On August 15, over 30 Iowans attended the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) meeting, urging the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to grant a formal rulemaking petition submitted last month by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch to strengthen the master matrix, and deny proposed factory farms until the application process is improved. The DNR is currently reviewing the petition and has until September 16 to either grant or deny it.

So far, four county boards of supervisors have sent the DNR Letters of Support for the petition: Butler, Dickinson, Polk, and Johnson counties. This is in addition to fourteen counties that have already passed separate resolutions or sent letters calling on the DNR to strengthen the master matrix and/or suspend the construction of new/expanding factory farms.

>>>> Take action! Call your county supervisors and ask them to send DNR a Letter of Support for our petition. Find contact information for your supervisors here.

“Does the Iowa farmer actually feed the world? And if they’re actually feeding the world, are they poisoning it, too, with the chemicals they put on the ground and the antibiotics they put in the feed?” said James Berge, CCI member and landowner in Kensett. “We need you to take a step in the right direction by strengthening the Master Matrix.”

Created fifteen years ago by the legislature, the master matrix has failed to live up to the promise of giving communities a greater voice in the siting of factory farms and protections from the pollution they create. It has proven so easy to pass that it has amounted to little more than a rubber stamp: Applicants only need to satisfy enough of the listed criteria to obtain 50 percent of the available points – an “F” by most standards. DNR records show that only 2.2 percent of applications have been denied.

“I’ve been drinking poisoned water, and I don’t know for how long,” said Janis Elliot, CCI member from Avon, who discovered last week that her drinking water is contaminated with nitrates at 19 parts per million (ppm) – 9 ppm over the EPA’s safe drinking water standard. “Our legislature isn’t protecting us, and you’re the Environmental Protection Commission. I don’t feel like you’re protecting me, and I don’t know what to do.”

Citizens from Worth County also attended the EPC meeting to ask the DNR to deny an influx of seven new factory farms in their community.

“Worth County is the jewel and the crown of Iowa and we don’t have many CAFOs. We’re going to do everything we can to keep it that way,” said Edith Haenel, CCI member from Northwood who lives one mile from a proposed factory farm and has epilepsy that is triggered by air pollutants emitted by factory farms. “Your job is to protect Iowans – not moneyed interests.”

The petition proposals include:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more of the possible points to obtain a permit.
  • A one-time enrollment for counties, rather than the current burdensome requirement for counties to readopt the master matrix every year.
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution.
  • New criteria that consider factors currently unaddressed by the matrix, such as karst topography, existing water pollution impairments, and water quality monitoring.
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits.
  • Changes to strengthen existing criteria, such as increased separation distances from schools, homes, public use areas, waterways, and wells.

Iowa has over 10,000 factory farms, and more than 3,000 of these are large enough to be subject to the matrix by counties that adopt it. These factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure each year, and its disposal has widespread impacts on Iowa’s waterways and communities. The state’s latest impaired waters list shows that 750 waterbodies – over half of those tested – are impaired. The majority of these impairments are caused by E. coli bacteria and other pollutants associated with manure. Given the statehouse’s ongoing failure to address Iowa’s water quality crisis, DNR must do the next best thing and use its existing authority to strengthen the master matrix.

>>> Call your county supervisors today and ask them to support the petition to strengthen the Master Matrix! Find contact information for your supervisors here.


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.

Iowans are banding together to stop a new hog factory by Reicks View Farms in Howard County.

At 2,499 head of hogs, the confinement is one hog under the permit threshold, thereby skirting the Master Matrix. The factory farm is proposed on karst terrain in an environmentally fragile area known for sinkholes, and it’s located near the headwaters of a naturally producing trout stream. It is about a mile from an estimated 40 neighbors, century farms, and an Amish community.

This isn’t the first time Reicks View Farms has done this.

In June 2016, the Des Moines Register reported that Reicks View Farms had applied to build a 7,499 hog facility in Allamakee County. However, after intense local opposition, the developer reapplied for a confinement at 2,499 hogs – which prevented county supervisors from reviewing the application. Highlighting that building at the proposed site was ill advised, Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp stated that “if a livestock confinement facility could be built on the proposed site, there is no place in Iowa one could not be built.

Now, the group of concerned citizens in Howard County are organizing to yet again to stop Reicks View Farms from building just one hog under the permit threshold on karst terrain. Residents are aware of sinkholes not shown on DNR’s map, but after being repeatedly asked, DNR has not agreed to revisit the area.

