Group wants legislature to make changes in livestock regulations

DES MOINES — Leaders of a group that’s been critical of industrial farming say they’ll again push Iowa legislators to ban any expansion or new construction of confined animal feeding operations.

Jess Mazour of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement says they’ve been asking for changes in existing state rules for where large-scale livestock barns may be built. “We’ve given the DNR and the legislature ample opportunities to make small tweaks and improvements to our permitting system for factory farms here in Iowa and they’ve taken every opportunity to just dismiss or avoid or not pass anything to approve changes,” Mazour says. “We’re going to go for a moratorium this year. It’s going to be our big bill.”

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement helped form a coalition of groups last year to lobby for a moratorium. Mazour says the group believes it’s important to prevent expansion of existing facilities as well as a moratorium on construction of new livestock confinements. “That way we have a two-prong thing,” she says. “We need to stop the expansion of the factory farm industry here in Iowa through a moratorium, and then for the existing 10,000-plus facilities that we have in the state, we need strong Clean Water Act implementation to hold them accountable to protecting our water.”

Mazour says they’re targeting larger facilities in two categories. “For our definition of a factory farm, sometimes we can go by numbers. So medium and large facilities are any facilities that, for hogs, is 1,250 hogs or more,” Mazour says. “If you go by animal units, which takes into account all different kinds of animals, that would be 500 A.U. or above.”

Mazour says the primary motivating factor is keeping one of Iowa’s most vital resources, our waterways, safe from pollution. “The other thing that’s really important to us is it’s not just about the size, it’s about the fact that these are no longer independent family farms,” she says. “These are corporate integrated sites.” Critics of a moratorium say it would hurt Iowa’s rural economy.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers says there is already a “maze of state and federal regulations” producers must navigate before building a new livestock barn.