Don’t miss out out: learn about our lawsuit and how we turn the tide for clean water

At the end of March, we sued the state for failing to protect our right to clean water. Now we are heading out to connect with folks from across the state who are ready to turn the tide for clean water.

These are meetings you won’t want to miss!

At these community meetings, you’ll learn:

  • the history behind the lawsuit and how this ties into our existing moratorium campaign
  • the details about our game changing public trust doctrine lawsuit
  • ways to connect with others in your area to plug into the statewide movement saying YES to clean water and NO MORE factory farms!

Check out where we are hosting these meetings below and be sure to RSVP for the meeting nearest you.

Waterloo, April 23 @ 6:30 PM 
Waterloo Center for the Arts – Visual Arts Studio
225 Commercial Street Waterloo, IA 50701
RSVP for the Waterloo location here.

Nevada, April 25 @ 7 PM 
Nevada Public Library
631 K Ave. Nevada, IA 50201
RSVP for the Nevada location here.

Iowa City, May 1 @ 6:30 PM 
Catholic Worker House
1414 Sycamore St. Iowa City, IA 52240
RSVP for the Iowa City location here.

Davenport, May 8 @ 6:30 PM 
Location TBD
RSVP for the Davenport location here.

Sioux City, May 9 @ 6:30 PM
First Unitarian Church
2508 Jackson St. Sioux City, IA 51104
RSVP for the Sioux City location here.

Rockwell City, May 14 @ 6:30 PM 
Rockwell City Community Center
424 Main Street Rockwell City, IA 50579
RSVP for the Rockwell City location here.

Clear Lake, May 16 @ 6:30 PM
Clear Lake Public Library
200 N 4th St. Clear Lake, IA 50428
RSVP for the Clear Lake location here.

Decorah, May 21 @ 6:30 PM
The Lingonberry
218 W Water St. Decorah, IA 52101
RSVP for the Decorah location here.

We are hitting so many places because we want to talk to as many folks as possible about our clean water fight – we need everybody in.

RSVP for the roadshow closest to you and bring your friends!

Join, donate, chip in now to support this legal action – let’s turn the tide for clean water!

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.

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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! 

Compared to zero in the last three years, members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are worried about what this means for Iowa’s water crisis

Des Moines, IA – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued 110 “emergency exemptions” allowing factory farms to dump untreated liquid manure and raw feces onto snow covered ground over the past three months. That compares to zero in each of the last years and only 15 in 2014. The winter manure ban is in place because spreading manure on snow covered or frozen ground leads to hog manure contaminating Iowa’s waterways.

Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) are worried about what this means for Iowa’s already polluted water as the spring thaw,heavy rainfall, and floods hit the state.

“When the snow melts, it drains off into our waterways, and so does everything that was spread on top of it. That includes the untreated liquid manure from these corporate-owned hogs,” said Barb Kalbach, retired nurse, 4th generation family farmer, and Iowa CCI member. “We already have 750 impaired waterways, and this is not going to help make it better.”

According to the DNR, weather conditions have left factory farm manure pits nearly full. The record number of “emergency” exemptions mean that Iowa’s already polluted water is more susceptible to pollution from factory farm manure.

“Last summer my family and I tried to go swimming at a public beach, but when we arrived there was a sign posted saying the water was too polluted to swim in. With 110 “emergency exemptions” it doesn’t look like water quality is going to improve this next summer,” said Kristyn Arnold, an Iowa CCI member, “The only emergency is the impact that factory farm and industrial agriculture pollution is having on our water in Iowa.”

Currently the state of Iowa is using the nutrient reduction strategy to combat pollution from factory farms and industrial agriculture. The program uses public dollars and is voluntary, meaning that corporate Ag can decide if and how much they would like to participate in the clean up of Iowa’s water ways.

“The factory farm industry claims to be a 112 billion dollar industry. They have the money, they made the mess, and they should be responsible for cleaning it up,” said Brenda Brink, a retired dietitian and Iowa CCI member, “Why are we using public dollars to clean up a mess these giant corporations made?”

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.

Tuesday in Calhoun County, County Supervisors appealed the Iowa Department of Natural Resources decision to permit Burr Oak Growers LLC.

Supervisors responded to efforts of Iowa CCI members who have been fighting to stop this factory farm because of water quality, air quality, and quality of life concerns. You held community planning meetings, gathered signatures, and contributed public testimony in opposition to out-of-state Burr Oak Growers LLC’s plan to expand factory farm operations in Iowa.

This was the first time the County Supervisors have voted to appeal an intent to permit by the DNR. The decision is a product of the inundation of factory farms in Calhoun County. There are already 164 factory farms in the county.