“This land should not have any factory farms on it. Karst terrain is like a sponge,” said Joann Wangen of Cresco, Iowa. “We want to protect our water. The smell of the confinement is going to be bad enough, but we’ll have a crisis if we don’t have our water.”

Help stop Reicks View Farms! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Write a letter to the editor.
    We need tell more people about this fight!
  2. Call Dale and Brady Reicks at (641) 364-7843.
    Ask them to withdraw their application.
  3. Call DNR Director Chuck Gipp at (515) 725-8282.
    Demand that Director Gipp visit the proposed site and meet with the community. He has the power to stop this.

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.

April 6, 2017

Iowa CCI members across the state have come together for five community meetings to discuss ways to strengthen the Master Matrix – one of the few tools counties and citizens have to weigh in on factory farm construction. Due to member interest, an additional two community meetings have been scheduled in Ottumwa and Davenport to gather input.

So far, everyday Iowans have identified several key items to address within the Master Matrix, including:

  • greater separation distances,
  • stronger environmental regulations,
  • revisions to the point structure, and
  • requiring all facilities – not just some – to use the Master Matrix.

Illustrating the failings of the Master Matrix, factory farm operators are allowed to skirt permit thresholds in order to avoid additional scrutiny. Last month in Cerro Gordo County, the DNR approved Wharam Creek Poultry’s 98,000 head chicken confinement – just shy of the permit threshold that requires using the Master Matrix. Following approval of the new Simply Essentials chicken processing plant in Charles City, the area has seen nine other chicken factory farm applications that are also just below the permit threshold.

Iowa CCI is looking for more input on the Master Matrix. This will be used to pressure the Department of Natural Resources to make significant and meaningful changes to the Master Matrix, in light of inaction from Iowa’s legislature.


Find a community meeting new you!

Saturday, April 8 at 9:30 to 11:00 AM
Le Mars Public Library
46 1st St SW, Le Mars, IA
RSVP here.

Thursday, April 20 at 6:30 to 8:00 PM (NEW)
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities
3707 Eastern Ave, Davenport, IA
RSVP here.

Thursday, May 4 at 6:30 to 8:00 PM (NEW)
St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church
216 N Court St, Ottumwa, IA
RSVP here.


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.


February 20, 2017

Today, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) spoke at the Des Moines City Council meeting to oppose HF 316, a bill introduced last week that would dismantle the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) board of directors and distribute the utility’s assets and power to surrounding cities – which would kill the DMWW lawsuit. Members blasted council members for supporting the bill behind closed doors without constituents’ knowledge.

“I feel betrayed. The city council shut us out of the process. Clearly, they didn’t want us to know that they’re caving to Big Ag,” said Barb Lang, a CCI member from Des Moines. “It seems to me that Councilperson Hensley is bending over backwards for corporate ag and putting her political aspirations ahead of the people of Des Moines. Whose side is she on?”

At the meeting, members demanded that each councilor publicly reveal if they support or oppose HF 316. They called on the council to immediately withdraw their support of the bill.

Des Moines Water Works is an independently operated public utility. If passed, the bill would transfer voting power and $250 million in assets away from the City of Des Moines to surrounding suburban customers. HF 316 was introduced in the House Agriculture Committee by Representative Jarad Klein – a republican from Keota who has taken over $20,000 from corporate ag interest groups in recent years.

“This is nothing short of a power grab by the Farm Bureau and corporate ag,” said Jeanne Schwendinger, a CCI member from Ankeny. “This is an attempt to silence Bill Stowe and the board and stop any meaningful change to clean water regulations, plain and simple. Any other explanation is just putting lipstick on a pig.”

“Once again, we’re seeing the Republican legislature trying to take away local control,” said Larry Ginter, a CCI member from Rhodes. “What right do they have to taking away anyone’s right to clean water?”

The DMWW lawsuit is currently scheduled for mid-June this year in Sioux City. The outcome will determine whether or not drainage districts should be considered point sources under the Clean Water Act. In 2015, DMWW ran its nitrate removal facility for a record-breaking 177 days, costing millions of dollars.



ADD YOUR NAME – to show strong opposition to this bad move

RSVP NOW for Thursday 2/23 – an emergency community meeting with Bill Stowe and DMWW Board President Graham Gillette. 

What: Emergency CCI Clean Water organizing meeting with Bill Stowe and DMWW President Graham Gillette
When: Thursday, February 23 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Where: Iowa CCI Headquarters, 2001 Forest Ave, Des Moines

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, January 31, 2017

This morning, two boards of supervisors in north central Iowa voted to recommend denial of two huge factory farm applications.

