Iowa Public Television

 

Jeff Vonk & Eldon McAfee

posted on September 29, 2006

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Borg: ECONOMIC GROWTH COLLIDES WITH ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS. LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION CONSOLIDATION GENERATES QUESTIONS ABOUT WHO LOCATES AND MONITORS CONFINEMENT FACILITIES. PERSPECTIVE FROM IOWA'S DIRECTOR OF NATURAL RESOURCES JEFF VONK AND LIVESTOCK INTERESTS ATTORNEY ELDON MCAFEE ON THIS EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.'

FUNDING FOR 'IOWA PRESS' WAS PROVIDED BY 'FRIENDS,' THE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION FOUNDATION; AND BY THE IOWA BANKERS ASSOCIATION... FOR PERSONAL, BUSINESS, AND COMMERCIAL NEEDS, IOWA BANKS HELP IOWANS REACH THEIR FINANCIAL GOALS.

ON STATEWIDE IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION, THIS IS THE FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29 EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' HERE IS DEAN BORG.

Borg: SINCE THE 1960S IOWA'S RURAL LANDSCAPE HAS BEEN CHANGING, CONSOLIDATED LIKE MOST OTHER ENTERPRISES IN OUR SOCIETY. LIKE MOM AND POP GROCERY STORIES GIVING WAY TO SUPERMARKETS, ECONOMY OF SCALE SWEPT SMALL FAMILY FARMS. LAND WHERE SMALL HERDS OF CATTLE AND SWINE ONCE GRAZED IS TILED AND CONVERTED TO GRAIN PRODUCTION. INCREASINGLY OUR MILK, MEAT, AND EGGS FLOW FROM LARGE CONFINEMENT UNITS OF DAIRY AND BEEF CATTLE, HOGS, AND POULTRY. WELL, CONTRASTING LIVESTOCK TRENDS, HUMAN POPULATION IS DECONSOLIDATING INTO THE COUNTRYSIDE. THE TWO TRENDS RAISE QUESTIONS OF WHERE THE LIVESTOCK SHOULD BE LOCATED AND WHETHER UNIFORM STATEWIDE REGULATIONS OR LOCAL OPTION PREVAILS. BECAUSE IT'S A HOT BUTTON ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE, IT'S POLITICALLY PERTINENT TOO. IOWA NOW OPERATES UNDER LAWS ENACTED IN THE MID 1990S, ESTABLISHING STATEWIDE STANDARDS. THE RATIONALE IS THAT LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY NEEDS UNIFORM AND CONSISTENT REGULATIONS STATEWIDE. OTHERS SAY LOCAL COUNTY BASED SITING IS NEEDED BECAUSE THE STATE INSPECTION SYSTEM IS CHRONICALLY UNDERFUNDED AND HAS PROVEN TO BE AN ENVIRONMENTAL FAILURE. WE'RE SEEKING PERSPECTIVE TODAY FROM FARMER AND LIVESTOCK INTEREST ATTORNEY ELDON MCAFEE, WHO REPRESENTS A RANGE OF LIVESTOCK INTERESTS, AND IOWA'S DIRECTOR OF NATURAL RESOURCES JEFF VONK. GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO 'IOWA PRESS.'

Vonk: THANK YOU.

McAfee: THANK YOU.

Borg: AND ACROSS THE TABLE: 'DES MOINES REGISTER' POLITICAL COLUMNIST DAVID YEPSEN AND 'ASSOCIATED PRESS' SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER MIKE GLOVER.

Glover: MR. VONK, LET'S START THIS DISCUSSION WITH YOU. IN THIS LATEST ROUND OF TENSION BETWEEN YOUR DEPARTMENT AND THE LIVESTOCK INDUSTRY, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM YOU'RE TRYING TO SOLVE?

Vonk: WELL, I MEAN THERE ARE TWO ISSUES REALLY AT HAND HERE. THERE ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS THAT WE CAN DISCUSS THAT ARE A LITTLE BIT SEPARATE, REALLY, FROM THE ISSUE THAT DEAN REFERENCED, THAT BEING LOCAL CONTROL.

Glover: MM-HMM.

Vonk: OUR INTERESTS AND CERTAINLY MY PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS DEAL WITH THE ENVIRONMENTAL SIDE OF THINGS. WHAT I WOULD SAY IN DISAGREEMENT A LITTLE BIT WITH THE INTRODUCTION IS THAT MODERN LIVESTOCK RAISING PRACTICES, THIS BEING LARGE HOG CONFINEMENTS, ACTUALLY I THINK WHEN IT COMES TO WATER QUALITY ARE PROBABLY DOING A LITTLE BETTER JOB IN PROTECTING OUR WATER, ASSUMING THAT THE PRODUCER DOES THINGS ACCORDING TO THE CODE AND THE RULES THAT ARE IN PLACE TO PROTECT OUR WATER THAN THE SCATTERED AND SMALLER OPERATIONS THAT EXISTED FIFTY YEARS AGO. SO WE'RE MAKING PROGRESS. THERE ARE STILL I THINK PRETTY STRONG INDICATION THAT THE HIGH NITRATES IN OUR WATER CAN BE DIRECTLY TRACED TO AG SOURCES. THERE ARE TWO STUDIES THAT I'VE SEEN RECENTLY, ONE PUBLISHED JUST THIS YEAR, THAT SHOWS A VERY HIGH CORRELATION IN ANY WATERSHED TO A LEVEL OF NITRATES IN THE WATER AND THE NUMBER OF -- THE LEVEL OF LIVESTOCK IN THAT SAME WATERSHED. SO WE DON'T FULLY UNDER WHY ALL OF THAT IS OCCURRING, BUT THERE IS A CORRELATION.

