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! 

Victory!  We haven’t stopped the Iowa Select factory farm yet, but it’s safe to say that we planted enough doubt in the minds of Hardin County supervisors that they delayed their decision until Wednesday, December 27 @ 10am.  That means we have two more weeks to organize and put pressure on Iowa Select and the Supervisors to stop this factory farm expansion.

Around 30 people showed up in opposition to Iowa Select’s factor farm at Wednesday’s hearing. Their powerful testimonies covered a range of topics, including air, water and quality of life pollution, property value loss, loss of the family farmer, lost county tax revenue, destruction of historical places, and destruction of county values and vision.  You can watch the hearing here.

We were powerful, organized, and unified.  Even Senator Johnson, Independent State Senator from Osceola County, joined us at the hearing to set the record straight about what power the Supervisors have. He made it clear that the supervisors have the power to take points off the Master Matrix and recommend that DNR deny the application.

Over the past couple months, Iowa Select has submitted 20 applications in 9 counties to build or expand factory farms. These new factory farms will produce millions more gallons of manure each year.  You know that Iowa’s water is already polluted, including Pine Lake in Hardin County, and we don’t need any more manure in our state!

We’ve also heard rumors that Iowa Select has plans for 19 new factory farms in Hardin County alone in 2018. 

That’s why we have to use the next two weeks to pressure the Supervisors to take points of the Master Matrix, and we have to pressure Iowa Select to stop building factory farms in our communities.

Here are the next steps in our campaign to stop the Hardin County Iowa Select factory farm:

  • Attend the Supervisor hearing in Eldora (courthouse) on Wednesday, December 27th @ 10am
    • We need to outnumber Iowa Select!
  • Call your Supervisors and Iowa Select and tell them why they should stop the expansion
    • Iowa Select – 641-648-4479
    • BJ Hoffman – 641-939-8220
    • Lance Granzow – 641-939-8221
    • Renee McClelland – 641-939-8222
  • Join Iowa CCI as a member to support our work to stop factory farms and fight for clean water across the state.

Iowa Select may have money, but we have each other.  Wednesday’s hearing showed that when we come together and organize, we can stop big money. Please contact Iowa CCI at 515-282-0484 if you have any questions.

 

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.

Iowa DNR passes the buck again on clean water

In May, Iowa’s factory farm rules were opened up for a 5-year review. This was the Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) and Environmental Protection Commission’s (EPC) opportunity to close loopholes within their factory farm permitting and enforcement authority.

DNR received 1,600 comments on the factory farm rules.  Roughly 90% of the comments supported strengthening the rules, but instead of listening to the people, the DNR continued business-as-usual and listened to the industry.

TAKE ACTION!  EPC to vote on DNR’s proposed rule changes on Tuesday, October 18. Click here.

This is our last chance to weigh in before the vote and demand DNR and EPC close the LLC loophole, hold factory farm corporations accountable, and protect our water. Join us at the CCI Office at 9 am Tuesday, October 18 to testify at the EPC meeting.

REGISTER NOW.

Iowans Demand Stronger Rules

The Iowa DNR says over and over again that “their hands are tied” and that improvements to water quality can only happen through legislation. We know that’s not true.

Here are three ways the EPC & DNR could improve water quality, but blatantly choose not to.

1. Close the LLC loophole

Again and again, we see unpermitted factory farms build one right next to another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from moving in next door are sick and tired of seeing factory farms build just one or two hogs under the permit threshold which allows them skirt around stronger permitting laws.  DNR has the ability through rulemaking to close this loophole —but is passing the buck to the legislature and choosing to do nothing.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “common area” so factory farms owned by the same person that spread manure on the same fields are considered one large factory farm.
  • Strengthen the definition of “common ownership” so multiple “small” unpermitted factory farms with the same owner(s) are considered one large factory farm, which must comply with manure management plans.

