Last week, we learned that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is recommending denial of the formal rulemaking petition filed by Iowa CCI and Food & Water Watch to finally strengthen the Master Matrix.

While their recommendation comes as no surprise, we are disappointed and angry that the agency sworn to protect Iowa’s people and environment has chosen to pass the buck. Their decision to deny commonsense water protections signals that the DNR is not truly invested in making sure our communities are adequately protected from the factory farm industry.

We proposed a Master Matrix that is more than just an automatic pass. But it’s clear that DNR wants to ensure this tool remains a rubber stamp for corporate ag.

DNR cherry-picked just a few items in the petition to justify denying it outright, while ignoring everything else. And in their response, DNR completely failed to even mention that the factory farm industry has expanded exponentially since the Master Matrix was created 15 years ago and is a major contributor to Iowa’s water crisis.

Here’s our rebuttal to DNR’s weak excuses: 

  1. DNR says our proposed Master Matrix is not feasible for the industry to pass. We disagree. Our petition is feasible because it is “capable of being done or carried out” – which DNR even acknowledged in its review.
  2. DNR says we’re demanding too much by asking them to select appropriate separation distances. This excuse is unacceptable. Protecting our natural resources is their job.
  3. DNR says certain criteria in our proposal are “improper” – like taking into consideration an applicant’s violation history. Everything that we proposed in the petition is legally possible and justifiable.
  4. Even if DNR disagrees with certain items in our petition, that is no reason to deny it outright. Our proposal is a place to start – DNR could still move forward and offer their own alternatives.
  5. But, because they chose to deny it in whole, DNR is yet again passing the buck and losing out on an opportunity to make changes right now.

This doesn’t mean our fight is over! The ultimate decision rests with the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC).

Join us on September 18 to tell the EPC to vote with the people and strengthen the Master Matrix. 

We need to show up strong to tell the DNR, EPC, Governor Kim Reynolds, and our state legislature that we’re sick and tired of the factory farm industry running roughshod over Iowa.

When: Monday, September 18 @ 9 AM
Where: Iowa State Capitol, Room 116 (1007 E Grand Ave, Des Moines)
RSVP: Click here!

Learn more

 

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  • Ready to take action? Contact us to learn how to get actively involved in this fight.
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
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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
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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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July 19, 2017.   Yesterday, we went on offense for clean water. Iowa CCI and Food & Water Watch filed a petition with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to strengthen rules on factory farms!

Click here to support the petition and demand stronger rules!

The Master Matrix – a tool used to evaluate applications for new factory farms – was created by the legislature in 2002 with the promise of giving communities a greater voice in factory farm construction and more protections from factory farm pollution. But, in its fifteen years of existence, that hasn’t happened.

Instead of working for everyday people, the Master Matrix only works for the industry.

We all know it: Iowa is in a water crisis. But, year after year, the legislature has failed to act. Iowans can’t wait any longer.

That’s why on Tuesday, we teamed up with our allies at Food & Water Watch to file a formal rulemaking petition with the DNR to finally strengthen the Master Matrix. We know it’s no substitute for local control or a moratorium, but the Master Matrix is one tool DNR can strengthen right now outside of the legislature to enact meaningful changes that will protect our communities and environment from factory farm pollution.

The DNR has 60 days to respond to our petition. During that time, we want to collect as many comments in support of this petition as possible.

Click here! Show DNR that Iowans demand stronger factory farm rules!

The petition asks for:

  • A higher minimum passing score, requiring applicants to earn more 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 single year;
  • Revisions to the point structure to incentivize practices that prevent or mitigate pollution;
  • New criteria that consider more environmental factors, such as unique topography and existing water pollution impairments;
  • Elimination of criteria that do not provide meaningful environmental or community benefits; and
  • Increased separation distances from things like schools, homes, public use areas, wells, etc.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Click here to support strengthening the Master Matrix!

This is just one step in our clean water fight. We’ll keep pushing for mandatory – not voluntary – water protections, and a budget where Big Ag – not taxpayers – pays to clean up its pollution.

Together, we can make the changes we need for clean water and healthy communities!

 

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.

Now is the time to strengthen the Master Matrix.

This tool is supposed to provide better community and environmental protections from factory farm pollution – but that hasn’t happened. Instead, the number of factory farms in Iowa is skyrocketing, while our air, water, and neighbors suffer the consequences.

The Master Matrix is so easy to pass that it has amounted to little more than a rubber stamp. Applicants only need 50 percent – an “F” by most standards – to pass the master matrix, and DNR records show that only 2.2 percent of applications have been denied. In 2007, DNR conducted its own analysis of the Master Matrix and found that many items are practically always used, while other items are hardly used at all.

The industrial livestock industry has grown significantly since the master matrix was first enacted in 2002, and the industry continues to rapidly expand. The Master Matrix is no substitute for local control, but it’s the only tool we have right now.

That’s why next week, Iowa CCI is teaming up with Food & Water Watch to file a formal rulemaking petition to strengthen the Master Matrix.

Make your voice heard!
Join us for the upcoming Environmental Protection Commission
(EPC) meeting to help deliver the petition.

>>>Click here to RSVP<<<

Iowa is in a water quality crisis – but year after year, the legislature has failed to act. We can’t wait any longer. Strengthening the Master Matrix is one thing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can do right now outside of the legislature to protect our communities and environment.

What: Petition delivery to the EPC and DNR to strengthen factory farms rules
When: Tuesday, July 18 at 9 AM
Where: CCI Headquarters (2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines)
Register: Click here to let us know you’re attending.

This spring, Iowa CCI toured the state and met with over 100 Iowans to discuss what changes they’d like to see in the Master Matrix. We used this input in the petition.

What the petition asks for:

  • 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.

The Master Matrix shouldn’t just work for the factory farm industry – it should work for us.

Help us deliver the rulemaking petition to strengthen the Master Matrix and crack down on factory farms.

Why you need to be there:

  1. No matter where you live—urban or rural—the Master Matrix affects you.
  2. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines. Stand up for our water and communities.
  3. Strength in numbers! Show EPC and DNR that Iowans demand stronger factory farm rules.
  4. We can’t wait any longer. This is one thing DNR can change right now outside of the legislature.

Sign up today, and see you there!

 

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.