Glover: AND, MR. MCAFEE, THE INDUSTRY ISN'T VERY HAPPY WITH MR. VONK. WHAT'S YOUR OBJECTIONS?

McAfee: RIGHT NOW WHAT THE INDUSTRY IS LOOKING AT IS I THINK THE INDUSTRY FEELS LIKE THE WHIPPING BOY RIGHT NOW. ANY WATER QUALITY CONCERNS SEEM TO COME BACK TO THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS WHEN IN FACT LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS SUCH AS PORK PRODUCERS, WE BELIEVE, ARE DOING A VERY GOOD JOB OF MANAGING THE ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS OF THEIR OPERATION. I KNOW THERE ARE THOSE THAT WILL DISAGREE WITH THAT BUT, AS MR. VONK MENTIONED, THE TYPE OF OPERATIONS WE HAVE TODAY ARE AN IMPROVEMENT IN MOST PEOPLE'S EYES. THERE ARE ACCIDENTAL SPILLS THAT HAPPEN. WE REGRET THOSE AND THOSE WILL HAPPEN PERIODICALLY, BUT WE TAKE STEPS TO CORRECT THOSE. BUT AGAIN, THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION NOWADAYS IS FULLY REGULATED, MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS, ET CETERA.

Glover: DO YOU DISPUTE HIS CORRELATION BETWEEN LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION AND WATER QUALITY?

McAfee: I'VE NOT SEEN THE STUDY THAT HE IS REFERRING TO. YES, I WOULD DISPUTE THAT. I CAN'T DISPUTE THE STUDY BECAUSE I HAVE NOT SEEN THAT. BUT WHAT WE ARE SEEING IS AGAIN CONFINEMENT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION, FOR INSTANCE, UNDER IOWA LAW IS REQUIRED TO RETAIN ALL THE MANURE PRODUCED BETWEEN THE TIMES WHEN YOU APPLY IT. AND THEN UNDER MANURE APPLICATION, IT'S DONE PURSUANT TO A MANURE MANAGEMENT PLAN. AGAIN, I CAN'T TALK ABOUT THE STUDY ITSELF, BUT I WOULD QUESTION THE CORRELATION BETWEEN LIVESTOCK AND WATER QUALITY CONCERNS.

Yepsen: MR. VONK, HOW DO WE GET THIS BALANCING ACT RIGHT IN THIS STATE? WE WANT A HEALTHY AGRICULTURAL SECTOR, AND WE WANT A CLEAN ENVIRONMENT. NOW WE'VE BEEN FIGHTING ABOUT THIS IN THIS STATE FOR A LONG TIME. WHAT'S YOUR PRESCRIPTION TO GET THIS RIGHT SO WE CAN HAVE BOTH?

Vonk: MY PRESCRIPTION TO GET IT RIGHT, FRANKLY, IS I THINK WE NEED TO GIVE LOCAL COMMUNITIES, LOCAL PEOPLE A VOICE IN THE PROCESS OF DETERMINING WHERE THESE FACILITIES ARE GOING TO LOCATE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES. THE BIG IMPACT, IN MY OPINION, SOCIALLY IS THE SMELL ASSOCIATED WITH THESE FACILITIES. I THINK WE CAN DEAL WITH SOME OF THE WATER IMPACTS, AND ELDON AND I THINK, BASICALLY AGREE, THAT THINGS HAVE IMPROVED. THE STUDIES I QUOTED ARE AVAILABLE. ONE IS A USGS STUDY AND ONE PUBLISHED THIS YEAR FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. SO YOU GIVE LOCAL PEOPLE A SAY. I THINK WE NEED TO LOWER THE THRESHOLD FOR WHAT TYPES OF FACILITIES REQUIRE A PERMIT. REMOVE THE BAN ON LOCAL ZONING FOR LIVESTOCK FACILITIES. AND THEN KEEP THIS OVER -- THIS OVERSTRUCTURE THAT'S ALREADY IN PLACE TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT, A SINGLE STATEWIDE STRUCTURE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PRODUCTION, BUT ALLOW PEOPLE TO DECIDE IN THEIR COMMUNITIES WHERE THESE FACILITIES ARE GOING TO BE BUILT.

Yepsen: MR. MCAFEE, WHAT'S WRONG WITH THAT? I MEAN EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY IN THIS STATE HAS GOT TO OBEY LOCAL ZONING LAWS. WHY NOT YOU GUYS?

