Something stinks in rural Iowa

During the 2008 legislative session, state legislators bent over backwards for the factory farm industry, providing little to no protections for everyday people. Sound familiar? The legislature even passed a bill to give $23 million in taxpayer money to the factory farm industry to “study” odor for 5 years.

We were up against a Democrat Governor and a Democratic House and Senate, working to hold those who were in power accountable – a good reminder that big money doesn’t care about the letter behind your name. Rich Leopold, the DNR director at the time, wouldn’t take a stand on factory farms one way or the other. But both Governor Culver and Director Leopold wanted to appear like they were doing something to take on the massive problem of factory farm pollution by passing this legislation.

So, we mobilized the “Odor Study Stinks” campaign, rallying at the capitol, contacting legislators in person and through emails and phone calls. We wrote letters to the editor and even did a direct action on Wendy Wintersteen at Iowa State University, Dean at the time and now the University president, demanding that ISU “Dump the Odor Study”.

The media attention and our public pressure helped stop this bad policy from being funded. The legislature approved the odor study, but with enough pressure on legislators from CCI members and supporters around the state, it became an “unfunded mandate” meaning that no public money would be used for the study. In the end, no funding was ever allocated, and the odor study went away.

This was not the first time nor the last time that the factory farm industry and elected officials tried to use “technology” to wriggle their way out of creating real solutions. But here is the thing, any solution that does not shift power away from the factory farm industry back to everyday Iowans is not a solution that puts people and planet first, it only serves to further entrench the powers that be.

Real solutions come from the people who are most impacted by an issue, like the hundreds of Iowans who organized to stop public money to fund the odor research in 2008. When public money stays invested in our communities, we shift the scale of power toward the people.