The group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (C-C-I) is celebrating a victory in what it calls an escalating fight against requests to build large-scale livestock operations in the state. The Union County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Monday to recommend that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources deny permits for two proposed 5,000 head hog farms.
C-C-I state policy director, Adam Mason, says the Union County vote is one step toward keeping the operations from being built. “Now that the Union County supervisors have recommended denial of this site, the D.N.R. will have 30 days to take their recommendation into consideration, review the factory farm construction permit and master matrix, and make their final decision. For us here at C-C-I, we’ll monitor that process, our members in Union County will monitor that process,” Mason says.
In the larger picture, Mason says they get calls daily about proposed livestock operations. He says the group has recently gotten the plans changed for facilities in Dallas, Floyd, Jefferson, and Story counties. There are ongoing fights against facilities in Poweshiek, Union, and Wright counties.
“What we look for here at C-C-I is a deep sense of commitment amongst the community, basically of the community coming together in opposition to this,” Mason explains. “If one person calls C-C-I, we don’t just automatically go out and meet with folks, there has to be a significant number of community members who want to do something about this. What we can do is go out and meet with folks and let them know what has worked in the past to stand up for family farmers and fight back against factory farms.”
The vote by the supervisors does not guarantee the D.N.R. will follow its recommendation. “County supervisors and local folks don’t really have much of a say, and that’s something the legislature did back in 2002 when they created the master matrix. That provides public input, but doesn’t give those local folks or the county supervisors final authority, which we would call local control,” Mason says.
He says the supervisors’ vote is a positive for residents trying to keep the facilities from being built. Mason says,”But what that means for folks in Union County today is the D.N.R. staff will look at this permit application a little bit stronger than they would. But what is comes down to is the D.N.R. is underfunded and understaffed as well.”
Mason says the dramatic increase in requests to build large livestock facilities is due to higher prices for hogs and the “lax regulatory environment of the Branstad administration.” Governor Branstad’s spokesman responded with this statement:
“Agriculture is the strength behind Iowa’s economic success, and we welcome job-creating pork producers to locate in our state. Governor Branstad believes we must safeguard our environment with commonsense regulations. The regulatory environment remains the same as when Governor Branstad took office, but with the skyrocketing pork prices, it should come as no surprise that producers would expand their operations. Governor Branstad will continue his efforts for cleaner air and water, and believes Iowa’s laws should be enforced.”