McAfee: AT FIRST BLUSH, COUNTY ZONING, COUNTY REGULATIONS, LOCAL CONTROL -- IF THAT'S WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, AT FIRST BLUSH IT LOOKS LIKE THE ANSWER. IN ADDITION TO BEING ACTIVE IN THE FARM COMMUNITY, I'M ALSO ACTIVE IN MY LOCAL NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION RIGHT HERE IN DES MOINES. AND I DEAL A LOT WITH ZONING MATTERS THROUGH THE ASSOCIATION, AND SOMETIMES I THINK, WELL, WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE. BUT THERE'S A BIG DIFFERENCE, AND HERE'S WHY. FIRST OF ALL, IT'S SUCH AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED ISSUE. A LOT OF PERCEPTION, MISCONCEPTIONS, AND FEAR ABOUT WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS. AND WHEN YOU HAVE THAT AS SUCH A LARGE PART OF THIS DEBATE, IF YOU WILL, YOU CAN'T GET GOOD DECISIONS MADE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL. IT'S JUST TOO CLOSE TO THOSE PERCEPTIONS AND MISCONCEPTIONS. FURTHER, WHEN YOU LOOK AT WOULD IT REALLY SOLVE THE PROBLEM -- IF THERE IS A PROBLEM, WOULD IT REALLY SOLVE IT? I THINK WHAT WE LOOK AT IS AS A STATE WE'VE TRIED TO HELP YOUNG PRODUCERS AND THOSE LOCAL PRODUCERS THAT OPERATE. BUT WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU HAVE COUNTY BY COUNTY REGULATION? THEY'RE THE ONES WHO CAN'T MOVE TO THE NEXT COUNTY AND PICK A COUNTY THAT HAS BETTER REGULATIONS.

Yepsen: HOW MUCH OF THIS, MR. MCAFEE, IS DUE SIMPLY TO THE CHANGING NATURE OF IOWA'S POPULATION? FIFTY YEARS AGO THE POPULATION DENSITY IN RURAL IOWA WASN'T THAT GREAT. TODAY WE'VE GOT ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE MOVING OUT, BUYING AN ACREAGE, LIVING IN THE COUNTRYSIDE. THERE ARE MORE NONFARMERS LIVING IN RURAL IOWA NOW THAN THERE ARE FARMERS. THAT WASN'T TRUE A DECADE AGO. SO ISN'T THIS CREATING A TENSION?

McAfee: I SEE YOUR POINT, BUT JUST THE OTHER DAY I BECAME AWARE OF A LAWSUIT THAT HAS BEEN FILED BY A PORK PRODUCER AGAINST A CATTLE LOT, A NUISANCE LAWSUIT. THAT PORK PRODUCER HAS BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AND HAS JUST FILED -- AGAIN, A NUISANCE LAWSUIT AGAINST A CATTLE LOT. THAT ISN'T FROM SOMEBODY MOVING OUT FROM TOWN. THAT'S WHERE I COME BACK TO THE PERCEPTIONS, MISCONCEPTIONS, AND FEAR. AND I WOULD STATE, JUST QUICKLY IF I COULD, IN PART OF THE INTRODUCTION IT WAS STATED THAT THE LOCAL CONTROL AND THE STATEWIDE REGULATION IS SOMETHING RECENT. I WOULD -- ACTUALLY COUNTY ZONING WAS FIRST ENACTED IN 1946, AND FROM THE BEGINNING THERE'S BEEN AN EXEMPTION FOR AGRICULTURE FROM COUNTY ZONING. AND IT WAS RECOGNIZED FROM THE VERY BEGINNING THAT AGRICULTURE IS DIFFERENT. WE HAVE A DIFFERENT SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES.

Borg: MR. VONK, WHAT MR. MCAFEE HAS REFERRED TO THERE SEVERAL TIMES I THINK CAN BE STATED, WITH LOCAL CONTROL, DOESN'T EMOTION SOMETIMES OUTWEIGH GOOD SCIENCE? AND YET YOU WENT TO THE LEGISLATURE THERE AT THE LAST SESSION AND WANTED SOME CHANGES TO GET MORE LOCAL CONTROL. WHY DID YOU FEEL THAT WAS NECESSARY?

Vonk: WELL, ACTUALLY I DON'T THINK I DID DO THAT. I MEAN I'VE MADE STATEMENTS ABOUT LOCAL CONTROL SINCE THE SESSION. THE ONE THING THAT WE DID ENACT AND HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH THE LEGISLATURE ON RELATED TO THIS ISSUE IS A RULE THAT THE INDUSTRY SAYS GIVES US MUCH GREATER DISCRETION IN APPROVING FACILITIES THAN I THINK IT DOES, BUT ONE THAT CERTAINLY THEY'VE OBJECTED TO. I THINK IT'S A LIST OF FOUR OR FIVE ADDITIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL -- COMMON SENSE ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS THAT THE DEPARTMENT IS GOING TO CONSIDER AS WE REVIEW PROPOSALS FOR NEW FACILITIES.

Yepsen: BUT, EXCUSE ME. THAT'S WHAT DEAN IS GETTING AT. WHY DIDN'T YOU GO TO THE LEGISLATURE THEN AND ASK THEM FOR THE STATUTORY AUTHORITY? WHY DO YOU ON YOUR OWN VOLITION JUST COME UP WITH THESE RULES?

Vonk: WELL, I THINK BECAUSE THESE THINGS EVOLVED. WE'VE HAD, WHAT, THREE VERY SIGNIFICANT LEGISLATIVE EVENTS OVER THE PAST TEN TO TWELVE YEARS DEALING WITH THIS INDUSTRY. THERE HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF CHANGE. WE LEARN AS WE GO. WHY DIDN'T I GO TO THE LEGISLATURE? TO BE IN ALL HONESTY WITH YOU, A SENIOR LEGISLATOR HAS APPROACHED ME FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS ASKING ME FOR LANGUAGE THAT WOULD GIVE DISCRETION TO THE DEPARTMENT. WE PROVIDED THAT. IT WAS NOT ENACTED. IT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO GET THROUGH. AT THE SAME TIME WE STARTED TO HAVE DISCUSSIONS ABOUT WHY DO WE NEED LEGISLATIVE ACTION TO MAKE VERY SIMPLE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION CHANGES TO OUR PROCESS THAT HAS ALREADY AUTHORIZED AN EXISTING CODE. WE HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO DO IT, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'VE DONE.

