Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment leads the fight back against corporate ag in the heartland

July 11, 2019 – In state capitals across the Midwest, opposition to legislation pushed by corporate agriculture lobbyists to favor factory farms continues to grow. The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE), made up of rural-based, family farm membership groups in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Missouri, organized to hold factory farms and legislators accountable for the harm these operations do to independent family farmers, rural communities, and our water and air.

In each state, family farmers, local elected representatives and citizens, both rural and urban, stood up and acted against factory farm lobbyists and their attempts to pass laws that fuel the industrialization and corporate control of livestock markets, while eroding protections from factory farms:

In Minnesota, the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) successfully beat back a series of efforts by the industry to tilt the playing field toward factory farms by weakening permitting requirements and environmental review of factory farms. Also, though it didn’t pass, LSP built legislative support to repeal the manure lagoon property tax exemption and to reinstate a Citizens’ Board, a powerful tool that would require a public environmental review of factory farms. LSP also won a series of policies that support independent family farmers protecting the land, including additional money for the Forever Green Initiative that helps develop markets for cover crops and perennials; boosts resources for Farm-to-School programs that benefit farmers, kids and rural communities; and increases funding for meat and poultry inspection that is important for independent meat processors and small- and medium-sized livestock farmers who sell directly to consumers.

In Missouri, the Missouri Rural Crisis Center organized a major fight to protect county level, local control over regulating corporate factory farms. Because state protections are almost non-existent, 20 rural counties in Missouri have passed health ordinances that enact common sense safeguards to protect communities from pollution, health impacts and environmental damage caused by corporate-controlled CAFOs. After an enormous fight, the state legislature ultimately passed a bill that strips counties of the right to pass new health ordinances. As part of the campaign, MRCC engaged tens of thousands of Missourians who contacted their legislators to stop this attack on their right to protect their property, air and water and communities from the negative impacts of corporate industrial agriculture. 

“This campaign was about more than protecting Local Control,” said MRCC. “It was focused on undue corporate influence on our government and democratic process, and the negative impacts of factory farms on family farms, rural communities, water and air, and our food system. This example, the taking of local control from our rural counties, shows how willfully out-of-touch our Governor and state legislature are with Missourians from every corner of the state. CAFOs make up only 1/2 of 1% of Missouri’s farming operations, around 500 out of nearly 100,000. Our elected representatives should work to protect the majority of farm families and rural Missourians, instead of a small number of corporate-controlled CAFOs.” MRCC is continuing to organize around the enormous power built during this campaign. 

MRCC also successfully defeated a bill to ban local elected representatives from inspecting corporate CAFOs to enforce local ordinances; and forced a vote on the House floor on an amendment to stop foreign corporate ownership of Missouri farmland

In Iowa, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement built legislative support for two major bills challenging the factory farm industry. One, called for a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms. Iowa currently has over 10,000 factory farms and over 750 impaired waterways. A moratorium would put a halt on the construction of factory farms so Iowa could address the factory farm and clean water crisis in the state. CCI organized to get 20 legislative sponsors/supporters in the House and 5 in the Senate. Another bill closed a tax law loophole that makes factory farm manure pits exempt from property taxation. This preferential property tax treatment shifts the property tax burden onto neighboring small farmers and rural residents. Through a fiscal impact statement, CCI uncovered that at least $4.5 million dollars in revenue are lost through this property tax exemption. If the bill had passed this funding could have been used for infrastructure, education, hospitals or other public entities. Both bills were blocked by Republican leadership despite growing momentum for a moratorium and changes to the factory farm industry. CCI also campaigned against a factory farm industry-backed revised Ag-gag bill, designed to intimidate employees and neighbors of factory farms from exposing unsafe working conditions, animal abuse, and environmental violations. While the law passed, CCI joined a lawsuit with the ACLU and other allies challenging this new bill in the court system. CCI, along with Food and Water Watch and Public Justice, also filed a lawsuit against the state of Iowa in the fight for clean water.

