program.

The petition noted that despite hundreds of illegal manure spills from hog factories in Iowa, no confinements in the state have Clean Water Act permits required of all dischargers.

Iowa CCI members say the new request for funding could be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes on out-of-state corporations doing business in Iowa – so-called “combined corporate reporting” – and by zoning factory farms as commercial or industrial properties rather than agricultural.

Iowa has more than 572 polluted waterways, and there have been more than 800 manure spills in the last 15 years, according to DNR records.

A 2007 study by the Iowa Policy Project stated that factory farm manure “may be the largest agricultural polluter of Iowa’s streams and lakes”.

58% of Iowans say “we need stronger laws to stop factory farms from polluting our air and water,” according to an April 24-26 telephone poll of 633 active voters conducted by Public Policy Polling.

What were you doing five years ago?

Gearing up to get in the fields to take out crops? Enjoying the start of fall football? Reading up on how we could be facing a huge banking collapse that could wreck the global economy?

It’s hard to remember back five years, but I remember one thing you did:

Five years ago, Iowa CCI members pushed the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) to consider a rule to ban the application of liquid manure on beans.

It was a good rule and an important and easy step to prevent manure in our waterways. Even our opponents had to agree that science was on our side. But, the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) and EPC didn’t want to act too fast so they implemented a reduction in the application rate of liquid manure from factory farms onto bean ground, with the promise of coming back in five years to look at more science and public comment before making a final decision on the ban.

It’s five years later. The EPC will be considering the full ban at tomorrow’s meeting.

Can you take three minutes right now to remind the EPC how important this rule is?


Five years later and the studies still say the same thing: Applying manure onto bean ground is a bad idea.

  • It doesn’t make sense agronomically. Soybeans are nitrogen-fixing plants, which means that they can obtain their nitrogen (n) from the air rather than the soil. Because of this trait, soybeans show little or no yield response to applied n. Applying manure or fertilizers reduces the ability of legumes to fix nitrogen, thereby shutting down nature’s own non-polluting “fertilizer plant.”  In the past, DNR staff has said that manure should not be applied to a crop that has the ability to fix its own nitrogen. Clearly, applying manure to ground going into soybeans does not make sense agronomically.
  • It doesn’t make sense economically. Applying manure to fields that are being planted into soybeans is a waste.  Manure contains valuable plant nutrients; however, when applied to legumes such as soybeans, the n component is being wasted. It makes far more economic sense to apply manure to a crop such as corn that responds to applied nitrogen. Manure is being treated as a waste rather than a nutrient when applied to soybeans. Applying manure to land going into soybeans is a waste of natural fertilizer and doesn’t make sense economically.
  • Most importantly, it doesn’t make sense environmentallyData shows that applying manure to soybeans can increase the likelihood of nitrate runoff into Iowa’s streams and rivers.  Nitrogen, a potentially valuable nutrient, becomes a pollutant when excess nitrates flow into our waters.  Iowa already has some of the dirtiest water in the nation, with over 572 on polluted waterways.  Factory farms should not be allowed to apply manure in a way that threatens Iowa’s water quality.

That’s why we are urging the EPC to vote for a ban on the application of manure to fields that are intended for soybeans.  We need sensible practices to clean up Iowa’s endangered waters.  This ban is a step in the right direction and should be followed up with enforceable rules.

 Take action today!

  • Attend the EPC meeting tomorrow to make public comment. Tuesday, October 23 a team of CCI members will meet at the CCI office at 9:30. We’ll head to the EPC meeting together to make public comment and tell them to vote the right way. Public comment is at 10:30. Contact us if you can join us.

Thanks for all you do. We’ll give you a report back soon.


Click LIKE and TWEET if you think applying manure onto bean ground is a bad idea.

DNR Director Chuck Gipp Should Be Explaining His Agency’s New Enforcement Proposals To The Public, Not Defending A Flawed Commitment to Voluntary Compliance

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Chuck Gipp released a public statement to coincide with his agency’s response to a July 11 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) critical of the state’s factory farm enforcement program.

The DNR was given a mandatory 60-day window by federal authorities to respond to the EPA report and the DNR issued their response on September 11.

But rather than explain the new proposals and promises included in the DNR reply to the people of Iowa, Gipp’s defensive public statement attempts to position his agency in a positive light by defending a series of reforms the DNR only undertook because Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Iowa Sierra Club filed a de-delegation petition in 2007 and in 2011 threatened to sue the EPA if they did not act to bring the Iowa DNR into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

Gipp’s media statement also seems designed to reassure Iowa’s corporate ag industry that the agency’s priority will continue to be compliance, not enforcement.

However, the DNR’s new work plan released September 11 is notable for a number of new proposals and promises, including:

  • New rulemaking beginning November 1, 2012 to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act,
  • Asking the state legislature for a significant funding increase in order to hire 13 new full-time factory farm field staff,
  • Developing a plan to inspect every factory farm in the state of Iowa, and
  • Changing other protocols and procedures to bring Iowa’s program up to par with federal standards.

“You wouldn’t know it by Mr. Gipp’s public spin, but the DNR is actually promising some pretty big things that are going to have a big impact on Iowa’s corporate factory farm industry,” said Lori Nelson, the CCI Board President from Bayard, Iowa.  “Iowa CCI members will believe it when we see it.  We know from past experience that the DNR only stands up to the industry and does its job to protect our air and water quality when they are forced to do so by grassroots people power.”

The July EPA report found that critical elements of Iowa’s program to regulate water pollution from factory farms fail to meet minimum federal requirements.  EPA called on DNR to improve its permitting, inspections, and penalties to comply fully with the federal Clean Water Act.

Iowa currently does not have regulations in place to issue permits to hog factories and other factory farms that illegally discharge pollution into rivers and streams, and EPA further found that DNR does not even have a system in place to identify those facilities that are polluting and require permits.

The EPA report was a response to a nearly five-year-old petition by Iowa CCI, Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club, which alleged widespread failures to regulate illegal factory farm discharges and asked EPA to withdraw Iowa’s authority to run the state’s Clean Water Act permitting program.

The petition noted that despite hundreds of illegal manure spills from hog factories in Iowa, no confinements in the state have Clean Water Act permits required of all dischargers.  EPA required DNR to respond to its report by September 11 with a proposed work plan and timeline to bring Iowa’s program up to par.



Read more:

> Read our full take on the DNRs response

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