Weather, Insufficient DNR Funding and Lack Of Regulation Show Need for a 180 on Factory Farm Policy and Enforcement
A trifecta of problems within the factory farm industry have led to one of the largest threats to Iowa’s water in recent years, Iowa CCI members say. Weather, the ever-growing quantity of manure being dumped untreated onto Iowa’s land and the lack of regulation of the entire industry shows that the amount of manure produced in Iowa is too much for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), our land and water to handle.
Weather is creating crisis on the frontlines of the factory farm manure pollution problem. Iowa had unusually high rainfall and early freezing temperatures this year which delayed factory farmers from spreading manure in October and November. Many factory farms knife-in the manure, a practice that injects the manure into the ground to limit the amount that could runoff into Iowa’s waters. With the early freeze, DNR sent out a press release last week with instructions on how to get an emergency exemption to spread the manure without knifing it in.
Spreading manure on frozen ground increases the chance of runoff and pollution because the manure is less likely to be absorbed into the ground and is more likely to run into tile lines that are direct pathways to our water. Last week Des Moines Water Works reported that high levels of Nitrates in the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers may force them to turn on the $7,000-a-day Nitrate removal machine – which is unheard of in November.
CCI members believe the 11 manure spills that occurred in October and the massive amounts of manure being spread on frozen ground this year are a contributing factor to the high nitrate levels seen in the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers.
“What DNR is saying is basically we’re giving you all a free pass to pollute our water this season,” said Barb Kalbach, 3rd generation family farmer in Stuart. “This is Iowa, we know temperatures fluctuate and with climate change these unusual weather changes will become more and more frequent. DNR must come up with another solution other than granting hundreds of emergency exemptions to dump manure right into our water. DNR needs to say Iowa cannot handle this much manure and we need to rethink how we produce pork in Iowa before we become the cesspool of the world.”
Factory farm construction continues to expand across Iowa, adding to the 10 billion gallons of toxic liquid manure already produced and spread untreated on Iowa’s farm land. Throughout the spring and summer Iowans across the state have organized to stop new factory farms from infiltrating their communities, with success at the local County Board of Supervisor level. However, the DNR has overturned nearly every Supervisor recommendation and allowed the factory farms to build.
Every factory farm is required to submit an updated Manure Management Plan (MMP) to the Department of Natural Resources annually and a full MMP update every four years.
With limited funding and lack of an adequate inspection staff this means the 8,500 MMPs are going basically unchecked by the DNR. MMPs are required by the DNR to make sure factory farmers are not over-applying manure on fields, spreading manure in environmentally unsafe areas and to make sure factory farmers are using proper equipment and procedures when applying manure.
“There is no way that the inspectors can respond to manure spills, inspect 8,500 factory farms, review new or expanding factory farm applications, and inspect all 8,500 MMPs. It’s just not possible and the consequence of this is the increased pollution of our water,” said Kalbach. “In the 2013 legislative session we pushed for funding for 13 additional inspectors and the DNR said they only needed five. This shows the DNR doesn’t grasp the severity of our manure pollution problem.”
Lack of Regulation
Finally, DNR has proven to Iowa that they cannot address Iowa’s water crisis because they are too heavily entrenched with factory farm industry insiders. CCI members have highlighted 10 of the worst manure spills in the past year help the DNR start issuing Clean Water Act permits. DNR has still not made any meaningful changes in the way they handle manure spills, issue permits, or issue fines and penalties.
“We’re seeing massive manure spills that pollute our water, kill thousands of fish and other aquatic life and take up massive amounts of time and resources of the DNR inspectors, yet they get away with little to no fines at all. DNR still hasn’t issued any Clean Water act permits to these egregious factory farms,” said Larry Ginter, retired family farmer from Rhodes. “The DNR says they won’t issue Clean Water Act permits if a factory farm can prove they have fully remedied the problem. These factory farms have had three, four or sometimes even five spills. Isn’t it obvious they can’t and haven’t remedied the problem?”
CCI members say this trifecta of problems highlights the need for a dramatic change at the DNR to get a grasp on the 10 billion gallons of manure already produced and spread on the land in Iowa.
“The truth will be in the numbers come March or April 2015 when the DNR releases the new number of polluted waterways in Iowa,” said Ginter. “We’ve seen an increase in polluted waterways every year since they started keeping track and we expect nothing different this year because the DNR isn’t doing anything about pollution.”
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 758 manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 630 polluted waterways.
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