In South Dakota, Dakota Rural Action (DRA) beat back a pair of bills pushed by CAFO backers designed to use public money to incentivize counties to approve new CAFOs. One bill would have allowed up to $200,000 of the contractor’s excise tax (2% on all materials and labor) levied on CAFO construction or improvements to be given to the school district in which the CAFO was built. DRA helped stop the bill, making the case that this would give CAFO investors additional leverage in the permitting process, and this was not the way to fund public education. DRA also helped stop a second tax diversion bill that would have given 50% of all taxes levied during construction or remodeling of a CAFO to the county in which it is located. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development has now started an incentive program strangely similar to these tax diversion bills, which promises counties excise tax kickbacks if they approve CAFOs. DRA is fighting that program county by county. DRA also worked successfully with members on the ground to pass a moratorium on new CAFOs in several South Dakota counties. 

The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE) consists of four Midwest state-based membership organizations and two national organizations fighting against corporate factory farms. CFFE works to oppose national, state and local policies propping up corporate factory farms and damaging independent family farmers, extracting wealth from our rural communities, and polluting our land, water and air. CFFE helps citizens organize and defend local control, preserve the use of public resources for the public good, and apply more democratic decision-making.CFFE is composed of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Dakota Rural Action, Land Stewardship Project, Food & Water Watch, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2019

Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, drakestraw@fwwatch.org, 202-683-2467

Adam Mason, adam@iowacci.org, 515-282-0484

Aidan O’Shea, aoshea@publicjustice.net, 202-861-5240

Suit alleges state of Iowa is failing to protect its waterways from factory farms

Follow along on our Facebook livestream as we announce the lawsuit

Des Moines, IA – Today, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch filed a lawsuit against the State of Iowa claiming that the state has violated its obligation to protect the Raccoon River for the use and benefit of all Iowans.

This obligation is called the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires the state to protect the public’s use and not abdicate control to private interests. With well documented water pollution and only voluntary agricultural pollution controls, the suit alleges that the state is failing to uphold its duty. The groups are represented by Public Justice, Food & Water Watch, Roxanne Conlin & Associates, and Channing Dutton, of Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch gathered at the Capitol building in Des Moines today to demand accountability for the failure of the state to uphold its duty to protect the Raccoon River, particularly from factory farm pollution.

“Iowans are tired of being told that our interests – our water, our health, our enjoyment of public waters, our drinking water, our pocketbooks – must be compromised or balanced with those of corporate ag and other industries willing to destroy our lives for profit,” said Adam Mason, State Policy Director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, “Our lawsuit is holding the state to a higher standard – for us, for our kids, and our grandkids.”

Emma Schmit of Food & Water Watch said, “There is a well-known, statewide water crisis in Iowa, and the Raccoon River in Polk County has been particularly harmed by pollution from factory farms. The Raccoon River runs through one of the most intensely farmed areas of the United States, where runoff from animal manure and fertilizer poses a threat to tap water and recreational use of the river. Once again, the legislature has failed to take any action on water quality, so the citizens of Iowa have stood up to say enough is enough.”

The Raccoon River is the source of drinking water for some 500,000 Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, has one of the most expensive nitrate removal systems in the world. The utility’s struggle to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines residents was documented in its 2015 lawsuit against upstream counties alleging that their failure to regulate tile drains led to excessive amounts of dangerous nitrates in the utility’s Raccoon River source water.

A bill to establish a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms was introduced in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives during the 2019 session. Despite growing concern from citizens and an increasing number of legislative sponsors, leadership in the Iowa General Assembly refused to allow the bill to even be debated in subcommittee, and the bill died in the first funnel on March 8. No bills to address the factory farm or water quality crises remain alive in this legislative session.

Roxanne Conlin of Roxanne Conlin & Associates said, “Iowans have waited patiently for our elected officials to fix our state’s polluted public waters. As it is clear those elected do not have the willpower to take any substantive action, every day Iowans are now turning to the courts to make Iowa’s waters clean and to protect their ability to enjoy the many outdoor activities that so many Iowans hold dear.”

“The State of Iowa has an obligation to protect the public’s use of the Raccoon River,” said Brent Newell, Food Project Attorney at Public Justice. “Farmers know what practices work for their farms, communities, and the environment. But we are clearly seeing that voluntary compliance does not work in a system controlled by corporate agriculture. Iowans need a system that empowers Iowa’s farmers to be the solution and restores rural communities economically.”

This lawsuit is a response to Iowa’s failed leadership, which has allowed the agribusiness industry to degrade Iowa’s waterways, leaving citizens with the burden of pollution and the cost of cleanup efforts. The suit seeks actionable, mandatory solutions that will restore the Raccoon River and make it safe for people to recreate in and for those who rely on it for drinking water.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement works to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities; involve them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.

