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.

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

In the past two weeks alone, we attended an Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting, met with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Attorney General’s office, and the Director of the DNR, Chuck Gipp.

All of these meetings focused on pushing the DNR to use the new Clean Water Act Rule by issuing Clean Water Act permits to factory farm polluters – our people power is paying off!

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Meeting with the EPA

 

CCI leaders sat down with top staff from US Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 from Kansas City, after they reached out to us before their scheduled visit with the DNR. Iowa CCI leaders updated EPA on our work to push the DNR to implement the Clean Water Act in Iowa for factory farms. Members laid out the facts:

  • The DNR has failed to issue a single Clean Water Act permit.  Since the Clean Water Act work plan passed in September 2013, there have been 74 documented manure spills, 15 manure spills that reached water, and at least 12 emergency application exemptions. The DNR should start off 2015 on the right foot by permitting these polluters.
  • The DNR has not changed the way it issues fines and penalties.  Since the Clean Water Act work plan passed in September 2013 only 13 of the 74 manure spills have received a fine or penalty.  The DNR needs to do more to deter future pollution by levying stiff fines and penalties to polluters.
  • The DNR only completed inspections on 14% of the factory farms in Iowa.  We’ve seen many manure spills happen shortly after an inspection was completed, or spills at a factory farm that hasn’t been inspected in many years. The DNR needs to ensure that inspections find problems, fix problems, and lead to permits.
  • The DNR databases have inaccurate information, contradict each other and/or lack important details, and we’re concerned about the transparency of the Clean Water Act implementation process. The DNR needs to keep the public fully informed every step of the way.

After powerful personal testimonies about our members’ experiences fighting factory farms, living with the impacts of factory farms in both rural and urban areas, and our assessment of the DNR’s progress, we shared a great conversation with the folks from the EPA.

We heard the EPA voicing some of the same concerns regarding DNR’s training of inspectors across the state, about the determinations that DNR has come to (and also by the fact that no permits have been issued!) We agreed to follow up again on the DNR’s progress next year.

Meeting with the DNR

 

A team of 3 CCI leaders, assisted by 3 of our attorneys from the Environmental Integrity Project and Food & Water Watch, sat down with DNR Director Chuck Gipp and his key staff charged with implementing the Clean Water Act in Iowa for factory farms. We laid out the same information and concerns we presented to the EPA, and had a 90 minute discussion on what it will actually take for the DNR to start issuing permits and crack down on factory farm polluters to clean up our water.

The Good:

In response to our concerns about inspections, the DNR acknowledged they need to continue training inspectors at the field offices around the state to ensure that inspections are consistent and comprehensive. Over the course of the meeting, the DNR acknowledged that they are open to issuing permits to factory farms that pollute waterways. They are more consistently issuing fines to polluters when manure spills reach waterways. And DNR staff agreed to get us the information we are looking for, and to work with us to make sure that this information is readily available to the public in a way that is easy to understand. They were open to supporting some of our legislative proposals for the 2015 session as well.

Could be better:

We have a lot more work to do. It is clear that even though DNR is more open to permitting factory farm polluters, they have set a very high bar for what kind of factory farm will need a permit. We will need to continue to push the DNR to permit all factory farms, and we must remain vigilant in monitoring their implementation to ensure that they:

  • continue to deter polluters with stiff fines and penalties to all manure spills, not just those that reach a waterway
  • are consistently performing inspections that find and fix problems at factory farms
  • issue Clean Water Act permits to factory farms

What’s Next:

We’ll continue to keep the pressure on Iowa’s DNR to implement the Clean Water Act and crack down on factory farms. We’ll kick off 2015 on all fronts:

  • pushing our People & Planet First policies for Clean Water at the Iowa Statehouse;
  • Staying in front of the DNR & EPC, demanding action on manure spills and permitting
  • Working with the Iowa Attorney General’s office, reaching out to the US Attorney’s office, and working with our own attorneys to file precedent setting lawsuits against factory farm polluters that would result in stiff fines and penalties and Clean Water Act permits as part of a favorable judgment.

We’ll be busy in the new year, and we can’t do it alone. That’s why we’ll be calling on you to help us build the people power necessary to continue organizing, and to win.

Meeting with the AG

 

Nearly 40 CCI members and staff met at the Hoover Building meeting with the Iowa Attorney General’s office. We were joined by our legal partners from Food and Water Watch and The Environmental Integrity Project, Michele Merkle and Scott Edwards, and Tarah Heinzen respectively.

  • CCI member Deborah Bunka provided a brief history of CCI’s work and resulting impact on clean water policy in Iowa. She provided key dates and their events going back a few years and leading up to now, over a year since implementing the Clean Water Act for factory farms and still not seeing a single permit issued to a factory farm polluter. Deborah also spoke about the DNR’s lack of quality inspections and transparency of information on manure spills that have already occurred.

