Retired Professors, Activists Want Moratorium on New Hog Buildings

Activists and individuals want to put a stop to any new hog buildings in Iowa. ( National Pork Board )

Two retired University of Iowa professors claim Iowa’s regulatory system is failing to protect the environment and public health, and have called for a moratorium on new hog barns in the state. They are joined in the effort by 55 activist groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture and other local, state and national advocacy groups.

“For several decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state governments have failed to regulate the environmental impacts of factory farms,” said a letter from the groups addressed to members of the Iowa General Assembly. “A moratorium will give legislators an overdue opportunity to evaluate the public health, economic and societal impacts of factory farms while providing Iowa’s communities with important statutory protections from further expansion of this industry.”

"A tipping point has been reached. Rural Iowans have every reason to be concerned," said James Merchant and David Osterberg in their recently release report. According to an AP article, Osterberg is co-founder of the Iowa Policy Project, “a liberal-leaning Iowa City-based nonprofit group that offers research on environmental, economic, energy and tax policies, which released the report.”

The annual growth of Iowa’s pork production has been approximately 500 new or expanded barns a year for the last decade in Iowa, states the AP article. Pigs are generally grown where corn and soybeans are produced, which is why many pigs are trucked to Iowa for feeding. Additionally, access to available markets is a plus, including the new Prestage processing plant being built near Eagle Grove, Iowa.

Projects in Place to Improve Water Qualtiy
Neither Merchant, nor Osterberg, nor the activist groups mentioned the projects initiated in the last 10 years to improve water quality throughout the state, including the recent passage of Senate File 512.

“Passage of Senate File 512 is an important step forward and continues the strong momentum of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” says Gregg Hora, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA). "This legislation emphasizes collaborative opportunities and efforts among urban and rural partners while enhancing successful programs already well embraced by Iowa farmers. Iowa pig farmers and the Iowa Pork Producers Association remain committed to research and continuous improvement programs to drive water quality solutions."

"We understand there are concerns out there and we believe those concerns are being addressed by the current system understanding that others don't," said Eldon McAfee, an agriculture law attorney who represents the Iowa Pork Producers Association, in the AP article. He added, "A moratorium would be devastating to the Iowa economy and livestock producers.”

In the release, McAfee says producers “believe the current permit system in effect for 16 years has worked and farmers have complied with its requirements and continue to be held responsible when there are accidental spills of manure into creeks or streams.”

The health claims of “respiratory problems headaches, diarrhea, burning eyes,” etc., made by people who live near large farm operations, is based on research performed more than 11 years ago. Farmers have made many improvements since that time in controlling odor with windbreaks, ventilation, and nutrient resource management that has minimized many of these alleged claims. They also have improved building designs and overall management.

McAfee told AP he knows of “no court case where it has been proven that a hog farm has been proven responsible for causing an individual's illness.”

Iowa is the nation's leading pork producer, with nearly 23 million pigs as of the USDA December inventory report. The next closest state is North Carolina with 9.3 million hogs. IPPA reports that pig farming represents $7.5 billion in total economic activity for Iowa, and total cash receipts for hog production in Iowa topped $7.5 billion in 2013.

Also of note: Although activist groups often refer to “factory farms,” 94% of Iowa’s hog farms are family owned enterprises, says IPPA, and a total of 40,290 Iowans are employed in day-to-day production of hogs.



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Submitted by Eric Wessels on Thu, 02/15/2018 - 07:44

The projects initiated in the last ten years have done nothing to slow the degradation of Iowa's waters. The Republican controlled legislature has gone out of their way to assure there are no benchmarks established to measure improvements and no time frames or targets established to see if improvements are made. A master matrix was created 16 years ago as a smoke screen to imply the industry was concerned and they are addressing problems. The MM does nothing for Iowa and is simply a free pass.
There are no odor control measures being put in place. I have yet to see a windbreak on any confinements built in the last 10 years. Not in central Iowa anyway. And spills are a problem, but the big problem is field management during waste application. Waste is being applied to fields with surface intakes for tiling that leads directly to creeks and streams. And just last year aerial images revealed 5000 confinements the Iowa DNR didn't even know about. Iowa needs an opportunity to develop meaningful regulations to clean up the mess created by industrial agriculture. They aren't going to do it on their own. They have shown that in the last 20 years of inaction. The number of impaired waters grows every year to nearly 800 now. Unlike the Farm Bureau's Nutrient Reduction Strategy, the moratorium sets a goal of reducing that number to 100 impaired waters before the moratorium is lifted. That would show the industry is actually doing something.

Submitted by bob on Thu, 02/15/2018 - 08:41

In response to Eric you are just plain wrong. First of all cities not hog farms are the primary cause of nitrogen in the water. Los Angeles CA has a huge deadzone offshore caused by nitrogen run off and the number of farms in LA is zero. Over application of fertilizers in cities far outpaces anything in rural areas.
I can tell you I have seen windbreaks on farms just off highway 44 in Dallas county and 141 in Greene county that are within the last ten years. Sorry but you are just plain wrong. Trying to use your lies to taint Republicans in an election year is pretty transparent. Sad

Submitted by Eric Wessels on Sat, 02/17/2018 - 05:59

I'm not wrong. LA is nothing like Iowa. Nearly 90%of the land in Iowa is farm land. Yes, the fertilizers used in communities does end up in the water also, but that is such a miniscule amount next to ag loss. It's great you can point out two windbreaks. I can show you 10 confinement within 10 miles of me without. That's the norm. In Iowa, the problem is bad management by producers. This is a Republican created problem. They tend to ignore science and for some reason I can't understand, care nothing about this planet we live on. We only get one earth. We need to take care of it.

Submitted by Joe on Sun, 02/18/2018 - 09:05

How many of the 93 percent building owners, own the pigs?

In reply to by Eric Wessels (not verified)

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