Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Who has authority to approve CAFOs?

By Dee Sandquist | Aug 30, 2018

To the editor:

Just as with any business, some CAFOs are well-run, and some are not.

Our role at the county level is to score the Master Matrix, and this is not required. Every year, the board of supervisors (BOS) vote on whether or not to adopt the construction evaluation resolution which requires the use of the Master Matrix in facilities with at least 2,500 finishing hogs. Many farmers in our county build facilities just under 2,500 head of hogs and do not need to complete the Master Matrix process.

In Jefferson County, the BOS have adopted the Master Matrix because we want to know whenever a large CAFO is proposed. If we did not use the Master Matrix, the CAFO application would bypass our county and go directly to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

When we have a Master Matrix to review, a member of the Board of Supervisors visits the proposed site with a member of the DNR. In addition, the supervisors review the packet and evaluate the requirements. The DNR does its own scoring of the Master Matrix and in the past, has changed the score the county submitted.

In fact, the DNR has the only authority to approve a CAFO and issue a construction permit. This process has been in place since 2003.

When counties have tried to make local decisions, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled against counties, saying that they cannot regulate in a manner that is “inconsistent” with state law (Iowa Code 331.301(4). For example, when the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors challenged the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission in 2013 to appeal a DNR CAFO approval because they felt the Master Matrix did not protect the environment, they were turned down.

As an elected official, I took an oath to uphold the constitution of the state. This means I must try to the best of my ability to follow Iowa law and make decisions based on facts and existing law; not personal opinion, mine or others. Several years ago, I was an inspector for the state of Iowa and did site visits to determine licensure of nursing homes and hospitals. This is similar to the DNR process related to CAFOs. What I learned from that experience is follow the rules and criteria, period.

If you want change you need to contact your state legislators or candidates, as well as legislative agriculture committee members and candidates for governor.

In closing, I find that many people don’t understand the role of a county supervisor and think the BOS has more authority than we do. Board of Supervisor responsibilities are defined by Iowa Code chapter 331. As the executive branch of county government, the Supervisors serve as the policymakers for the county and administer various county programs. If the state has a law in place regarding an issue, we need to follow it by law.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me at dsandquist@jeffersoncountyia.com or 641-451-1293.

 

- Dee Sandquist, Chairwoman of the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors

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