In Mitchell County, supervisors voted 2-1 to deny an application for a 5,000-head Iowa Select contracted factory farm in Lincoln Township. In Cerro Gordo County, supervisors voted unanimously to deny an application of an existing factory farm in Union Township to expand from 1,864 total head to 9,154 total head. After community input and review, both boards deducted points from the Master Matrix and gave the applicants a failing grade.

“I’m happy with the decision my supervisors made today,” said Penney Morse, a resident of Mitchell County and a CCI member. “We need more leaders standing up to this industry that destroys our water, our air, and our quality of life.”

These factory farm denials add to a growing list of supervisors across Iowa who are taking a stand against factory farms in their communities. In recent months, Webster County and Pocahontas County wrote letters to legislators and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources calling for a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms. Cerro Gordo County also passed a resolution in January to send notification to neighbors within a one-mile radius of proposed factory farms.

“The Master Matrix is a flawed system. Where else can you score fifty percent and get a passing grade?” said Tom Willett of Mason City and a CCI member who also attended the meeting. “It doesn’t provide adequate protections for community members or the environment. What we really need is true local control so that the supervisors and the public get to decide what developments go into their community.”

Following the approval of the Prestage Farms mega-slaughterhouse in Wright County, north central Iowa has seen an influx of factory farm applications. The Globe Gazette reported in October 2016 that factory farm applications to the DNR field office in Mason City could triple by the end of 2016. This influx of applications is expected to continue growing, in spite of overwhelming community opposition and uncertain hog markets.

“The reason we fought so hard to keep Prestage out of Mason City was because we knew it would mean more factory farm pollution,” said Jan Wann of Mason City and a CCI member. “Now that it’s going to Wright County, we’re going to have to remain vigilant and do everything we can to stop this expansion. We’re need a moratorium on factory farms.”


Join the Fight!

  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight. !Hablamos español!
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Iowa DNR rejected Cerro Gordo Supervisors request to deny a construction permit for a 4,992 head facility proposed by River Edge Farms, LLC.  Cerro Gordo Supervisors are standing strong with the factory farm fighters  and have filed an appeal with the Environmental Protection Commission.  Click here for more details on the appeal.

Over 60 CCI members in attendance push supervisors to recommend DNR denial of 5,000 head factory farm proposal

Des Moines, IA – Members of the grassroots community organizing group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) and other community members celebrated a Cerro Gordo county supervisors’ vote Tuesday (8/16/16) recommending denial of a 5,000 head factory farm. The unanimous vote followed testimony that was overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal.

“Today’s vote sends a strong message to this industry: Factory Farms aren’t welcome in North Central Iowa,” said Iowa CCI member Phyllis Willis of Fertile, IA. “We’ll continue to organize for clean air, clean water family farms, and healthy communities”

The move by Cerro Gordo supervisors follows the Mason City council vote to turn down a massive slaughterhouse by Prestage Fams, the nation’s 5th largest corporate hog producer, as well as at least eight other counties that have taken a stand against factory farm expansion in their county. This includes “No” votes in Allamakee, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Hardin, Webster, Dickinson, and Greene counties. Johnson County supervisors weighed in strongly against an under-permitted site in recent weeks.

“It’s great to see more county supervisors standing with their voters instead of corporate ag.” said Iowa CCI member and family farmer Larry Ginter from Rhodes, IA. “Factory farms have tried to paint themselves as good neighbors but they just aren’t. They have been destroying our communities’ air, water, and quality of life for the last 20 years.”

The vote in Cerro Gordo County comes just days before members of the statewide people-power organization will be voicing their opposition to a proposed $11 million corporate handout package to Prestage Farms at the Iowa Economic Development Agency (IEDA).

“This is typical of big business: come in and demand millions of dollars in incentives under the guise of creating jobs.” said Iowa CCI board president Cherie Mortice. “But we see through it for what it really is: a race to the bottom. We want our government to work for everyday folks, not big business.”

“All Prestage will really be bringing to Iowa is more factory farms, more pollution, and more costs to taxpayers to clean up their mess. We have too many factory farms already. We need a moratorium now.” added Mortice.

The meeting Thursday is open to the press and to the public. A summary of the proposed award can be found here.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a statewide, grassroots people’s action group that uses community organizing to win public policy that puts communities before corporations and people before profits, politics, and polluters. Iowa CCI has been fighting to put people first for over 40 years.

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.

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