Public Justice pursues high impact lawsuits to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses.

###

You can get involved by helping to support this case. Chip in $5, $10, $15 today!

As you know, legal action isn’t cheap. And, the Farm Bureau is going to come out swinging.

That’s why we’re asking you to dig deep. DONATE TODAY. Whatever you can give will fund the legal work, and help us the counter corporate ag’s misinformation at every turn.  

We’ll keep you updated as this case develops.

They dump it, you drink it, we won’t stop till they clean it up! 

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement support closing tax loophole through H.F. 186, and demand public money be used for the public good

Des Moines, IA – According to fiscal services at the Iowa State Capitol, counties are losing at least $4.5 million dollars in revenue through property tax exemptions to the factory farm industry. Factory farms are benefiting from a tax law loophole that makes their manure pits exempt from property taxation. This preferential property tax treatment shifts the property tax burden onto neighboring small farmers and rural residents.

Representative Sharon Steckman (D-Cerro Gordo) has introduced a bill, H.F. 186, that would close the manure pit tax exemption loophole. If this bill passed at least to $4.5 million public dollars would be available to counties across the state.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement support closing this tax loophole. According to members of Iowa CCI public dollars should be used for the public good, for fixing up roads torn up by factory farms or funding public institutions like hospitals. In Hardin County where there are over 250 factory farms, hospitals can no longer afford to deliver babies. If this property tax loophole was closed, more existing money could go to things such as infrastructure, and hospitals.

 “Instead of subsidizing large corporate factory farms, we should be using this money to support public education,” said Shannon Walker an Iowa CCI member from Wright County, “Our kids, especially in rural communities, are in schools that are underfunded. Let’s use public dollars to help them and not a 22-billion-dollar industry.”

H.F. 186 has been assigned to the Environmental Protection committee but has not been assigned to a sub-committee. Chair of the Environmental Protection committee Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Tama) is single-handedly responsible for stopping this bill.

“Iowa has over 750 impaired waterways. Factory farm manure spills are responsible for fish kills, and industrial agriculture is responsible for pollution of our water,” said Larry Ginter an Iowa CCI member, retired family farmer, and constituent of Rep. Fisher, “It’s already costing us millions of dollars to clean up our water, why are we subsidizing an industry that is causing the pollution? Rep. Fisher is clearly pandering to some of the worst polluters in the livestock industry.”

Research & policy analysis group, Food & Water Watch found that over the past three decades, the Iowa counties that sold the most hogs and had the largest farms had:

  • declining county wide incomes,
  • slower growth in median household income, and
  • declining numbers of local businesses compared to the statewide average

Members of Iowa Citizens believe in a better system of agriculture that works for farmers, workers, eaters and the environment. This system would put more farmers on the land and focus on creating vibrant rural communities by keeping the profits in rural communities not extracting them like corporate Ag.

According to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members, the first step toward a better system of agriculture is a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms. Thousands of Iowans are calling for a moratorium and 1 in 4 counties have passed a resolution calling for a moratorium, local control, and/or stronger permitting standards for factory farms.

A moratorium bill, H.F. 203, has also been introduced by Rep. Steckman. H.F. 203, is also assigned to the Environmental Protection committee, and is being stonewalled by Rep. Fisher.

Get involved in the Clean Water and factory farm 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, clean water, and your quality of life.

This year 89 counties passed the Master Matrix resolution. The Master Matrix resolution gives supervisors the ability to recommend factory farms for denial.

BIG shout out to everyone who contacted their supervisor about the Master Matrix resolution – you do great work.

Figure 1: counties that have passed the Master Matrix Resolution and sent it in to the DNR for 2019.

We have the Master Matrix and it’s a tool that we will use since we have it. But what we really need is a Moratorium.

You and I both know the Master Matrix is broken. It is no substitute for local control, and we have too many factory farms. What we really need is a moratorium. Tell your county supervisors to pass a non binding moratorium resolution to send a strong message to elected officials that enough is enough.

These non binding resolutions send a powerful message to the state legislature. Tell your supervisors to pass a moratorium resolution by March 8th the legislatures “first funnel”. A key day during the legislative session, this will show widespread support for our Moratorium bill.

