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.

In late October we put out a call for you to write letters to the editor to help advance our narrative around factory farming and the environment.  We want to make sure our legislators hear loud and clear that:

  • Farming practices that protect our water should be mandatory – voluntary compliance does not work.
  • Big Ag polluters (like Cargill, Prestage, Farm Bureau, and Monsanto) must pay to clean up the water quality mess they’ve created – not taxpayers.
  • Every factory farm in Iowa needs a Clean Water Act permit, meaningful inspections, and tough fines and penalties when violations occur.
  • Iowa needs a factory farm moratorium now!

 

Wow!  You knocked it out of the park.  Check out these spot-on letters that were submitted by CCI members from around the state.

DNR’s changes to factory farm rules is wrong – Joyce Bollhoefer – Marshalltown Times Republican

CAFO regulations need changing – Tom Willett – Mason City Globe Gazette

EPC changes will make water quality worse – Bernie Fischlowitz-Roberts – Des Moines Register

How, exactly, will sales tax improve water quality? – Erich Riesenberg – Des Moines Register

To Branstad: put moratorium on new hog confinements – Eric Wessels – Des Moines Register

Branstad, Republican-controlled legislature are Iowa’s ruin – Jim Walters – Iowa City Press Citizen

 

This is one way we can shift the narrative and it’s not to late to add your name to the list of letter writers!

  1. Submit a letter to the editor to your local paper and send a copy to jess@iowacci.org.
  2. Let us know if there’s a letter that we missed.  Send an email to jess@iowacci.org

LIKE and SHARE for a #CleanWaterIowa

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

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 2

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here! 

We’re demanding DNR close corporate factory farm loopholes as part of the rule strengthening. Here are 3 examples of loopholes that must be closed.  

 

Should Iowa close the factory farm loopholes?People before polluters

  • LLC Loophole. We’re seeing 2,499 head factory farms build one right after another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from coming in next door are sick and tired of them building just one-or-two hogs under the permit threshold so they can skirt around permitting laws.  We think it’s time they close this LLC loophole and regulate them like any other factory farm that houses 2,500 hogs or more.
  • County Extensions.  Did you know that the factory farm applicant and Iowa DNR can ask for a 30 days extension on an application but the County Board of Supervisors cannot? Under Iowa law a notice about an incoming factory farm must be published in the local paper.  But, most neighbors don’t find out until it’s nearly too late to fight.  We believe that counties should be allowed extensions just like the developer and the DNR.
  • Commercial businesses. In 2012, Iowa DNR and Prestage Farms told CCI member JoAnn that her business wasn’t considered a “commercial enterprise” because it wasn’t open in the winter.  This meant the factory farm could build closer to her than if they ruled it was commercial enterprise.  This is Iowa – we have harsh winters.  Lots of Iowa businesses, like landscape companies, vacation resorts, and ice cream shops, close down in the winter. That doesn’t make them less of a business.  DNR needs to expand its definition of a commercial enterprise to make sure all of Iowa’s family-owned businesses are protected from factory farms.

These are just three ways we’re suggesting DNR close corporate loopholes to even the playing field for Iowans across the state.  We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here tell the Iowa DNR to close corporate factory farm loopholes by strengthening the factory farm rule!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

If you missed our last post about how we want to strengthen the rules click here.

 

 

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 1

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here!  

We have several demands to make this rule stronger, and below, we lay out two of them.

 

22 billion gallons of manure: who’s responsible, where does it go?

We hear two questions about the factory farm industry often:

Where do the billions of gallons of manure go?

Who really owns these factory farms?

Sac County - all fields & watersheds
Map of factory farms and manure fields in Sac County created by Iowa CCI’s Manure Mapping Team.

But, the exact answers to those questions are not public knowledge. Last year, we discovered why they absolutely must be.

A team of Iowa CCI members mapped and audited over 200 factory farm Manure Management Plans – a plan factory farms must submit to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources indicating what they plan to do with the manure they produce.

The DNR attempted to brush what we found under the rug: incorrect application rates (how much manure is applied to the fields), double-dumping, and more.

Iowa has too much manure to handle and one way we can prove that is by having access to manure application records – not just the plans. That is one of our demands from the DNR’s consideration of the factory farm rule: we need access to those records.

One of our other demands is being able to access the names of factory farm stakeholders – who is actually involved in these projects?

Most factory farms in Iowa are “contract growers”, meaning the local person owns the building and the manure but a big ag corporation owns the hogs – like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc.  But, the corporate contract company’s name and contact information are not required to be included in all Manure Management Plans.

We’re asking the DNR to strengthen the factory farm rule by including the corporation’s name and contact information in the Manure Management Plan.

These are two of our demands for Iowa DNR to strengthen the rules for Iowa’s 9,000 factory farms. We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here to take action and tell the DNR that we need more transparency of manure records and who’s actually running the show out in rural Iowa!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

 

 

IOWA’S “MANURE SPILL SEASON”

IN FULL FORCE

 

 

Iowans Demand EPA Return To Iowa To Force Factory Farm Compliance With The Clean Water Act

 

 

According to DNR records there have been at least five factory farm spills that reached Iowa waterways in the past three weeks:

  • FISH KILL: Osceola & Clay County – factory farm egg washing liquid dumped in Stony Creek polluting 18.2 miles of stream and killing 163,001 fish
  • FISH KILL: Cherokee County – Bear Creek, source unknown
  • FISH KILL: Buchanan County – factory farm manure overflowed from manure pit and entered West Branch Pine Creek
  • Mahaska County – valve on manure tank failed and 3,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered a tributary of the Skunk River
  • FISH KILL: Allamakee County – manure application equipment broke and 1,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered Clark Creek

 

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) members are outraged at the number of manure spills occurring in Iowa each year during what many call “manure spill season.”

“Right now, as crops are being harvested, thousands of factory farms across the state are starting to spread upwards of 10 billion gallons of toxic, untreated manure on Iowa farmland,” said Rosie Partridge, conservationist and small business owner in Wall Lake, Iowa. “We’re seeing equipment breaks, pits overflow, and careless practices like spreading manure on highly erodible land, on steep slopes and near waterways.  At what point is there too much manure in Iowa?  I think we passed that point a long time ago.”

CCI members say the DNR needs to start holding this industry accountable for polluting Iowa’s waterways.

“In 2012 the EPA investigated the DNR and found that the DNR has an inadequate inspection program, fails to respond to spills, and does not issue fines and penalties that deter future pollution,” said Larry Ginter, a retired family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa. “It’s 2015 and nothing has changed. The EPA needs to come back to Iowa and make the DNR implement the Clean Water Act with teeth.”

Like the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, CCI members want the DNR to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act for factory farms. CCI members believe that Clean Water Act permits, tough fines and penalties and on-site inspections that find and fix problems will drastically reduce the amount of manure polluting Iowa’s waterways each year.

“We’re sick and tired of corporate agriculture being exempt from any laws and regulations meant to protect people and the environment; they should be held to the same standards as every other industry in Iowa,” said Ginter. “Isn’t it obvious that voluntary doesn’t work?”

CCI members will be meeting with the DNR on November 3 to address the lack of enforcement and regulation of Manure Management Plans and application.

Iowa’s more than 20 million hogs confined in thousands of factory farms produce nearly ten 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.

 

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.

Learn more