Yepsen: MR. MCAFEE, IS THIS A BUREAUCRATIC POWER GRAB ON THE PART OF JEFF VONK?

McAfee: THE PEOPLE I REPRESENT HAVE BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT THIS FROM THE BEGINNING, WHEN WE FIRST LEARNED ABOUT IT LAST DECEMBER. AND ACTUALLY IT CAME UP ABOUT -- I BELIEVE THREE YEARS OR SO AGO IT WAS FIRST DISCUSSED. THE CONCERN IN NOT LOOKING AT ANY ONE INDIVIDUAL HOW THEY MAY USE THAT POWER, JEFF VONK OR WHOEVER IT IS, THE CONCERN IS WHATEVER AGENCY WE WOULD BE TALKING ABOUT HAVING THAT MUCH AUTHORITY IN MAYBE NOT JUST ONE PERSON, BECAUSE I'M SURE STAFF WILL HELP HERE, BUT HAVING THAT KIND OF AUTHORITY WITHOUT SOME OVERSIGHT AND SOME -- THE CLIENTS I REPRESENT ARE CONCERNED THAT WE DO ALL THESE THINGS. WE GET OUR MANURE MANAGEMENT PLAN IN PLACE, ET CETERA. WE FOLLOW THE RULES AND THEN SOMEONE CAN SAY NO BASED ON SOMEWHAT I THINK IS SOME VERY SUBJECTIVE LANGUAGE.

Borg: YOU'RE SHAKING YOUR HEAD, MR. VONK.

Vonk: I'M SHAKING MY HEAD BECAUSE LISTEN TO WHAT THE FACTORS ARE THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT. WHAT WE'RE SAYING IN THIS RULE IS IF YOU'RE GOING TO TAKE YOUR MANURE AND SPREAD IT ON VERY STEEP CROP LAND, THERE OUGHT TO BE A -- A SOIL CONSERVATION PLAN IN PLACE SO THAT THAT MANURE AND THE SOIL ASSOCIATED WITH IT DOESN'T RUN DOWN THE SLOPE INTO THE WATER. A SECOND FACTOR, IF YOU'RE GOING TO HAUL YOUR MANURE MORE THAN 5 MILES, WHICH MOST PRODUCERS HAVE TOLD ME IS ABOUT THE ECONOMIC BREAKPOINT WHERE YOU CAN AFFORD TO DO THAT -- WE HAVE HAD MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS SUBMITTED TO US OVER THE PAST THREE YEARS, AND SEVERAL OCCASIONS PEOPLE TELLING US THEY'RE GOING TO HAUL MANURE FOR 40 MILES. NOT REAL! AND WE HAVE TO ACCEPT THAT.

Glover: WHAT'S WRONG WITH THOSE KIND OF FACTORS? I MEAN WHAT'S WRONG WITH CONSIDERING PUTTING MANURE ON FROZEN GROUND, WITH NOT HAULING MANURE LONG DISTANCES?

McAfee: IF THAT'S A CONCERN, LET'S PUT IT IN THE RULES. LET'S DON'T GIVE THAT --

Vonk: WE JUST DID PUT IT IN THE RULES.

McAfee: NO, YOU GAVE -- YOU GAVE -- THE RULE RIGHT NOW GIVES IT -- YOU, ONE PERSON, THE AUTHORITY TO SAY THE LIKELIHOOD THAT MANURE WILL BE APPLIED ON FROZEN GROUND. THE RULE USES THE TERMS POTENTIAL ADVERSE IMPACT, POTENTIAL ADVERSE EFFECTS IN PROXIMITY TO A SENSITIVE AREA. THOSE ARE TYPES OF TERMS THAT IN RULES AND IN LAW ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO ADMINISTER, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY FOR THE PEOPLE I REPRESENT -- AND IF I COULD, PLEASE, VERY DIFFICULT FOR ME TO TELL SOMEBODY: OKAY, WHAT'S THAT MEAN; I WANT TO PUT AN OPERATION HERE; AM I IN CLOSE PROXIMITY OR IN PROXIMITY TO A SENSITIVE AREA? WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE SENSITIVE AREAS ARE.

Yepsen: MR. VONK, WHAT ABOUT THAT QUESTION, THOUGH, OF -- YEAH, BUT YOU'RE A NICE GUY. YOU MIGHT INTERPRET THE RULES EVERYBODY IS HAPPY, BUT NOBODY KNOWS WHO YOUR SUCCESSOR IS GOING TO BE. NOBODY KNOWS WHO'S THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND WHAT RULES THEY MAY PROMULGATE. SO SETTING ASIDE THE ENVIRONMENTAL THINGS FOR A SECOND -- WE WANT TO COME BACK TO THAT -- WHAT ABOUT THE NOTION OF AN UNELECTED STATE APPOINTEE LIKE YOURSELF SETTING SUCH IMPORTANT RULES IN THE CODE?

