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

Join the fight

The DNR is promising a lot of big things, but we know from past experience that the DNR only acts when they are forced to by outside pressure – by people like you.

 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  issued a formal response yesterday to a July investigative report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was highly critical of DNR’s factory farm enforcement program for:

  • Failing to issue permits to factory farms when required,
  • Not having an adequate factory farm inspection program,
  • Frequently failing to act in response to manure spills and other environmental violations,
  • Not assessing adequate fines and penalties when violations occur, and
  • State setback distances for manure application not meeting  federal requirements.

In their response, which you can read here, the DNR promised to:

  • 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, and
  • Change other protocols and procedures to bring Iowa’s program up to par with federal standards.

The DNR’s reply is a major victory for Iowa CCI members like you and our allies at the Environmental Integrity Project and the Iowa Sierra Club who have been pushing this issue for years.  But the proof is going to be in the pudding.

The DNR is promising a lot of big things, but we know from past experience that the DNR only acts when they are forced to by outside pressure – by people like you.

And all the new rules in the world won’t mean much if the DNR lacks the will – and the money – to enforce the law.

For now, take stock in the fact that all your hard work is paying off.  You are making a big difference on the issues that matter most.  But we can’t afford to lay back on our laurels and wait for change to just come to us.  We have to continue to be engaged in the public discussion moving forward if we want our vision of a more just and democratic Iowa that puts people first to be realized.

Here are three upcoming opportunities for you to take a stand for clean air and clean water:

  • Tuesday, September 18 – speakout at the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) against industry attempts to end a 5-year ban on spreading liquid manure on soybeans and reduce fees for groundwater permit applications by factory farms.  9am-noon.  Meet at the CCI statewide headquarters, 2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines at 9am and we will carpool to the EPC meeting at 10am.  Public comment starts at 10:30am.
  • Tuesday, October 16 – speakout at the EPC meeting against attempts by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry to gut factory farm enforcement rules.  9am-noon.
  • Thursday, October 18 – CCI meeting with Karl Brooks, Region 7 Administrator, U.S. EPA. Iowa State Historical Society Museum, Des Moines.  6:30pm-9pm.

 

Read more:

> Read DNR Director Gipp’s response

Join the fight

 

Six CCI members from across the state met with Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Chuck Gipp recently to demand that the DNR stand up for clean air and clean water and crack down on factory farm polluters.

Barb Kalbach, Adair County; Joyce Otto, JoAnn Speas, and Jim Yungclas, Poweshiek County; Cherie Mortice, Polk County; and Evan Burger, Story County all attended the meeting, told personal stories about how factory farm pollution has impacted their lives, and demanded Gipp and the DNR do their job and stop kowtowing to the corporate ag lobby.

The statewide meeting with the top environmental regulator in Iowa came on the heels of a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won by more than 5 years of CCI organizing in coalition with the Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club.  On July 12, the EPA issued a report stating that the DNR:

• Failed to issue permits to factory farms when required.

• Does not have an adequate factory farm inspection program.

• Frequently fails to act in response to manure spills and other environmental violations.

• Does not assess adequate fines and penalties when violations occur.

Iowa CCI members told Gipp to throw out a bad rule proposed by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) to gut environmental enforcement and instead pass strong rules to implement the federal Clean Water Act.

Iowa CCI members also had a conference call with top EPA officials from the Region 7 office in Kansas City, Kansas to discuss the EPA report and what DNR needs to do to move the state into compliance with federal law.

“We need stronger laws, tougher enforcement, and a fully-funded DNR,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member and family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa.  “It’s time to move away from the failed corporate policies of deregulation and privatization.”

Iowa CCI members have led a statewide fight-back by everyday people and have mobilized dozens of Iowans from across the state to speak out at public DNR hearings in Carroll, Des Moines, Iowa City, and Mason City in recent weeks.  Iowa CCI members have submitted more than 700 comments to the DNR opposing the bad rule. Click here to email a comment on this rule to the DNR.

Factory farm construction has skyrocketed across Iowa this year, and CCI members across the state are leading the fightback with 40 campaigns in 27 counties.  Iowa CCI members have successfully stopped eight factory farms from being constructed in six different counties this year.

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

57% of Iowans say “we need stronger laws to stop factory farms from polluting our air and water,” according to a July 18-21 telephone poll of 539 active voters conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Ten members of Iowa Citizens of Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) attended a Department of Natural Resource (DNR) public hearing Tuesday in Carroll to demand that the DNR stand up for clean air and water and crack down on factory farm polluters.

The DNR has an open public comment period until August 16 to consider a proposed rule by the largest corporate lobby group in the state, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI).  ABI’s proposed rule, if passed, will gut enforcement of Iowa’s environmental laws and weaken DNR’s ability to crack down on factory farm polluters with stiff fines and penalties.

Iowa CCI members have led a statewide fight-back by everyday people against the bad ABI rule and have mobilized dozens of Iowans from across the state to speak out at public hearings in Carroll, Des Moines, Iowa City, and Mason City.  Iowa CCI members have submitted more than 700 comments to the DNR opposing the bad rule. Click here to email a comment on this rule to the DNR.

“Iowa waterways are not a sewer,” Jan Craig, a CCI member from Panora, said during Tuesday’s public hearing in Carroll.  “The water belongs to all of us, not just the corporate few who use it as their own private dumping grounds.”

Factory farm construction has skyrocketed across Iowa this year, and CCI members across the state are leading the fightback with 37 campaigns in 25 counties.  Iowa CCI members have successfully stopped eight factory farms from being constructed in six different counties this year.

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

If you agree with this pie chart below, CLICK HERE to take action.

 

Click LIKE and SHARE if you agree with Jan that the DNR needs to get their act together!