Members of two Iowa environmental groups are asking state leaders to enact stricter guidelines for confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Erica Blair, an organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, went with members of Food and Water Watch, to deliver petitions this week to the state Environmental Protection Commission.

Blair says the so-called Master Matrix hasn’t been updated in years and needs tougher rules to protect the state’s waters.

“Which is an evaluation, a scoring sheet, that’s used in factory farm applications,” Blair says. “It’s been around for 15 years and in those 15 years, we’ve heard over and over how it’s far too weak and hasn’t lived up to its promises, so we really wanted them to make those changes.”

She says one of the major changes needs to be increased setback distances for CAFOs.

“Those setback distances from things like schools, homes, public use areas, waterways, those setback distances are really small, really weak,” Blair says. “Some of the other things that we’re asking for are something to address site-specific issues.”

Blair says one site-specific issue that must be addressed is in coarse terrain areas. Blair says there should be a moratorium on all CAFO applications if the Environmental Protection Commission and DNR don’t approve the requested changes.

“That just goes to show that we really need a moratorium in Iowa,” Blair says. “We’ve gone to the legislature and that hasn’t worked. They haven’t done anything to address the factory farm issue or clean water. Now, we’ve taken this other avenue, we’ve gone to the DNR and asked for changes they can make outside the legislature.”

The Department of Natural Resources has 60 days to decide on the petition from ICCI and the Food and Water Watch.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton