Governor Branstad appointed Bob Sinclair and Gene Ver Steeg, both with deep roots in corporate ag,  to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). There is still one open spot on the EPC that has not been filled.

The EPC is the citizen oversight board of the Iowa Department of National Resources (DNR) and is charged with overseeing DNR decisions, rulemaking and factory farm applications, permits and violations.

Gene Ver Steeg raises about 20,000 corporate hogs per year on 4 factory farms in Northwest Iowa, is the former president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and former EPC member from 2008-2011.  He is quoted by the Wall Street Journal saying that implementing the Clean Water Act in Iowa is a waste of money. 

Bob Sinclair is a former employee of Cargill and currently owns a tractor dealership outside of Sigourney, Iowa. 

The EPC now consists of 8 members with the following ties to the factory farm industry:

  •  Bob Sinclair – Former president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and factory farmer
  • Gene Ver Steeg – Former Cargill employee
  • Brent Rastetter – Owner of Quality Ag, factory farm construction
  • Mary Boote – Former agriculture advisor to Governor Branstad
  • Nancy Couser – Owner of Couser Cattle Company
  • Cindy Greiman – Factory farm owner, sales associate for Monsanto & member of the Iowa Beef Board
  • Max Smith – Board Member and President of Agribusiness Association of Iowa & General Manager of Smith Fertilizer and Grain
  • Joanne Stockdale – Owner and President of Northern Iowa Die Casting
CCI members regularly attend EPC meetings for clean water issues like the ABI rule and the ban on manure application on soybeans.  This summer we will be engaging the EPC again when the DNR begins the rulemaking stage of the Federal Clean Water Act.
This is why we know that elections are important.


We need elected and appointed officials that work for the people, not corporations.  As we gear up for the summer of clean water we will continue to hold Govorner Branstad and the Iowa EPC accountable to work for The People, not their personal business interests. 

At the annual CCI convention there will be an in depth workshop on our work with the Environmental Protection Agency, the DNR and the Clean Water Act.  Join us on Saturday, July 13th to learn more about how we hold polluters, elected and appointed officials accountable.

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to Willie Nelson – legendary musician, family farm activist, and friend of CCI

Alice Ginter, deceased mother of CCI Action board member Larry Ginter, was a small farmer near Marshalltown, Iowa. Troubled by the destruction of family farms in Iowa at the hands of factory farms, Alice was motivated to do something about it:

“Family farms are finding it hard to survive. They used to keep the little towns going… now the little towns are dying.”

In 1997, Ginter expressed her concerns to Willie Nelson – a legendary musician and activist who utilizes his fame to publicize the plight of family farmers. Ginter explained the problems associated with the recent surge in factory farms – she spoke of a neighbor who was unable to play outdoors because the smell from a factory farm next door makes him sick, and she told Willie about Iowans that are unable to sell their land due to odors from a nearby factory farm.

Alice Ginter’s concerns sprung from not only the experiences within her community – but from a nationwide controversy within the hog industry.

Ginter, like all pork farmers, payed a small amount of each hog sale to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) – called checkoff funds. These checkoff funds were meant be used for hog-related research grants, promotional material, and other mutually-beneficial expenditures.

Alice and other activists began to see the checkoff funds being used in ways that were not mutually beneficial to all hog farmers – in fact, Alice saw that the funds were being used to further one type of hog farming – corporate factory farms.

In early 1997, it was leaked that checkoff funds had been used to spy on family farm organizations that could “have an effect on the [factory farm] pork industry”. A high-powered DC consulting firm was hired by the National Pork Producers Council to spy on organizations in opposition to factory farms – CCI was one of those organizations. The PR firm monitored various activist organizations that were pro-family farm.

Following the controversy, Alice Ginter sent her letter of concern to Willie Nelson.

On March 20th, 1997, CCI and other member groups of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment hosted an event to challenge the National Pork Producers Council for its support of factory farms and the use of checkoff money to spy on organizations that fought factory farms and the monopolization of the hog industry. After receiving 85-year-old Alice Ginter’s letter of concern, Willie confirmed he’d be at the event.

The event was powerful – Willie Nelson told the crowd “Factory farms are wrong, and they’re bad!” Willie joined CCI members and hundreds of protesters outside the National Pork Producers Council headquarters for a rally and concert demanding that the NPPC stop using pork checkoff money to spy on groups that fight factory farms. Willie was

On the heels of Willie Nelson’s powerful protest, the National Pork Producers Council reimbursed $51,300 in farmer checkoff fees that were used to spy on CCI and other groups working to defend family farmers.

16 years later, Willie Nelson continues to be a leader in the family farm movement.

Happy birthday, Willie – your friends at CCI appreciate all that you do.

Is a factory farm being proposed near you?

Concerned about your air, water, and quality of life?

We can help.

Call Iowa CCI at 515.282.0484 or email

Iowa CCI members in 11 different counties are currently fighting local factory farm construction

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members across the state are active in local fights to stop fourteen new factory farms from being built in 11 different counties, and every sign points to another busy year for Iowa factory farm fighters as the corporate ag industry continues to expand.

Stopping factory farm construction at the source is one of the most effective ways to keep toxic manure out of water.  It also helps broaden our base by bringing new people into the fight, which ultimately means more power to talk, act, and get things done.

Iowa CCI members have nearly 40 years experience organizing communities to effectively fight back against corporate power and win.  Last year, CCI members led campaigns in 30 counties and stopped 14 factory farms from being built.  We’ve stopped more than one hundred factory farms since 1986.