Vonk: I THINK IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME IN ALL FIELDS. THE TERM ADVERSE EFFECTS IS USED THROUGHOUT RULE MAKING BEYOND THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES. SO THERE IS ALWAYS -- I MEAN WE HAVE -- IF WE GET INTO A SITUATION WHERE THERE SEEMS TO BE AN ABUSE OF A PROVISION IN ANY RULE, THERE ARE CERTAINLY APPEAL FACTORS THAT ARE ALWAYS AVAILABLE TO ANY PRODUCER WHO FEELS AGGRIEVED. THEY CAN GO RIGHT TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION COMMISSION ON APPEAL, WHICH HAS OVERSIGHT OF ALL OF OUR POLICIES, IN FACT HAS TO APPROVE RULES BEFORE THEY GO INTO EFFECT.

Glover: MR. VONK, ANOTHER FACTOR THAT IS INCLUDED IN THIS RULE IS PROXIMITY TO PUBLIC LANDS. WHY IS THAT AN IMPORTANT FACTOR?

Vonk: IT'S IMPORTANT BECAUSE OF THE EFFORT THAT WE AS A STATE ARE MAKING TO IMPROVE OUR ENVIRONMENT, TO IMPROVE RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES. WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO PROTECT OUR WATER AND OUR AIR SO AS FOLKS RECREATE IN THIS WONDERFUL STATE THAT WE ALL LIVE IN, THEY CAN FEEL SECURE IN THE FACT THAT THEY'RE GETTING A QUALITY ENVIRONMENTAL RECREATIONAL EXPERIENCE.

Glover: MR. MCAFEE, WHAT'S WRONG WITH NOT APPLYING HOG MANURE NEAR PUBLIC FACILITIES LIKE PARKS?

McAfee: IOWA IS A PRETTY UNIFORM STATE WHEN WE LOOK AT IT, AND WE HAVE A LOT OF PARKS. BUT IOWA HAS CROP GROUND ALL OVER THE STATE. I CAN'T THINK OF ANY AREA IN THE STATE WHERE THERE ISN'T CROP GROUND NEAR A PARK OR PUBLIC AREAS. CROP GROUND NEEDS FERTILIZER. WHAT DO OUR LIVESTOCK OPERATIONS PROVIDE? THEY PROVIDE FERTILIZER. NOW, ARE WE GOING TO SAY THAT, OKAY, YOU CAN FARM THAT GROUND BUT YOU CAN'T PUT THE FERTILIZER THAT MANY PEOPLE FEEL IS THE BEST FERTILIZER ON THAT GROUND BECAUSE IT'S MANURE. THAT'S MY PROBLEM IS WE ARE -- WE HAVE TO FARM THIS GROUND, AND BY LIMITING WHERE WE CAN PUT THESE OPERATIONS BECAUSE THERE'S A PARK THERE, I THINK WE'RE TAKING AWAY A VALUABLE RESOURCE FOR THAT CROP GROUND. I WOULD LIKE TO ALSO SAY, IF I COULD, ONE OF THE MAJOR OBJECTIONS THAT OUR PRODUCERS HAVE TO THIS RULE -- AND AGAIN, WE SINCERELY HOPE THAT THE DIRECTOR IMPLEMENTS A RULE AS HE HAS SAID. SO FAR WE HAVE NOT SEEN AN ABUSE OF THAT RULE. BUT SO MUCH OF ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE IS MANAGEMENT. YOU DON'T KNOW HOW SOMETHING IS GOING TO BE MANAGED UNTIL IT'S OPERATING. IF YOU FOLLOW THE RULES WHERE IT'S PLACED, MANAGE THEM PROPERLY, I DON'T THINK DIRECTOR VONK OR ANYONE ELSE CAN SAY IT WILL BE A PROBLEM.

Glover: MR. VONK, YOU'RE SHAKING YOUR HEAD.

Vonk: WELL, WE'RE NOT GOING TO ABUSE THE RULE, NUMBER ONE. AND NUMBER TWO, I WORKED FOR THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR OVER TWENTY YEARS BEFORE TAKING ON THIS POSITION. AND THROUGHOUT THAT TIME, THE FARM COMMUNITY REPEATEDLY MADE THE CASE THAT FARMING AND THE NATURAL LANDSCAPE IS A VERY DYNAMIC SYSTEM. EACH INDIVIDUAL SITE IS DYNAMIC AND UNIQUE IN AND OF ITSELF. WE'RE ALWAYS CRITICAL OF REGULATION THAT IS A ONE SIZE FITS ALL. TAKING ALL THAT KIND OF CRITICISM INTO ACCOUNT, IT'S REALLY HARD FOR ME TO UNDERSTAND WHY FOLKS ARE SO UPSET ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE WANT TO ACTUALLY WORK WITH OUR PRODUCERS ON THE SITES THAT THEY WANT TO BUILD ON AND MAKE SURE THAT WE'VE ACCOUNTED FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL POTENTIAL AND NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS THAT MIGHT OCCUR IF A BUILDING IS CONSTRUCTED OR MANURE IS SPREAD. I MEAN WE'RE ACTUALLY ANSWERING THEIR BIG COMPLAINT ABOUT REGULATION IN ITS ENTIRETY.