CCI member Rosie Partridge laid out our demands, plain and simple: When the DNR won’t crack down on polluters, we want the AG’s office to step in and do it.

We laid out our legislative agenda for the 2015 session:

  • An end to the “no more stringent than” law that declares that a state’s law cannot be harsher or “more stringent” than federal law. Federal law needs to be a floor – not a ceiling.
  • An increased maximum fine amount that the DNR has the authority to issue to factory farm polluters. The current maximum of $10,000 is not enough to deter polluters, as they only consider it to be a cost of doing business as usual which is why our waterways are more polluted than ever.
  • Iowa’s “habitual violator law” needs to be updated to include Administrative Orders, not just action taken by the Attorney General. Many confined animal feeding operations are habitual violators but are not currently classified as such due to the exclusion of AOs in their history.
  • Our team of lawyers brought up the Smithfield Agreement and Packer Ban, as well as producer protection, which lead to some impassioned statements from CCI members Larry Ginter and Chris Petersen.

Our hope for this meeting was to educate the AG’s staff about the state of Iowa’s water and the DNR’s near-complete failure to enforce the Clean Water Act. We want to ignite them on this issue enough so that they exercise their independent filing authority against factory farm polluters.

Our take away was hopeful, with Eric Tabor sharing with us that with it being Attorney General Tom Miller’s last term in office he is looking to make some lasting impressions on the people of Iowa, which he mentioned includes action for Iowa’s water.

We will be following up with the AG office in the coming weeks to share with them information we have on the past year’s manure spills that the DNR has failed to provide to them.

 

Learn more

 

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.

Our #cleanwaterfight to stop factory farm manure pollution has been an adventure to say the least, and what’s an adventure without some great photos?

So, we decided to embark on a Clean Water Iowa image contest! Here’s what we asked you to do:

Step 1: Print off a Clean Water Iowa image

Step 2: Pose with the image, from hanging’ out to your most creative, and take a photo!

Step 3: Submit on social media, or email it on in.

Step 4: Impress CCI staffers with your awesome photo!

We could not have done it without you: Creative, colorful, impactful, and puppies made for some fantastic images. Give the collage a view, and check the photos out in full:

Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/iowacci/sets/72157646620130726/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152318303254751.1073741846.78479334750&type=3

Iowa’s Environmental Protection Commission passed a Clean Water Act rule that can be much stronger – the #cleanwaterfight is not over. Stay tuned!

 

 

This article written by Donnelle Eller originally appeared in the Des Moines Register on February 18th, 2014. You can read the original here: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20140219/NEWS09/302190046/-1/COMM03/CCI-activists-protest-Environmental-Protection-Commission-meeting

 

A group of activists said a state panel that oversees water quality in Iowa is too aligned with farm interests to aggressively enforce the Iowa’s environmental laws.

About 40 members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement called for tougher inspections and permitting of large livestock operations at a meeting Tuesday of the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission.

The environmentalists said the state isn’t adequately protecting the state’s waterways. The group said Iowa had 76 manure spills in 2013, a record amount. “It’s not only ridiculous, but it’s unacceptable,” said Larry Ginter, a farmer near Rhodes.

But state said the group was miscounting 25 online reports of air emission violations as manure spills. “Just because you say something at a meeting doesn’t make it true,” said Chuck Gipp, director at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

He said after the protesters left that modern agriculture practices are reducing the amount of manure that makes its way into Iowa waterways. “People conveniently forget how we farmed in the past,” Gipp said. “It’s not worse now. … But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do a better job in the future.”

Group members told the commission that “factory farms” — large hog, cattle and poultry confinements — are fouling the air and water and ruining their quality of lives and investments in their homes.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Iowa Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project filed a petition in 2007 demanding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency require improved regulation of livestock operations, or to take over enforcement of the Clean Water Act in Iowa itself.

The state reached an agreement with EPA in September that outlines the state’s oversight of large livestock operations.

The groups want the state to require every large Iowa livestock operation to have a Clean Water Act permit — and assess stiffer fines and penalties against companies that have had manure spills.

“Isn’t it time that DNR starts doing real inspections?” said Garry Klicker, a family farmer near Bloomfield.

“We need boots on the ground, not just a drive by,” said Stephanie Simmons, a retired nurse and Methodist minister from Guthrie Center.

The state agency has said its fines are limited at $10,000 unless a case is referred to the Iowa attorney general’s office for prosecution. The state said it tries to work with large livestock operations to make changes and improvements to prevent future spills.

Gipp said the state has added seven inspectors, using an additional $700,000 that lawmakers provided last year.

CCI members criticized Gov. Terry Branstad for loading the Environmental Protection Commission with livestock and agriculture representatives.

The group recently criticized board member Gene Ver Steeg, who owns a hog confinement operation, for a manure spill last fall.

