Congressman Jim Nussle — a Republican candidate for governor — says local officials should have some say in where livestock confinements may be built.
“They know the terrain. There are idiosyncrasies that certainly you know when you are the local in charge than sometimes the state always knows and I think their involvement is crucial in making good decisions about that,” Nussle says.
Current Iowa law forbids county boards of supervisors from regulating livestock operations, and the Iowa Supreme Court has knocked down several attempts by counties to impose restrictions on where livestock confinements may be built. Nussle is staking out a position at odds with many in the GOP. Most of the Republicans in the legislature oppose so-called “local control” for livestock operations.
“I intend to lead. I’m not intending to just look at what everyone has always done. I think Iowa needs bold, innovative leadership and I think we’ve got to solve some problems,” Nussle says. “Part of the challenge we’ve had is people have not been willing to stick their neck out and state where they stand on issues and then willing to defend (those stands).”
Nussle made his comments Friday morning, and was asked by a reporter if he would give county boards of supervisors the power to veto a proposed livestock facility. “I haven’t had a chance to really flesh out the exact details of this kind of strategy,” Nussle says. Later Friday, Nussle campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella called Radio Iowa to say Nussle was against giving boards of supervisors veto power over hog confinements.
Nussle contends the main objections he’s hearing from Iowans are that state officials who make the decisions on construction permits for livestock confinements aren’t making those decisions in a timely fashion, and aren’t using “sound science.”
Farm Bureau state policy advisor Joe Johnson refuses to talk with Radio Iowa about Nussle’s statements. Johnson says he wants to see Nussle say the words himself before making a comment.
Barb Kalbach, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement who lives on a grain farm in Adair County, says she’s “encouraged” by Nussle’s statements.
“The very fact that candidates are talking about local control is proof that this is an important issue to rural Iowans,” Kalbach says. “They are finally starting to hear us.”
Nussle’s stand, however, does not go as far as Kalbach would like. She’d like local officials to have the power to deny construction permits to what she calls “factory farms.” Kalbach says local governments have the ability to say “yes or no” to an industry siting in their area, and she says local officials should have the same “privilege” when it comes to “industrial-sized farms.”
Kalbach is a fourth generation farmer but she and her husband no longer raise hogs because the market in their area “dried up.” She works as a registered nurse at the hospital in Winterset.