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.