by Mark A. Kuhn, courtesy The Des Moines Register

As one of 12 legislators who drafted the bill in 2002 that created the Master Matrix, a current member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors tasked with reviewing Master Matrix applications, and a lifelong Iowa farmer, I have a unique perspective on the Master Matrix, its failings and how it could be improved.

I support the recent petition presented by the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food & Water Watch because it is needed to restore balance to a system that has failed to adequately protect the rights of all Iowans, and certain precious natural resources unique to different counties, such as Karst topography in northeast Iowa.

TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the list of Iowans that demand stronger factory farm rules.

The Master Matrix is a scoring system that awards points for livestock producers who adopt additional practices greater than the minimum required by state law. Points are awarded for increasing the minimum separated distances between concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and churches, residences, public-use areas, and bodies of water. More restrictive manure management practices score additional points. The Master Matrix has a total of 44 questions that could result in a perfect score of 880 points, but only 440 points are required to get a passing grade.

The Department of Natural Resources’ analysis of the Master Matrix shows that certain questions pertaining to separated distances are easy to score points on and nearly every application does. Points are also awarded for practices, such as concrete manure storage structures, that are the industry standard. Other questions requiring air-quality monitoring, the installation of filters to reduce odors, demonstrating community support, implementing a worker safety and protection plan, or adopting an approved comprehensive nutrient management plan are almost never answered.

Once an applicant achieves the minimum required points, they are not required to answer any further questions. It is a pass-fail test that has failed Iowans. It is out of date and needs to be changed.

The process also puts unreasonable time restrictions on counties. Once an application is received, a county has only 30 days to review the application for accuracy, call for a public hearing by publishing notice in official county newspapers, conduct the hearing, and make a recommendation to the DNR whether to approve the application or not. If the county doesn’t deny the permit, the DNR will approve it without any review.

To make matters worse, neither the applicant nor the company responsible for preparing the application is required to attend the public hearing to answer questions about the proposed CAFO. This happened twice recently in Floyd County, leading to misinformation and distrust between livestock producers and their neighbors.

It’s no wonder that Floyd County is one of 13 Iowa counties that passed resolutions or sent letters to leaders of the Legislature and former Gov. Branstad, asking them to strengthen the Master Matrix. But those efforts at the local level fell on deaf ears in Des Moines. The Legislature and Branstad did nothing.

A bill by Sen. David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan), calling for a review of the Master Matrix by the advisory committee that originally established it was never given a hearing in the Senate Ag committee. Another bill authored by Rep. Mike Sexton (R-Rockwell City) that required the DNR to include additional water-quality criteria in the Master Matrix suffered the same fate in the House Ag committee.

However, the Legislature did see fit to approve a nuisance lawsuit protection bill for CAFO owners that limits monetary damages and lawsuits to one per lifetime. This bill was pushed by the livestock industry in retaliation to Iowans who are forced to resort to litigation because they can no longer enjoy their own property.

As a lifelong farmer, I know the value that Iowa livestock producers add to the corn and soybeans I grow. With only 2 percent of all Master Matrix applications ever denied by the DNR since the law was created in 2002, I also know the current system is weighted heavily in favor of the livestock industry.

The livestock industry and the agri-business lobby have been successful for decades in dividing Iowans on this issue by labeling any legislator who supports change as being opposed to modern agriculture and the next generation of young farmers, while ignoring the real issue: Iowans have the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and enjoy their quality of life.

This issue is too important to Iowa’s future to be reduced to the politics of division. It is not a rural vs. urban issue. It is a neighbor vs. neighbor issue. There are plenty of rural residents and farmers just like me who support Iowa’s livestock industry, but object to a confinement barn with thousands of squealing hogs or hundreds of thousands of chickens to be built 1,875 feet from their residence, and allow the untreated waste from those animals to be spread immediately adjacent to their homes and farmsteads.

That’s why I support the petition for changes to the Master Matrix. It doesn’t call for local control of siting or a moratorium on new construction. It works within the existing system to balance the scale of justice for all Iowans.

