Iowa Department of Natural Resources director Jeff Vonk says local residents should have some say over whether a large-scale livestock confinement may be built in their neighborhood. “I think we need to give local communities, local people, a voice in the process of determining where these facilities are going to locate within their communities,” Vonk says. Under existing state law, local officials are forbidden from regulating the livestock industry.
Controversial new rules adopted in August by the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission — the board that oversees Vonk’s agency — give Vonk the authority to deny a construction permit for a new livestock confinement if Vonk believes it would be too close to an “environmentally-sensitive” area. Vonk believes the state should also give county boards of supervisors authority to set up zones in their counties where livestock confinements may and may not be built.
“And then keep this over-structure that’s already in place to protect the environment — a single, statewide structure for environmental protection — but allow people to decide in their communities where these facilities are going to be built,” Vonk says. Eldon McAfee, a farmer who also does legal work for the livestock industry, says farmers fear local officials would make rulings on the livestock industry based on emotion rather than science.
“I think the industry feels like the whipping boy right now,” McAfee says. McAfee says young farmers just starting out will be hardest hit if Iowa’s 99 counties are allowed to establish the rules for livestock confinements.
“What do you do when you have county-by-county regulation?” McAfee asks. “They’re the ones who can’t move to the next county and pick a county that has better regulations.” McAfee and Vonk made their comments on the Iowa Public Television program “Iowa Press.”