 2. Hold factory farm corporations accountable

Most factory farms in Iowa are operated as “contract growers,” meaning a local person owns the building and the manure, but a big ag corporation– like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc—own the hogs. Currently, when a violation occurs, only the “contact grower” is held responsible.  We think big ag corporations should be responsible for their own mess. The DNR acknowledges that this is possible through rulemaking, but hasn’t made this improvement.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “controlling interest” so corporate integrators like Prestage, Cargill, & Smithfield can be held liable for violations.
  • Strengthening the definition of “enforcement action” so fines or penalties can be issued to corporate integrators who actually own the hogs.

 3. Protect our water

Iowa is in a water crisis and mandatory manure regulations are one way we can clean it up.  DNR can strengthen manure management laws to make sure manure doesn’t runoff into our water but choose not to.

EPC & DNR can fix this by:

  • Strengthening the definition of “public use area” in the permitting process to include a lake itself and tributaries of the lake, not just the dock or shelter areas.
  • Banning manure application on frozen/snow-covered/water-saturated ground and on karst terrain – no excuses!

Join us on Tuesday, Oct 18 to tell the EPC to strengthen the rules.  Click here to send a message to the EPC right now!

They Dump It, You Drink it, We Won’t Stop til they clean it up!

LIKE and SHARE to support the #cleanwaterfight

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 2

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here! 

We’re demanding DNR close corporate factory farm loopholes as part of the rule strengthening. Here are 3 examples of loopholes that must be closed.  

 

Should Iowa close the factory farm loopholes?People before polluters

  • LLC Loophole. We’re seeing 2,499 head factory farms build one right after another under different LLCs.  Iowans who have fought factory farms from coming in next door are sick and tired of them building just one-or-two hogs under the permit threshold so they can skirt around permitting laws.  We think it’s time they close this LLC loophole and regulate them like any other factory farm that houses 2,500 hogs or more.
  • County Extensions.  Did you know that the factory farm applicant and Iowa DNR can ask for a 30 days extension on an application but the County Board of Supervisors cannot? Under Iowa law a notice about an incoming factory farm must be published in the local paper.  But, most neighbors don’t find out until it’s nearly too late to fight.  We believe that counties should be allowed extensions just like the developer and the DNR.
  • Commercial businesses. In 2012, Iowa DNR and Prestage Farms told CCI member JoAnn that her business wasn’t considered a “commercial enterprise” because it wasn’t open in the winter.  This meant the factory farm could build closer to her than if they ruled it was commercial enterprise.  This is Iowa – we have harsh winters.  Lots of Iowa businesses, like landscape companies, vacation resorts, and ice cream shops, close down in the winter. That doesn’t make them less of a business.  DNR needs to expand its definition of a commercial enterprise to make sure all of Iowa’s family-owned businesses are protected from factory farms.

These are just three ways we’re suggesting DNR close corporate loopholes to even the playing field for Iowans across the state.  We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here tell the Iowa DNR to close corporate factory farm loopholes by strengthening the factory farm rule!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

If you missed our last post about how we want to strengthen the rules click here.

 

 

Strengthen the Factory Farm Rules – Part 1

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reviews factory farm rules only once every five years. Now is our chance to strengthen the rules. Iowa is in a water crisis because voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!

Why do we want a stronger rule? Factory farms produce 22 billion gallons of manure every year in Iowa and that manure is polluting our water. This is an opportunity to hold factory farms accountable and help us achieve a clean water Iowa IF it is strengthened.

Take action to hold factory farms accountable for their water pollution here!  

We have several demands to make this rule stronger, and below, we lay out two of them.

 

22 billion gallons of manure: who’s responsible, where does it go?

We hear two questions about the factory farm industry often:

Where do the billions of gallons of manure go?

Who really owns these factory farms?

Sac County - all fields & watersheds
Map of factory farms and manure fields in Sac County created by Iowa CCI’s Manure Mapping Team.