On Sunday, July 1, a day after thousands of Iowans stood in solidarity with immigrant families at the border for a national day of action to #KeepFamiliesTogether, Senate File 481 (SF481) officially became Iowa law. The law requires local entities – specifically police – to work more closely with federal immigration agencies like ICE.

The bill was denounced by immigrants and allies during the past two legislative sessions, stating it promoted racial profiling and made Iowa less safe for all people.

“In the past year, ICE activity in Iowa has increased by 67%. While all eyes are on the disastrous situation at the border, ICE continues to disrupt our communities and destroy Iowa families,” said Isabel Conn, an Iowa CCI member and domestic violence advocate. “It’s dangerous to force Iowa police and sheriffs to comply with a federal agency that acts without rules, regulations, or repercussions. Iowans will lose trust in their police, creating an even more dangerous situation for victims of crime.”

Iowa has already seen a glimpse of the dangers of this law in Mt. Pleasant, where three levels of Iowa law enforcement – city police, county sheriffs, and state patrol – aided in a workplace raid without detailed information from ICE regarding the operation. First-hand reports stated police were dressed in full riot gear while a helicopter circled the concrete facility.

Here’s What SF481 Will Do

The law increases Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) power in Iowa, including:

  • Increasing local/state law enforcement collaboration with ICE
  • Preventing local entities from restricting cooperation with ICE
  • Requiring local/state law enforcement to honor ICE detainer requests, a less formal version of a judicial warrant

By January 1st, all law enforcement agencies in Iowa will be forced to provide written policy regarding enforcement of immigration law as required by Senate File 481. 

Advocates say SF481 will be disastrous not only for undocumented Iowans, but also those with various status privileges like permanent residents, refugees, visa-holders, and recipients of programs like DACA and TPS. According to the administration, ICE is supposed to target criminals and violent offenders. However, the majority of detainees from Iowa’s only crime is re-entering the United States to reunite with their families.

“Every individual has rights in the United States, including immigrants in our communities,” said CCI immigrant rights organizer Madeline Cano. “But what we’ve been seeing in Iowa and across the country for years is a complete violation of an individual’s constitutional rights and denial of due process simply because an individual was born in Mexico or Central America.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement members and immigrant rights allies across the state say they will continue fighting to repeal this unconstitutional law. In three community meetings held in late June attended by over 500 Iowans, Iowa CCI members and immigrant allies committed to provide ‘Know  Your Rights’ trainings, support families in need, and push local/state officials to make Iowa a welcoming place for all.

Here’s How We’re Fighting Back

  1. Repeal SF481

Bottom line – SF481 is bad public policy. It violates our constitutional rights, subjects law enforcement to profile communities, and holds public officials hostage by threatening funding. That’s why our main goal is to not only reject SF481 – but repeal it.

Meet with your local legislators. They represent us 365 days out of the year, not just during legislative session. Now is the time to sit down – face to face – with elected officials and demand that they publicly reject SF481 and commit to repealing it in 2019.

2. Keep families together

This law is destructive to its core. We’re not seeing violent criminals being removed from our communities. We’re seeing mothers, fathers, and families being targeted, detained, and deported. Many of whom have no previous criminal record other than a charge for trying to reunite with their families.

The long-term trauma caused by family separation is immeasurable.

Join a community response team. Iowa CCI, American Friends Service Committe, and other immigrant rights organizations have collaborated to form local response teams to help track ICE activity in their neighborhoods, work closely with impacted families, and prepare communities for potential raids.

Contact Berenice Nava-Romero at (515)274-4851 if you are interested in volunteering on a team.

3. Keep people out of jail

ICE has no power without the assistance of local law enforcement. ICE works to trap individuals when they have been arrested for misdemeanors or minor infractions through a detainer request. SF481 now requires all local law enforcement to honor these requests and to hold individuals in jail while ICE investigates them.

Meet with your local police and sheriff. It’s important to know where your local law enforcement departments stand on this issue. All departments will be required to have written policy stating how they plan to enforce immigration law by January 2019. Gather a group of your friends and set up a meeting with your police chief and county sheriff.

Contact Maddie Cano at (515)282-0484 if you are interested in setting up a meeting.

4. Report ICE

If you see something, say something. ICE operates in secret. They don’t want the public to know about their activity in Iowa. That’s why we must work to expose them.

Call our 24-7 bilingual hotline at (515)996-0003 to report any ICE activity in your neighborhood or if someone you know has been detained by ICE.

Through this hotline, we’ve been able to help dozens of families, utilize the data to track ICE patterns in Iowa, and keep people informed.

Stay tuned! A toolkit is on the way!