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Rural Iowa Communities Urge More Factory-Farm Regulations

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Iowa has more than 10,000 factory farms, up from fewer than 800 in 2001. (agnormark/Adobe Stock)
Iowa has more than 10,000 factory farms, up from fewer than 800 in 2001. (agnormark/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 22, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Advocates for family farms, rural neighborhoods and the environment are asking Iowa lawmakers to find a more equitable balance between the interests of factory farms and of the communities they're in.

Research has shown higher levels of nitrates and phosphorus in the water, as well as air quality issues, in communities with nearby concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Aaron Lehman, president of the Iowa Farmers Union, said the current standards for factory farms, from manure storage to air-quality standards, aren't strong enough to protect their neighbors or natural resources.

"When a facility more resembles an industrial factory than a part of a farm community, it ought to be treated as an industrial operation," Lehman argued. "And the neighbors in the communities ought to be protected."

The Iowa Farmers Union has joined the call for a moratorium on new CAFOs and expanding existing ones.

Opponents of the bill, House Fire 440, point out Iowa is the nation's top pork-producing state, and contended a moratorium on factory farms would harm the state's ag industry.

Drew Mogler, public policy director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said the state's economy depends on livestock and other agricultural production, particularly in rural communities.

He noted livestock processing has created many jobs as well.

"This piece of legislation has surfaced, you know, almost every year that I've been up at the Statehouse," Mogler observed. "But you know, every year it hasn't moved, even into a subcommittee."

Lehman pointed out despite the fact a moratorium likely won't be in the cards for this legislative session, their work must persist.

"Our neighbors still need to continue to work and talk to their policymakers about trying to strike a balance, to put in stronger protections for the neighbors of these facilities," Lehman asserted. "And at least to have the current laws enforced."

He added the goal is simply to protect neighboring communities' water, air and property values.

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