Budget cuts at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will mean fewer field officers will be monitoring Iowa’s large-scale livestock operations.
Wayne Gieselman heads the agency’s environmental services division.
"Environmental services in the last fiscal year received not quite $8 million of general fund support," Gieselman says. "This year, we will get $1.2 million less." That’s a roughly 15 percent reduction, typical for most state agencies.
Gieselman had two main goals to deal with the cut.
"First was to do our best to make sure our employees were retained," Gieselman says. "And the second was to make sure we were not losing federal matching dollars."
So budget-writers protected any programs which drew down federal matching funds. That meant everything else had to be cut. Six field officers in animal confinement enforcement are being cut, a reduction of almost a third in the number of people engaged in monitoring livestock confinements.
Representaive Mark Kuhn, a Democrat from Charles City who is a farmer, chairs the subcommittee that drafts the agency’s budget. He’s unhappy.
"There’s lots of ways to make the numbers work and the department has the discretion to do this," Kuhn says. "The legislature will be reviewing this."
Kuhn wonders if the D.N.R. will have enough staff to police a new law which forbids the application of liquid manure in the winter — on frozen farmground.
Gieselman defends the agency’s budget cutting.
"The department is doing the best job it can to help manage these budget issues," Gielselman says.
Those who protest what they call "factory-style farms" are upset, too. Sonia Skidmore of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement says there weren’t enough field officers in the first place and laying off six of them makes no sense.
"Many of our members have reported hundreds of dead hogs in a waterway, or any number of situations (like) over the application of manure," Skidmore says. "When they make the call out to the D.N.R. and the response is often, ‘I’m sorry, we just don’t have the staff and the funding to get out there.’"