Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
The nation's unemployment rate edged higher last month, but there was also an increase in the number of available jobs. After a year of contraction the nation's economy is beginning to expand.
In Rural America, hope in general is usually on the rise as spring planting approaches. But in recent years much of the season has come to mean rural tirades against the odors wafting from large hog farms. This year, for the nation's largest hog-producing state, spring is the season for tense debate over ambitious legislation intended to govern the siting and conduct of such farms. While there is considerable sentiment among the state's rural residents to enact the measure, there also is formidable opposition from many of the state's pork producers.
This week, a loose coalition, whose members describe themselves as "The Face of Agriculture", gathered near the Iowa Capital to oppose key portions of the measure. The alliance is made up of Iowa hog producers and farm activist groups like the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
All the groups represented support the sections of the landmark Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation legislation that includes conversion of manure management plans from a nitrogen base to a phosphorus base, stricter odor control regulations, and heavy fines for spills. The disagreement comes over two major issues in the bill.
The first complaint centers on how construction permits will be issued. In the past, county supervisors who blocked the construction of CAFOs were thwarted by a State law exempting agricultural operations from such "local control." The new measure continues to block "local control" but it would allow residents to tell State officials if they believe a permit should be issued. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, as well as several lawmakers, dislikes this portion of the bill because it would allow the Iowa DNR to ignore opinions of local residents.
Bruce Rastetter is a hog producer who contracts with Iowa producers to grow 1-million hogs per year.
Bruce Rastetter, President & CEO, Heartland Pork Enterprises: "It's a local control issue as to who they deem is the better neighbor to build a hog building and who can't. Our issue is make it about the environment. Lets protect the environment the best that we can with strong state standards and state enforcement of those standards rather than complicated language that allows emotion and misperception to happen."
However, while the groups are willing to be heavily regulated they are unwilling to finance enforcement. Hog farmers raising more than 25-hundred head would pay six cents per animal to a fund that will cover the cost of twelve new Iowa Department of Natural Resources jobs needed to meet the new regulatory demands. The Iowa Pork Producers are one of the groups that oppose the fees.
Tim Bierman is the Association's president.
Tim Bierman, President, Iowa Pork Producers Association :"We don't feel that the Pork Producers oughta be funding a DNR so they can come back and regulate us. "