A coalition of more than two dozen state, local, and national organizations rallied at the statehouse today against the proliferation of large hog confinement operations known as CAFOs, which they say have diminished the quality of life in the Iowa countryside.
The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture is calling for a moratorium on new large hog operations until fewer than 100 Iowa waterways remain impaired.
It’s one of a package of 15 bills offered by Senator David Johnson (I-Ocheyedan) to strengthen regulation of hog farms.
“It's time to get tough on the poor siting of hog confinements, including those being built in environmentally sensitive areas,” Johnson said to a crowd of about 100 protesters, “and locating CAFOs
where the smell and sound of someone else's money is in your bedroom every night.”
According to the Department of Natural Resources, there are roughly 13,000 CAFOs in Iowa, and the number continues to grow.
Under the bill, the moratorium would last until Iowa redesigns the so-called Master Matrix adopted in 2002, which critics say is not working to limit the locations of livestock operations.
Johnson and others described recent sitings of hog farms near trout streams, sinkholes, tile intakes, and farm wells.
“And in northwest Iowa CAFOs are creeping into Dickinson County where the Iowa Great Lakes and other natural features draw more than a million visitors every year,” Johnson said. “Some people there wonder if CAFOs and Iowa's famous vacationland can co-exist.”
“Enough is enough,” added Bill Stowe, CEO of the Des Moines Water Works.
In 2015, the utility sued drainage districts in three northwest Iowa counties, blaming them for the nitrates that find their way from farmfields, into the Raccoon River and into the Des Moines water supply.
The lawsuit was later dismissed.
A moratorium bill has been assigned to Sen. Ken Rozenboom (R-Oskaloosa), chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
“I just don’t think that's the right way to approach whatever problem they're trying to address,” Rozenboom said, while awaiting a meeting with environmental activists. “We're trying to grow Iowa, not hurt Iowa.”
In addition to the moratorium bill, Johnson’s proposed legislation would give county supervisors control over the siting of livestock operations; require CAFO applicants to notify nearby landowners; and allow counties to adopt policies increasing separation distances for CAFOs.
Follow Joyce Russell on Twitter : @russell_ipr