Environmental groups and fishing enthusiasts are asking the director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to overrule expansion of a northeast Iowa cattle feeding operation.
Jessica Mazour of the Iowa chapter of the Sierra Club says the Supreme Beef barns for up to 11,600 cattle are near a trout stream and an underground aquifer.
“Our main concerns all have to do with the fragile area that this is located in,” Mazour says.
Last fall Supreme Beef got initial approval to have about 2700 animals at the site. In April, the Department of Natural Resources staff gave the go-ahead to adding nearly 9000 more cattle to the operation. It’s located in Clayton County, near the town of Monona and in the watershed of Bloody Run Creek which drains into the Turkey River.
The Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association and seven Trout Unlimited chapters were part of nearly 50 individuals and groups that signed the letter asking the DNR director to intervene. Mazour says the plans submitted for spreading manure from the Supreme Beef’s lagoon on nearby fields are a concern.
“If we want to protect this fragile area that has naturally producing trout — and it’s a recreation area, we should not be approving this application,” Mazour says.
The groups question why the Supreme Beef operation is classified as a cattle feedlot.
“We believe that it actually is a confinement because they are utilizing a loophole in the state rules or state law that says if a confinement leaves 10% of the roof off of the building, they can be classified as a feedlot,” Mazour says, “so if you look at a picture — these buildings are actually already built — they look like a confinement, like what we see hogs in in most cases in Iowa.”
DNR directors have had discretion to review livestock operations proposed in environmentally sensitive areas for 15 years. If the current DNR director declines this request on the Supreme Beef application, the next step for the groups would be a lawsuit. Supreme Beef’s operators have said critics are stuck on “potential pitfalls” and aren’t recognizing the economic boost the business will provide in the area.