Join the Fight

2013 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year in the fightback against factory farming. Already, we’re seeing the corporate ag industry push bad bills at the statehouse, setting our state up for another influx of corporate hog manure. We need your help in fighting back, and here are four easy ways you can join the fight:

With more than 75 people at our meeting with Region 7 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director Karl Brooks last night, you and our allies the Iowa Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project sent a powerful message to the EPA and set the stage for cleaning up Iowa’s water and holding factory farms accountable over the next five years.

Though Brooks was clearly not comfortable being in the CCI hot seat, he called the clean water framework coming to Iowa “precedent setting” on a national level.  And that’s because of your work.

Brooks committed to holding the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) accountable to implement five aspects of a new work plan to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The work plan will require the DNR to make major changes in the way it runs the factory farm enforcement program.

The five key aspects of the work plan include:

  • New DNR regulations to be completed by February 2014, which will make Iowa’s factory farm discharge permits as stringent as required under federal law.
  • New DNR criteria for determining which factory farms are polluting waterways, to allow for consistent and thorough inspections.
  • DNR inspections of approximately 8,000 large and medium factory farms by the end of 2018, to determine which facilities require Clean Water Act discharge permits.
  • New legislation so state setback requirements for manure spreading match federal requirements.
  • Increased DNR penalties for factory farms that discharge pollution illegally or violate Clean Water Act permits, so that penalties effectively deter violations.

Our meeting with Brooks last night focused on follow-up to the work plan agreement and CCI members won new commitments from EPA that they will accompany DNR on some inspections the first year, to audit other inspections, and to continue to work closely with our coalition moving forward.

The first five years of our work is nearly over, the second five years is about to begin.

The next several months will be crucial. With your continued support, Iowa CCI members and our coalition partners will continue to act as environmental watchdogs and aggressively monitor the implementation of the EPA/DNR work plan over the next five years and will weigh-in at key times with DNR, EPA, the state legislature, the governor’s office, the mainstream media and continue to engage Iowans to hold government and industry actors accountable.

Stay tuned for more action to come.

Iowa CCI members across the state mobilized at the county level to get the job done!

Eighty-eight Iowa counties voted to implement the master matrix scoring system for factory farm zoning in 2013. 

CCI members across the state contacted their county board of supervisors and asked that they pass the master matrix because it is one of the few tools citizens in local communities have to oppose factory farm construction in their neighborhood that could negatively impact their air, water, property values, and quality of life.

“The success of getting 8 out of 9 counties to pass the master matrix this year shows that Iowans want more local control over factory farms. We want a say in what happens in our communities.” Said Barb Kalbach, a CCI member and fourth-generation family farmer from Dexter. “We can do one better and actually pass a local control bill this session.”

Representative Curt Hanson (D-Fairfield) will be introducing a bill for local control during the 2013 legislative session.  Local control will not change statewide zoning laws, but will give counties “veto power” – a final say in whether or not a factory farm can build in their county.

According to current law, Iowa counties must pass the master matrix every year by January 31 to be able to use it. 

The counties that did not pass the master matrix are Osceola, Plymouth, Iowa, Warren, Mahaska, Keokuk, Washington, Wapello, Des Moines, Lee and Decatur.

Iowa has more than 8,000 factory farms, 800 manure spills since 1995, and 628 polluted waterways, according to Department of Natural Resources’ records.

CCI members say Governor Branstad and Iowa DNR Director Chuck Gipp have failed everyday Iowans and must now reverse course on failed de-regulation and “voluntary compliance” strategies

The list of polluted waters in the state of Iowa has grown from 606 in 2010 to 628 in 2012, according to new data released by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and analyzed by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members.

“The total number of impaired waters in Iowa’s 2012 Integrated Report is 628, with 482 Section 303(d) waters [Category 5:  impaired and TMDL needed] and 146 waters in Category 4 [impaired but TMDL not required],” reads a new Clean Water Act draft report prepared by John Olson, a DNR Senior Environmental Specialist.

The DNR will present the findings to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) at their monthly meeting on January 15 in the Henry A. Wallace Building west of the state capitol.  That same day, the EPC will also consider a “hands-off” rule proposed by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry to weaken enforcement options and “ensure compliance within the least restrictive means possible”.

The new numbers mark the largest number of polluted waterways in Iowa since the state began keeping records sixteen years ago.  In 2008, there were 542 polluted rivers, lakes, and streams, according to the DNR.

I want to live in a state with clean water, but the DNR is now scheduled to weaken factory farm enforcement on behalf of a corporate interest group, on the same day they hear new data that our water quality continues to get worse,”

said Lori Nelson of Bayard, the Iowa CCI Board president, who is surrounded by 5,000 corporate hogs within a half mile of her home.

“This kind of irony isn’t funny.  Shame on DNR Director Chuck Gipp for letting this happen.”

Iowa CCI members say that the recent water quality findings also puts renewed pressure on Governor Terry Branstad to end his opposition to strong and effective public oversight just days before his 2013 “Condition of the State” address next Tuesday.

“Governor Branstad has spent the last two years trying to de-regulate and defund environmental protections while promoting a failed voluntary compliance approach that benefits the corporate ag industry at the expense of everyday Iowans and the environment,” Nelson continued.

“In the short-term, we need a fully-funded DNR and strong new Clean Water Act rules that ensure operating permits for all of Iowa’s 8,000 factory farms, with a three strikes and you’re out policy for habitual violators.  In the long-term, we need local control, stronger permitting standards, and increased separation distances.”

There have been more than 800 documented manure spills since 1995.  In 2010, former DNR Director Rich Leopold told a crowd of Scott County CCI members that the real number could be 10 times that high.

Join the fight

Join us on January 15th for our Kickoff at the Capitol to fight for clean water and public policy that protects Iowa!