Earlier this month, the group said Ver Steeg is an outspoken opponent of the Clean Water Act and “has consistently used his influence … to promote industry-friendly rules.”

Ver Steeg of Inwood, who participated in the meeting by phone, told the commission he never said the Clean Water Act shouldn’t be enforced. Ver Steeg was featured in the Wall Street Journal last year, saying closer oversight of hog producers isn’t needed. “But I don’t fear it, because we have nothing to hide,” he told the paper.

The group’s members pointed out commission members with livestock operations: Brent Rastetter owns two hog confinements and is the CEO of Quality Ag Builders Inc., a company that builds livestock confinements and manure pits; Max Smith, who owns a hog gestation operation; Nancy Couser, who owns feedlots and a cattle operation; and Cindy Greiman, who owns cattle feedlots with her husband.

Branstad’s spokesman, Jimmy Centers, said the governor is pleased with the commission and feels it “is working hard to protect and preserve Iowa’s natural resources.”

Take Action!

We’ve got to keep up the pressure. The DNR is set to officially release their draft Clean Water Act rules for public comment soon, and it’s up to us to ensure they offer meaningful solutions to Iowa’s clean water crisis.

Send Chuck Gipp a message here, and tell him Iowa needs strong Clean Water Act rules.

Join the Fight!

This AP article written by David Pitt originally appeared in the Sioux City Journal on February 18th, 2014. To view the original, go here: http://siouxcityjournal.com/ap/state/iowa-farmers-press-panel-for-cleaner-water/article_fd12a0e9-8049-5830-9578-eed170c4929a.html

 

DES MOINES | Farmers and other rural residents told the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission Tuesday that the countryside is being inundated with smelly hog farms that spill manure tainting once clean rivers, streams, and lakes.

The grass-roots environmental group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement organized the large turnout to the commission’s monthly meeting.

Iowa CCI has been pressuring the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the commission, which oversees the agency, to increase inspections of large-scale livestock farms and assess more severe penalties when spills occur.

Clear Lake farmer Chris Peterson said Iowa’s reputation has been damaged by the perception that the water is polluted by hog manure.

“To me it’s totally embarrassing, unacceptable and inexcusable,” he said. “It’s not becoming my Iowa anymore where I grew up. With all due respect you people need to stand up and do your jobs.”

Speakers called on commissioners to require the DNR to begin issuing permits under the federal Clean Water Act. They also called for increased fines and regulations that would shut down farms with repeated spills.

Ron Gibson of Center Point said he’s fighting a proposed hog farm project a mile upwind from his home. He’s concerned about manure making its way into groundwater and spreading antibiotic-resistant diseases that many believe are caused by hog confinement facilities in which hogs are fed antibiotics to stay healthy.

“The hog industry is legal but it’s not moral,” he said. “To the governor, the DNR, the EPC, and the Legislature; shame on you.”

Jim Walters, a retired Iowa farmer living near Iowa City, said the entire issue boils down to accountability.

“The reason we have water problems is because we don’t have accountability,” he said. “No one in this chain of water quality issues is being held accountable.”

He said if the state’s elected officials do not hold the DNR and the governor-appointed 9-member commission accountable, “come election day we’ll be working awfully hard to hold them accountable as well.”

The current commission is made up of appointees of Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican seeking re-election this year.

Other speakers criticized the makeup of the commission which includes five members who are involved in the large-scale farming industry.

Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp said that criticism is unfair. He said the commission needs a diversity of viewpoints including individuals who have real-life agriculture experience.

“We get complaints from livestock producers that turn in others because they don’t want a bad operation to cause the regulations to be worse on them,” Gipp said. “A lot of what we do is deal with people who call into the department and we in turn go out and investigate those complaints.”

He said some of the facts presented by Iowa CCI were incorrect including the number of spills last year, cited as 76 by many of the speakers at the meeting. That figure includes 25 air quality violations that were not manure spills, said Bill Ehm, administrator of the DNR’s Environmental Protection Division.

Gipp said criticism that Iowa is near the top of states with polluted waterways also is an exaggeration.

“We’re right in the middle of the number of impaired waterways,” he said. “Should we be satisfied with that? Absolutely not.”

Gipp said the state is carrying out inspections according to policies agreed to by the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups. The DNR received $700,000 from the Legislature last year to hire an additional seven inspectors. The new inspectors have been hired and are being trained, he said.

The call for the state to force farms to obtain Clean Water Act permits is based on a misunderstanding that permits would prohibit the release of manure. The permits would allow farms to release manure during severe weather events including heavy rain, Gipp said.

Take Action!

We’ve got to keep up the pressure. The DNR is set to officially release their draft Clean Water Act rules for public comment soon, and it’s up to us to ensure they offer meaningful solutions to Iowa’s clean water crisis.

Send Chuck Gipp a message here, and tell him Iowa needs strong Clean Water Act rules.

Join the Fight!