Yepsen: MR. MCAFEE, WHAT DO YOU GUYS WANT? I MEAN WHAT DO PRODUCERS WANT HERE? YOU SIT HERE AND YOU SAY WE'RE GOOD STEWARDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WE DON'T WANT REGULATIONS AND YET PEOPLE IN DES MOINES CAN'T DRINK THE WATER WITHOUT IT GOING THROUGH A $4-MILLION FILTER EVERY SPRING BECAUSE OF ALL THE NITRATES THAT FARMERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR IN THE RACCOON RIVER BASIN. SO WHAT DO YOU GUYS WANT HERE?

McAfee: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT WE'D LIKE IS FOR IT TO BE FULLY UNDERSTOOD WHERE THOSE NITRATES ARE COMING FROM. AND I DON'T THINK YOU CAN PUT THAT ON THE BACK OF LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS.

Yepsen: IT'S NOT THE LAWNS IN JEFFERSON, IOWA, MR. MCAFEE. YOU KNOW THAT. IT'S LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS.

McAfee: NO, IT'S NOT. THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS WE HAVE TODAY -- I'M NOT SAYING THEY DON'T CONTRIBUTE --

Yepsen: SO YOU DENY THERE'S A PROBLEM.

McAfee: NO, I'M NOT DENYING THERE'S A PROBLEM, MR. YEPSEN. I'M DENYING THAT YOU CAN PUT IT ON THE BACK OF LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS. LIVESTOCK PRODUCERS ARE SOME OF THE MOST REGULATED -- AND I'M AWARE OF ALL OF THE OTHER INDUSTRIES THAT HAVE REGULATION IN BUSINESSES. THEY ARE REGULATED. ALL OF US ARE AND WE'RE DEALING WITH THAT REGULATION. I THINK IT'S A MISCHARACTERIZATION TO SAY THAT WE'VE BEEN OPPOSED TO THOSE REGULATIONS. SOME WE HAVE CLEARLY. OTHERS WE'VE PARTICIPATED IN; 1995 WE LED IN BRINGING THAT LEGISLATION FORWARD. BUT WHAT DO WE WANT? WE WANT FAIR REGULATION THAT WE KNOW WHAT IT IS, THAT WE CAN COMPLY WITH. WHEN I'M HELPING SOMEBODY SITE AN OPERATION, THEN I CAN TELL THEM HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO AND, YES, IF YOU TRIP UP, IF YOU HAVE A DISCHARGE, A SPILL, YOU'RE GOING TO BE DEALT WITH, AND YOU SHOULD BE DEALT WITH.

Yepsen: WHY DON'T WE JUST IMPOSE CRIMINAL PENALTIES HERE? I MEAN IF WE JUST GOT -- IF THE PROBLEM IS JUST A FEW BAD ACTORS -- AND WE ALL HEAR THE SAME NAMES ALL OVER THE STATE OF PEOPLE THAT GIVE THE INDUSTRY A BAD NAME, LET'S MAKE IT A CRIME. LET'S NOT TRY TO REGULATE IT ON THE CIVIL SIDE. LET'S NOT TRY TO ASK MR. VONK TO -- LET'S JUST MAKE IT MORE CRIMINAL.

McAfee: CRIMINAL LAWS ALREADY EXIST FOR THOSE WHO COMMIT A CRIME IN ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONS.

Yepsen: WELL, LET'S TOUGHEN THOSE UP. WHAT'S WRONG WITH TOUGHENING THOSE -- STRENGTHENING THOSE?

McAfee: LOOK, WE'RE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, AND IF SOMEBODY INTENTIONALLY DOES SOMETHING TO THE ENVIRONMENT, WHICH YOU WOULD BE TALKING ABOUT IN CRIMINAL LAW, I DON'T THINK YOU NEED TO CHANGE WHAT'S ALREADY THERE. THE LAW IS THERE. IT'S A MATTER OF ENFORCEMENT.

Glover: MR. VONK, ONE OF THE FACTORS THAT'S INCLUDED IN THIS RULE IS APPLYING MANURE IN PROXIMITY TO A WATER SUPPLY.

Vonk: RIGHT.

Glover: IT SEEMS FAIRLY OBVIOUS TO ME. WHAT'S THE OBJECTION THAT YOU'RE HEARING TO THAT?

Vonk: I DON'T KNOW. I'M NOT HEARING TOO MUCH. I MEAN THE DIFFICULTY FOR ME WITH THIS RULE IS THAT THE FOLKS WHO HAVE COMPLAINED ABOUT IT HAVE COMPLAINED ABOUT IT IN TERMS OF THIS NOTION THAT THE DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR IS MAKING THIS BIG POWER GRAB. VERY LITTLE SPECIFIC COMMENT HAS BEEN PROVIDED TO US ABOUT THE SPECIFIC REALLY COMMON SENSE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ASPECTS OF THIS RULE. THAT'S CLEARLY ONE THAT IS A COMMON SENSE ASPECT.

Glover: MR. MCAFEE, I'D LIKE TO TAKE THAT TO YOU. YOU'RE GOING TO ARGUE FOR APPLYING HOG MANURE NEAR WATER SUPPLIES.

