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Iowa Wrestles With Landmark CAFO Bill

posted on March 29, 2002

In recent years states in a variety of ways have come to grips with issues provoked by large-scale animal feeding operations. Some states have imposed air quality standards and rules on the disposal of manure. Some have enacted moratoriums on new construction of feeding facilities and others have pressed legal suit and won large settlements against operations that have polluted.

In Iowa, the nation's largest pork producer, the state legislature is attempting to pass an ambitious measure to regulate confined animal feeding operations or CAFOs. The bill is being driven by Iowa residents who have become more alarmed about the potential impact that CAFOs pose to air and water quality, as well as to property values.


Iowa Wrestles With Landmark CAFO Bill

Under the landmark omnibus proposal, producers who plan to be more community and environmentally minded will have a better prospect of gaining a permit. Farmers who live on site, knife manure into the soil, and plant trees to block unpleasant odors would receive more favorable recognition from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the governmental agency that issues construction permits.

The measure also attempts to address the question of whether residents get a say in the permit process. In the past, county supervisors who blocked the construction of CAFOs were thwarted by a State law exempting agricultural operations from so-called "local control." The new regs would continue to block local control but would allow county officials to tell State officials if they think a permit should be issued. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, as well as several lawmakers, dislike this portion of the bill because it would allow the Iowa DNR to ignore opinions of local residents.

Representative William Witt, (D) Iowa House:"You can stop a factory, you can stop a Casey's,. you can stop a Hy-Vee from going in next door to you. And what's enraging people across the state is that you can't stop 5000 hogs from going in next door to you. So their has to be some way of working this out so that if you want to put those hogs in there you're also not going to be harming the neighbors and you're not going to hurt the environment.

Once a facility is constructed, it would be subject to:

-checks of air quality around the CAFO

-stiffer fines for manure spills

- and a change in manure management plan specifications. The new law would base manure application on how much phosphorus the land can absorb. Currently, all effluent management plans in Iowa are based on how much nitrogen can be applied without having it leach into nearby waterways. The phosphorus regulation would require more land for manure application.

If the measure makes it to the governors desk for a signature, producers would end up paying an annual fee to finance the regulations. Hog farmers raising more than 25-hundred head would pay six cents per animal. The money would cover the cost of twelve DNR jobs that would assist with enforcement.


Tags: agriculture animals Iowa livestock news