New alliance calls for moratorium on new, expanding factory farms in Iowa
DES MOINES — A new coalition, the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, launched Wednesday at the Iowa State Capitol with a campaign calling for a statewide moratorium on new and expanding factory farms until Iowa has fewer than 100 water impairments, down from a record-breaking 754 impairments in 2014.
IARA consists of over 20 national, state, and county environmental, family farm, and community advocacy groups across the state. Five representatives of six member organizations – Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors, Poweshiek CARES, The People Vs. Prestage, Des Moines Water Works, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and Iowa Farmers Union – spoke at a press conference today before a crowd of supporters describing why Iowa needs a factory farm moratorium immediately.
“Iowa hasn’t done nearly enough to address the problems of industrial agriculture that are clearly documented in over 50 years of respected, peer reviewed professional studies. IARA formed to find solutions to the devastating impacts caused by industrial livestock production on thousands of Iowans throughout the state. We are here today to call for a factory farm moratorium. With over 9000 factory farms in Iowa, we say with conviction, enough is enough,” said Francis Thicke, a farmer and Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors Inc. board of directors member.
Others spoke on the impacts of factory farms on their lives.
“It broke my heart to watch a 90- year-old suffer – gasping for air because of asthma. Her symptoms began within a year after 5,000 hogs moved in within half mile of my home. That ended my business of caring for disabled, elderly people in my home,” said Joyce Otto, president of Poweshiek CARES. “It broke my heart when my daughter decided to go somewhere else for childcare because research validates the dangers of asthma in children exposed to the toxins from hog factories.”
“Our Mason City/Clear Lake/North Iowa area said ‘No’ four months ago to a huge kill packing plant because of impacts on water, public health, quality of life, and the potential of hundreds of new factory farms in a historical and pristine area,” said Chris Petersen, a traditional independent hog farmer and member of The People Vs. Prestage. “Our group is bipartisan and a broad coalition of rural, urban, and all-walks-of-life folks. We all should be tired of our state being sacrificed for industrial ag ... one neighborhood at a time. This top down model as a business involves corporate ownership and control. Where do the family farmers and citizens fit in?”
Iowa’s livestock produce nearly 22 billion gallons of liquid manure, according to an article in Iowa Farmer Today, that is spread on rural farmland without treatment. Over 800 documented manure spills since 1996 have polluted Iowa’s waterways. Water data from Iowa’s 2014 list of impaired waterways show pollutants often associated with manure, such as bacteria and ammonia, are leading causes of impairments.
Over 60 Iowa cities have struggled with high nitrate levels since 2010, according to a Des Moines Register report, and a third of the state’s 880 municipal water utilities are threatened by nitrates and other pollutants. The Des Moines Water Works ran their denitrification system for 177 days in 2015 at a cost of $1.5 million, but many smaller municipalities don’t have the facilities to remove nitrates.
“It’s time Iowa had source water protection with industrial agricultural accountability,” said Bill Stowe, CEO and general manager of the Des Moines Water Works. “Iowa’s water quality gets progressively worse every year, and the corporate livestock industry plays a significant role in that deterioration. It’s imperative we have a factory farm moratorium so we can begin to repair the damage inflicted on our water.”
Deborah Bunka, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and the Iowa Farmers Union issued a clarion call for major change.
“From the time the State Legislature eliminated local control in House File 519, it has been a race to the bottom,” she said. “Adding insult to injury, Iowa residents are left to pick up the tab for the costs of factory farming. It’s time to demand a change in policy in order to stop the destruction of our soil, water, health and quality of life in Iowa. Today, the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture calls for a moratorium on the construction of any new or expanding factory farm in Iowa.”
Following the press conference, IARA members and supporters delivered a sign on letter to Gov. Terry Branstad demanding he “support and push boldly for a statewide moratorium ... in order to take a much-needed first step in protecting the citizens and our precious resources.”
Iowans are already calling for an end to new factory farms in their communities. Eight counties rejected factory farm permits in recent months, including Allamakee, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Hardin, Webster, Dickinson, Greene, and Johnson counties. Hundreds of Mason City residents blocked the construction of a Prestage slaughterhouse in their city, protecting their community from an expected onslaught of additional factory farms to supply the plant.
The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture seeks to educate Iowans about the destructive impacts of industrial livestock production, advocate for a statewide factory farm moratorium, and promote traditional and humane livestock production.
IARA is comprised of the following organizations: Des Moines County Farmers & Neighbors for Optimal Health, Des Moines Water Works, Food and Water Watch, Henry County Farmers & Neighbors, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Iowa County Farmers & Neighbors, Iowa Farmers Union, The Humane Society of the United States, Iowans Downwind, Jefferson County Community Rights Network, Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors Inc., Linn County Farmers & Neighbors, Organic Consumers Association, Partners for the Future: Dickinson County Land, Air and Water, The People Vs. Prestage, Poweshiek CARES, Relish Restaurant, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, South Boone County Farmers & Neighbors, Walnut Neighbors, Women, Food and Agricultural Network.
Additional information on IARA is found at www.cleaniowanow.org and www.facebook.com/iaraiowa.