McAfee: IF APPLIED PROPERLY, THERE'S NOT A PROBLEM. WHAT'S GOING TO BE APPLIED NEARLY THOSE WATER SUPPLIES IF MANURE IS NOT? ISN'T FERTILIZER GOING TO BE APPLIED? ARE WE GOING TO SAY YOU CAN'T FARM THAT GROUND? IF PROPERLY APPLIED, IT'S NOT A PROBLEM. MR. VONK HAS SAID HE HAS NOT HEARD A LOT OF CONCERNS FROM US ON SPECIFIC ISSUES, AND I GUESS I WOULD SAY THAT'S BECAUSE, IN MY OPINION, THE RULE IS FAIRLY VAGUE AND SUBJECTIVE. WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THOSE SPECIFIC ISSUES ARE. AND I KNOW MR. VONK DOESN'T AGREE WITH ME THERE. ALL I CAN SAY IS AS THIS RULE IS IMPLEMENTED, THE PRODUCERS I REPRESENT, WE SINCERELY HOPE IT IS IMPLEMENTED AS MR. VONK HAS INDICATED. IF IT IS, WE SHOULD BE FINE.

Borg: MR. VONK, A QUESTION THAT SEEMS TO BE RAISED HERE IS THAT LIVESTOCK OPERATORS IN APPLYING MANURE ARE HEAVILY REGULATED BUT OTHERS THAT APPLY COMMERCIAL FERTILIZER, OTHER THINGS PROBABLY AREN'T; IS THAT TRUE?

Vonk: THAT'S VERY TRUE. I MEAN CERTAINLY LIVESTOCK OPERATIONS DO WORK VERY HARD TO PREPARE, AS THEY'RE REQUIRED TO, MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS. AND IT'S OUR HOPE THAT THEY ALL FOLLOW THOSE PLANS, AND THAT SORT OF GETS BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THIS DISCUSSION. IF THEY'RE FOLLOWED AND WE DON'T HAVE A SPILL AND AN ACCIDENT THAT CAUSES A MORE CATASTROPHIC KIND OF EFFECT, THERE ARE IMPROVEMENTS BEING MADE.

Yepsen: MR. VONK, TO WHAT EXTENT COULD TECHNOLOGY HELP SOLVE OUR PROBLEM? MANURE DIGESTERS, FOR EXAMPLE. I MEAN CAN WE LOOK TO TECHNOLOGY TO SORT OF BREAK -- CUT THE KNOT HERE?

Vonk: I DO THINK DIGESTERS IS -- THOSE ARE A VERY VIABLE OPTION. IN FACT, THE DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN TRAVELING AROUND RURAL IOWA MAKING PRESENTATIONS TO COMMUNITIES ABOUT TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHERE'S THE BEST PLACE TO BEGIN THAT TECHNOLOGY. IT WOULD INCORPORATE NOT ONLY THE ORGANIC WASTE THAT COME OFF OF LIVESTOCK OPERATIONS, BUT CERTAINLY ORGANIC WASTE THAT COULD BE SEPARATED FROM LANDFILL OPERATIONS.

Yepsen: SAME QUESTION TO YOU, MR. MCAFEE. COULD TECHNOLOGY HELP SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS, NEW TECHNOLOGY?

McAfee: AND BY THESE PROBLEMS, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT WATER QUALITY, AIR QUALITY?

Yepsen: YES.

McAfee: THE WHOLE WORKS?

Yepsen: BOTH, RIGHT.

McAfee: I THINK TECHNOLOGY IS ONGOING. OBVIOUSLY AS WE SIT HERE TODAY, TO DATE, FOR INSTANCE IN THE ODOR ARENA, THERE IS NO SINGLE BULLET -- SILVER BULLET THAT I CAN POINT TO TO A LIVESTOCK PRODUCER AND SAY DO THAT AND THAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOUR PROBLEM. BUT WE'RE PUTTING PRACTICES IN PLACE. JEFF HAS TALKED ABOUT A COUPLE. WE ALSO HAVE TREE PLANTINGS AROUND FACILITIES USING ADDITIVES, JUST TAKING GOOD CARE OF YOUR FACILITY, AND PLACEMENT IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THAT. YES, WE'RE DOING THAT AND WE HOPE TECHNOLOGY GETS BETTER.

Yepsen: HAS IOWA STATE BELLIED UP TO THE BAR HERE AND PROVIDED PRODUCERS WITH THE TECHNOLOGY THAT YOU NEED? I MEAN WHERE ARE THEY IN THIS?

McAfee: IOWA STATE HAS BEEN VERY ACTIVE OVER THE YEARS IN PROVIDING US WITH -- MEASURING ODOR FOR ONE THING. WE HAD THE ODOR STUDY DONE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, WHICH SHOWED THAT THINGS ARE A LOT BETTER THAN MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT. IOWA STATE HAD ALSO DONE SOME RESEARCH BEFORE, BUT THE STUDY BY DNR I THINK CAME FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE TO CONFIRM WHAT WE'D BEEN DOING THROUGH IOWA STATE.

Glover: MR. MCAFEE, LET'S STAY WITH YOU FOR JUST A SECOND. TO WHAT EXTENT IS THIS NOT REALLY AN ENVIRONMENTAL DEBATE BUT A ECONOMIC DEBATE BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMY OF SCALE?

McAfee: I THINK TO A GREAT EXTENT. NOW, I DON'T LIKE TO SAY PEOPLE ARE NOT BEING GENUINE SOMETIMES WHEN THEY DO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT I HAVE TO. I GET INVOLVED IN A LOT OF THIS AS AN ATTORNEY REPRESENTING PRIVATE PRODUCERS, AND IT COMES BACK TO EMOTION, PERCEPTION, FEAR. AND I THINK THE JOB -- HOW CAN WE FIX SOME OF THESE SKIRMISHES THAT ARE GOING ON OUT THERE? I THINK THE SYSTEM THAT WE HAVE IN PLACE IS WORKING. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD DISAGREE WITH ME. IT IS WORKING. IT'S ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE ITS PROBLEMS. STATEWIDE CONTROL BEING HANDLED BY THE STATE TO REMOVE THAT FROM IT. BUT IF I CAN JUST SAY WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS EDUCATE AND COMMUNICATE. WE HAVE TO EDUCATE PEOPLE WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND LIVESTOCK OPERATION.

