DES MOINES — Opponents of an Iowa Supreme Court decision they say makes it almost impossible to sue corporate farms over pollution are encouraging landowners to collectively voice their concerns.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is making that plea following last week’s ruling, which reversed a previous legal opinion that property owners could sue operators over factors such as water pollution and odor problems.
The group’s executive director Hugh Espey said it essentially shows the state prioritizes corporate interests and not the concerns of residents.
“This ruling kowtows to the corporate ag industry,” said Espey. “And this is an industry that pollutes our air and water. It pushes family farms out of business.”
The court says “protecting and promoting livestock production is a legitimate state interest.”
Lawsuits can still be filed against confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. However, certain criteria has to be met.
Some estimates peg Iowa’s number of CAFOs at roughly 10,000.
Meanwhile, Espey said landowners voicing their concerns in a collective way could help get the attention of policymakers. He said showing up at the ballot box helps, too.
“You gotta look at the candidates running for office,” said Espey. “Where do they stand on this issue?”
In Iowa, Supreme Court justices are appointed by the governor. Republican incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds is up for re-election this fall.
The issue of landowner rights has come up in other ways in this region as some companies try to secure property for proposed underground carbon dioxide pipelines.