But, the exact answers to those questions are not public knowledge. Last year, we discovered why they absolutely must be.

A team of Iowa CCI members mapped and audited over 200 factory farm Manure Management Plans – a plan factory farms must submit to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources indicating what they plan to do with the manure they produce.

The DNR attempted to brush what we found under the rug: incorrect application rates (how much manure is applied to the fields), double-dumping, and more.

Iowa has too much manure to handle and one way we can prove that is by having access to manure application records – not just the plans. That is one of our demands from the DNR’s consideration of the factory farm rule: we need access to those records.

One of our other demands is being able to access the names of factory farm stakeholders – who is actually involved in these projects?

Most factory farms in Iowa are “contract growers”, meaning the local person owns the building and the manure but a big ag corporation owns the hogs – like Cargill, Iowa Select, Maschoff, etc.  But, the corporate contract company’s name and contact information are not required to be included in all Manure Management Plans.

We’re asking the DNR to strengthen the factory farm rule by including the corporation’s name and contact information in the Manure Management Plan.

These are two of our demands for Iowa DNR to strengthen the rules for Iowa’s 9,000 factory farms. We have 11 total demands to deliver to the DNR.

Click here to take action and tell the DNR that we need more transparency of manure records and who’s actually running the show out in rural Iowa!

We need 1,000 comments by June – let’s do this!

 

 

IOWA’S “MANURE SPILL SEASON”

IN FULL FORCE

 

 

Iowans Demand EPA Return To Iowa To Force Factory Farm Compliance With The Clean Water Act

 

 

According to DNR records there have been at least five factory farm spills that reached Iowa waterways in the past three weeks:

  • FISH KILL: Osceola & Clay County – factory farm egg washing liquid dumped in Stony Creek polluting 18.2 miles of stream and killing 163,001 fish
  • FISH KILL: Cherokee County – Bear Creek, source unknown
  • FISH KILL: Buchanan County – factory farm manure overflowed from manure pit and entered West Branch Pine Creek
  • Mahaska County – valve on manure tank failed and 3,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered a tributary of the Skunk River
  • FISH KILL: Allamakee County – manure application equipment broke and 1,000 gallons of factory farm manure entered Clark Creek

 

 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) members are outraged at the number of manure spills occurring in Iowa each year during what many call “manure spill season.”

“Right now, as crops are being harvested, thousands of factory farms across the state are starting to spread upwards of 10 billion gallons of toxic, untreated manure on Iowa farmland,” said Rosie Partridge, conservationist and small business owner in Wall Lake, Iowa. “We’re seeing equipment breaks, pits overflow, and careless practices like spreading manure on highly erodible land, on steep slopes and near waterways.  At what point is there too much manure in Iowa?  I think we passed that point a long time ago.”

CCI members say the DNR needs to start holding this industry accountable for polluting Iowa’s waterways.

“In 2012 the EPA investigated the DNR and found that the DNR has an inadequate inspection program, fails to respond to spills, and does not issue fines and penalties that deter future pollution,” said Larry Ginter, a retired family farmer from Rhodes, Iowa. “It’s 2015 and nothing has changed. The EPA needs to come back to Iowa and make the DNR implement the Clean Water Act with teeth.”

Like the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, CCI members want the DNR to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act for factory farms. CCI members believe that Clean Water Act permits, tough fines and penalties and on-site inspections that find and fix problems will drastically reduce the amount of manure polluting Iowa’s waterways each year.

“We’re sick and tired of corporate agriculture being exempt from any laws and regulations meant to protect people and the environment; they should be held to the same standards as every other industry in Iowa,” said Ginter. “Isn’t it obvious that voluntary doesn’t work?”

CCI members will be meeting with the DNR on November 3 to address the lack of enforcement and regulation of Manure Management Plans and application.

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 800 documented manure spills since 1996 and Iowa currently has more than 725 polluted waterways.

 

Join the 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 and water and your quality of life.

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