Twenty three counties have passed a resolution calling for stronger regulations, local control and even a moratorium on factory farms. Check out the map below to see if your county has passed a moratorium resolution.

Figure 2: counties that have passed a resolution calling for a moratorium, local control or stronger permitting standards.

Join the Clean Water 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, clean water, and your quality of life.

January 4, 2017

At the tail end of 2017, CCI members in Hardin County successfully pressured their county supervisors to vote 2-1 to deny an Iowa Select hog factory expansion! This happened because the community showed up, spoke out and got organized.

Here’s what Iowa Select did next: They published full-page ads in multiple Hardin County newspapers in attempts to win over the community  even going so far as to say “Manure can actually improve our water quality.”

You know what? We call that a victory, too. We’ve forced the 5th largest hog producer in the country to go on defense. That means we’re making strides in the court of public opinion.

But, we’re not out of the woods yet: the application is headed to the Department of Natural Resources, who will make the ultimate decision on whether or not Iowa Select can expand its factory farm. This means we’ll likely need to go back to the supervisors and ask them to appeal the DNR’s approval of the factory farm.

Here are the next steps to stop this Iowa Select factory farm:

  • Attend the Supervisor hearing in Eldora (courthouse) on Wednesday, January 10 @ 10am
    • Let’s keep encouraging the supervisors to do the right thing!
  • Call the Hardin County Supervisors and ask them to appeal if DNR approves this factory farm
    • BJ Hoffman – 641-939-8220
    • Lance Granzow – 641-939-8221
    • Renee McClelland – 641-939-8222
  • Join Iowa CCI as a member to support our work to stop factory farms and fight for clean water across the state.

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.

 

December 1, 2017

On Wednesday before, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a public hearing for a stormwater construction permit for a massive Walz Energy 10,000-head cattle factory farm near Monona. The meeting standing-room-only and was packed with people objecting to the factory farm.

Under state law, the factory farm was required to obtain a stormwater permit before beginning construction – however, construction has been underway since April. Despite the facility already having one illegal discharge that washed sediment into Bloody Run Creek – a naturally producing trout stream on the “Outstanding Iowa Waters” list – DNR failed to require a permit for Walz Energy. Due to local opposition and community demand, DNR finally held a public hearing to retroactively grant the stormwater construction permit.

“We’re surprised and very concerned that one part of DNR would allow a facility of this size and type to be constructed next to one of the best trout streams in Iowa, while another part of DNR has invested millions of dollars into improving this stream,” said Steve Veysey, angler and Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association member. “We have a geologist report showing that there is porous limestone right beneath the site, and sinkholes all around it. The more I look into it, the more it doesn’t seem to be totally on the up and up!”

Walz Energy is also claiming that this massive factory farm is a “renewable energy solution” because they plan to capture the methane emissions from the manure. However, CCI and the national organization Food & Water Watch call this a false energy solution because it promotes factory farm practices and even more pollution.

“Building a massive factory farm to feed a methane digester is the farthest thing from clean energy. What’s worse, digested manure is even more prone to contaminate surface and groundwater when applied to fields than undigested manure, heightening the risks to this already vulnerable part of the state,” said Tarah Heinzen, staff attorney with Food & Water Watch.

In addition to giving Walz Energy a pass on the stormwater construction permit, the DNR is also allowing the operator to use a clay liner for the 39-million gallon manure lagoon, rather than a “formed” material, like concrete, which is required on sensitive karst topography to add more groundwater protections.

“The fact that Walz Energy isn’t building the lagoon with concrete shows a lack of concern for our drinking water. It shows the DNR’s lack of political will to stand up to this polluting industry,” said Andrea Bie Carstens, independent family farmer and CCI member from Waterville.

Because the Walz Energy factory farm threatens local businesses that use Bloody Run Creek, tourism in the area, the safety and health of nearby residents, and drinking water, Iowa CCI members are calling on DNR to uphold the agency’s mission and purpose by denying this factory farm permit.

“We’re astounded that a facility of this size could be built with no public review. We’re talking about water quality, air quality, and quality of life. What’s going to happen to the independent family farmers that will be impacted by this mega-facility? This whole process has been so under the radar that it raises too many red flags. We want DNR to deny the permit — otherwise the driftless area is at risk for future generations,” said Roger Bollman, CCI member and retired Natural Resource Manager with the Army Corps from Monona.

 

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.