Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Much has been said recently about the impact of $3.00 gasoline on motorists. This week, the world's largest retailer said it too is feeling the pinch. On Wednesday, Wal-Mart projected May sales to rise a modest 2.3 percent. The publicly traded company blamed higher fuel prices for the slump. The estimate brought out the bears on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrials lost more than 180 points. Also contributing to the decline, the Consumer Confidence Index fell almost 7 points in May...its steepest decline since hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast last year. Consumers apparently aren't very confident in the quality of their drinking water either. A poll conducted by several environmental groups last year revealed that 60 percent of voters would be at least "somewhat worried" to learn that their tapwater was drawn from local rivers. And 85 percent of voters preferred that "elected officials take significant action to address problems with water quality." And in one of the nation's top livestock producing states, that's exactly what policymakers did this week.
Deteriorating water quality has become a key issue in many parts of America, and increasingly, livestock producers are shouldering much of the blame. Nowhere was that more clear this week than in the nation's top pork producing state of Iowa, where hogs outnumber people 5-to-1.
On Wednesday, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack signed two bills designed to improve and protect the state's waterways. The laws establish a water quality task force and fund numerous projects, including an $8 million effort to dredge and restore lakes.
Vilsack also vetoed a measure that would have restricted the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' ability to regulate livestock confinement facilities, claiming the bill could have a negative impact on the environment.
Iowa Farm Bureau officials said they were disappointed that the governor vetoed the bill, which was designed to have elected officials make crucial policy decisions instead of the DNR. Noting that livestock production makes a significant contribution to the state's economy, yet is one of the most heavily regulated industries, Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Lang said, "Our livestock farmers need a fair playing field, not more roadblocks placed by arbitrary siting decisions of a single person. The DNR doesn't do this for any other industry."
The Iowa Environmental Council, however, was pleased with Vilsack's decision and efforts to protect Iowa's water quality.
Rich Leopold, Executive Director, Iowa Environmental Council: "Governor Vilsack has long been an advocate for clean water here and trying to do something and it seemed this year was the perfect year. The legislature, the leadership within the legislature felt an urgency, a need to do something."
Citing decades of research, a Des Moines Register study released this spring revealed that Iowa has some of the most severe water quality issues in the nation. The Environmental Council claims this week's action confirms that officials understand the gravity of the situation.
Rich Leopold, Executive Director, Iowa Environmental Council: "It's recognition by the government and legislators that something needs to be done, so we're really encouraged by the direction they're heading."
The Iowa Farm Bureau, however, was not encouraged by the policymakers' decisions and said it would be keenly interested in the positions taken by candidates in this year's elections.