Congressman Jim Nussle, the Republican candidate for governor, says existing state laws governing the livestock industry — and where confinement buildings may be built — are adequate and so not need to be changed.
And Nussle is against the recent move to give Democrat Governor Tom Vilsack’s Department of Natural Resources director authority to veto construction permits for livestock confinements. “Having a czar in a situation like this…doesn’t give any kind of predictability or consistency if, in fact, you want to be the kind of state that wants to have a responsible livestock industry,” Nussle says.
After serving as a guest chef at the Iowa Pork Producers tent on the state fairgrounds, Nussle promised that if he’s elected governor he’ll rescind the rule that gives the DNR director the power to turn-down livestock confinement construction permits. “I do not believe the director of the Department of Natural Resources should have sole, independent, czar authority without any review or oversight,” Nussle says.
Some residents in the Iowa Great Lakes region and around Clear Lake are objecting to planned hog confinements near the lakes which critics contend will harm the tourism industry in the areas. Nussle says he hasn’t seen the data and can’t say whether those proposed confinements fall within the law. “We need clear standards. We need those to be consistently applied. They need to be based on science and I don’t think we should have one person who, after all of that, gets to make a decision that is independent from anyone else’s review,” Nussle says.
Currently, state law prohibits city and county officials from regulating the livestock industry and Nussle is against giving local officials any power to govern where livestock confinements may be built. Nussle indicates it’s up to legislators to consider any changes to the current standards that exist, such as reducing the separation distances between livestock confinements and homes. “I don’t think there’s any question that this controversy will continue to rage, as it has for quite some time and there can be many opportunities for us to look at, through the appropriate system, what kind fo standards are in place,” Nussle says.
Local county boards of supervisors and city councils currently have the authority to turn down plans for shopping malls and other business construction and Nussle says the livestock industry should continue to have an exemption from such local oversight. “Because Iowa is an agriculture state, we’ve made a decision from a state policy standpoint that agriculture is important and that livestock should be important as part of that,” Nussle says.
Nussle accuses other politicians of taking “fashionable” stands in favor of renewable energy like ethanol while failing to realize the ethanol industry won’t thrive unless there’s a vibrant livestock industry in the state that will buy the byproduct from ethanol production that’s to be fed to cattle.