Glover: MR. VONK, THE SAME QUESTION.

Vonk: THE SYSTEM IS CLEARLY WORKING FOR THE INDUSTRY. WE'VE SEEN AN UNPRECEDENTED GROWTH IN THE NUMBER OF BUILDINGS IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS. THIS ISSUE OF ECONOMIC IMPACT I THINK IS A RED HERRING. THE INDUSTRY, WHEN WE DID 2293 IN 2001 OR '02, WHICHEVER YEAR THAT WAS, ALL I HEARD AT THAT TIME WAS HOW THAT BILL WAS GOING TO PUT THIS INDUSTRY OUT OF BUSINESS, DRIVE PRODUCERS FROM THE STATE. WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE THAT TIME? I THINK THE YEAR THAT THAT BILL WAS PASSED, PRIOR TO ITS PASSING WE APPROVED SOMETHING ON THE ORDER OF SOME 20 NEW FACILITIES THAT -- THE MANURE MANAGEMENT PLANS OR CONSTRUCTION PERMITS. THE YEAR FOLLOWING THAT JUMPED TO ABOUT 500. THE YEAR AFTER THAT IT WAS UP TO AROUND 700, AND THIS YEAR WE'RE ON A RECORD PACE AGAIN. SO THAT BILL DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO HARM THE GROWTH OF THE INDUSTRY. THIS DISCUSSION REALLY ISN'T ABOUT ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY FOR THIS INDUSTRY ABOUT THE PAST, BECAUSE WHAT'S IN PLACE WILL STAY IN PLACE. THIS BILL IS ABOUT WHERE ARE WE GOING TO GO IN THE FUTURE.

Yepsen: MR. VONK, WE'VE ONLY GOT ABOUT THIRTY SECONDS LEFT. HOW MUCH OF THIS IS ABOUT POLITICS? OKAY, WE'VE PASSED A COUPLE LAWS IN IOWA. YOUR BOSS, THE GOVERNOR, IS OFF RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT; GOTTA LOOK GOOD ON THE ENVIRONMENT. JUST BEFORE AN ELECTION, NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU START COMING UP WITH THESE NEW RULES. IS THIS ABOUT POLITICS?

Vonk: NO, THIS IS -- THIS IS ABOUT POLITICS IN ONE SENSE. THIS IS ABOUT INFORMING FOLKS THAT IF WE'RE GOING TO SEE POSITIVE CHANGE IN WHAT OUR COMMUNITIES IN RURAL IOWA ARE GOING TO LOOK LIKE, PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THOSE COMMUNITIES HAVE TO STEP UP AND ASK THE QUESTIONS OF THE FOLKS WHO ARE RUNNING FOR OFFICE. THESE POLICIES ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE IF THE MAKEUP OF OUR LEGISLATURE DOESN'T CHANGE, AND THEY OUGHT TO ALSO BE ASKING THESE SAME QUESTIONS OF THE TWO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES.

Yepsen: MR. MCAFEE, TEN SECONDS. IS THIS ALL ABOUT ALL POLITICS?

McAfee: A LOT OF IT IS POLITICS, BUT I THINK THERE IS A DEBATE THAT NEEDS TO OCCUR HERE. AND IT'S HEALTHY TO HAVE THE DISCUSSION WE'RE HAVING TODAY ABOUT COUNTY REGULATIONS, ET CETERA. WE NEED TO CONTINUE THAT.

Borg: THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SPENDING TIME WITH US TODAY. AND BEFORE WE LEAVE, I'D LIKE TO PROVIDE A COMMENT THAT'S ALSO A DISCLAIMER FROM BOTH IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION AND 'IOWA PRESS.' YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED FOOTAGE FROM 'IOWA PRESS' IN POLITICAL CAMPAIGN COMMERCIALS. THE USE OF THIS MATERIAL IS MADE WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF IOWA PUBLIC TELEVISION OR THE PRODUCERS OF THIS PROGRAM. AND WHEN IT'S APPARENT THAT VIDEO AND AUDIO FROM 'IOWA PRESS' IS BEING USED, WE'VE ASKED THOSE CAMPAIGNS TO SEIZE THE BROADCAST OF THOSE ADS. NOW, IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO EXAMINE THE CONTENTS OF ANY 'IOWA PRESS' PROGRAMS, TRANSCRIPTS AND AUDIO ARE AVAILABLE AT THE 'IOWA PRESS' LINK AT IPTV.ORG, OR IT'S ALSO AVAILABLE FROM VIDEO ON DEMAND THROUGH CABLE PROVIDER MEDIACOM. THAT SAID, THAT'S IT FOR THIS WEEKEND'S EDITION OF 'IOWA PRESS.' I HOPE YOU'LL JOIN US NEXT WEEKEND, REGULAR AIRTIMES: 7:30 FRIDAY NIGHT; 11:30 SUNDAY MORNING. I'M DEAN BORG. THANK FOR JOINING US TODAY.

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Tags: Iowa