MARK A. KUHN is the owner/operator of the Kuhn family farm, a member of the Floyd County Board of Supervisors (1992-98 and 2011-present), and a former Democratic state representative (1999-2010).

 

TAKE ACTION! Add your name to the list of Iowans that demand stronger factory farm rules.

Learn more about our filing with the DNR!

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In a rare turn of events, Rep. Rod Blum will be holding four town hall meetings next week in the 1St Congressional District.

Here are the details:

  • May 8th at 7pm: Dubuque Senior High School Nora Gym, 1800 Clarke Drive, Dubuque
  • May 9th at 7pm: Kirkwood Community College Johnson Hall Gym, 6301 Kirkwood Boulevard SW, Cedar Rapids
  • May 10th at 7pm: Cedar Falls High School Gym, 1015 Division Street, Cedar Falls
  • May 11th at 12pm: Marshalltown Community College Babe Harder Gym, 3700 South Center Street, Marshalltown

Rep. Rod Blum has been avoiding his constituents like the plague, but finally emerged to hold some town halls in the district. But not without quite a few requirements from you (**ie, read this**):

  • You must register for the town hall at https://blum.house.gov/townhall
  • You must bring a photo ID, if your photo ID does not reflect your current 1st District address, please bring a utility bill or statement reflecting your current 1st District address along with your photo ID.
  • Information listed on ID must match the information provided on RSVP.
  • Children under 16 will be admitted without ID but still require RSVP.
  • Doors will open 60 minutes prior to events
  • No backpacks, signs, banners, or artificial noisemakers will be allowed into the event.

Attend a town hall and ask a question about issues you care about the most!

>>Also, we’ve heard that Medicaid and SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) could be on the chopping block during this Congress.

If you’re able to meet Rep. Blum’s stringent requirements to exercise democracy, ask if he stands with his constituents or big money corporations that prioritize profits over our health and safety.

For more information or to run a question past us just shoot us an email or give us a call the office at 515-282-0484!

Join the Fight: 

 

LIKE and TWEET to share this rare opportunity! 🙂

We have exciting news! Iowa CCI Board President Cherie Mortice put her name in the running to be appointed the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) Board of Trustees.

Cherie has a track record of fighting for Des Moines neighborhoods, DMWW ratepayers, and for clean water across the state.

And, we need a fighter.

Des Moines ratepayers need a strong leader to stand with Bill Stowe and the board — especially as Water Works faces tough decisions on how to deal with Iowa’s clean water crisis, including pollution to our source water caused by corporate ag upstream.

Add your name – support Cherie for the Des Moines Water Works board.

This won’t be easy. DMWW Board members are appointed by Mayor Cownie and subject to approval by the Des Moines City Council — both of which voted to support the legislative corporate-power grab attempt to dismantle DMWW.

We need to make sure Mayor Cownie hears from ratepayers across the city that appointing Cherie to the DMWW Board is one way to make up for that bad decision.

Add your name – tell Mayor Cownie to appoint
Cherie Mortice to the DMWW Board!

Get involved: 

 

Water — think about it for a minute.

We drink it; we bathe in it. We cook with it; we swim in it. Literally, we can’t live without it.

We expect it to be clean. We need it to be clean. But what if it isn’t?

Factory farms are putting Iowa’s water at risk. At Iowa CCI we’re doing everything we can to keep our water clean – for us, for our kids, for our grandkids.

  • Each year, factory farm hogs in Iowa produce as much raw, untreated waste as 45 million people. That’s 15 x the population of Iowa!
  • It gets dumped on fields and ends up polluting the water we drink, swim in, fish in and enjoy.
  • 60% of Iowa’s tested waterways are polluted.

Industry is pushing for “voluntary compliance” of clean water measures. But we know voluntary doesn’t work. We need tough rules and regulations that crackdown on polluters.

There’s no other way to describe it: we have to fight for clean water. And the time is now.

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