A call for action
Area counties come together for North Central Iowa Farm Factory Summit
Citizens from across the state gathered at RSVP in Webster City Saturday afternoon to voice their opposition to factory farms.
The North Central Iowa Factory Farm Summit brought individuals from Hamilton, Hardin, Wright and Decatur counties together. The meeting was facilitated by members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement organization. Factory farms are large industrialized farms; especially : a farm on which large numbers of livestock are raised indoors in conditions intended to maximize production at minimal cost.
“I got involved with this issue back when Prestage was applying to build their slaughterhouse in our community,” said Shannon Walker, of Clarion. “They started out in Mason City and they were going to build it there but citizens got the city council to vote it down. So then Prestage came to Wright County and we fought a good fight, but we lost and Prestage is now building there facility five miles south of Eagle Grove.”
“We wanted to have this meeting today to get folks up to speed on what they can do locally and statewide to fight factory farms, Walker said.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) is a statewide membership organization with roughly 4,500 members in the 99 Iowa counties, according to Walker.
CCI has been working on the factory farm issue for over 20 years, according to Walker. The organization has a three-prong strategy they use:
1) CCI organizes with communities at the local level to stop factory farms from building
2) Watchdog state agencies to make sure they are holding factory farms accountable for the pollution they create
3) Work on passing better laws and policies that work for everyday people and the environment, not the factory farm industry
Walker listed some of the accomplishments the organization has had since it’s fruition over 20 years ago.
• CCI has stopped over 100 factory farms from building across the state
• Forced the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to implement the Clean Water Act for factory farms across Iowa
• Stopped or gutted bad farm factory bills
“The thing that sets us apart is we have made all these accomplishments with everyday people,” Walker said. “We know that throughout history, the thing that has created significant change is when lots of people come together around a single issue or demand.”
Walker laid out the following goals and ground rules of the meeting before the main discussion began. Ground rules included: turning off/silencing cell phones, respecting one another, and the need to be mindful of everyone’s time, and learn.
“This is a meeting for people who oppose factory farms and want to plan next steps in this campaign,” said Walker. “So if you’re here because you support factory farming, this isn’t the meeting for you. Anybody here who supports factory farming…you’re more than welcome to have your own meeting somewhere else, but we have an agenda to stick to with very limited time. So if you’re here to support factory farms, we are going to ask you to leave.”
Summit attendees voiced concerns for the lack of clean waterways, air quality and manure runoff. Multiple attendees brought up the decline of clean water at Pine Lake State Park, which is located along the Iowa River in Hardin County.
Hamilton County resident Kathy Getting brought up concerns for future rural growth as more confinements and factory farms move in.
Julie Dunn, of Eldora (Hardin County), brought attendees up to speed on current factory farm expansion in North Central Iowa.
“Right now we’re looking at the massive hog factory expansion thanks to Prestage slaughterhouse currently being built just south of Eagle Grove,” said Dunn. “Mason City did successfully fight that off, but Wright County wasn’t so lucky. Operations are set to begin there in the fall of 2018.”
According to Dunn, in the past three months Iowa Select Farms has applied to build over 20 hog factories in the following counties: Dallas, Palo Alto, Bremer, Hardin, Humboldt, Webster, Wright, Franklin, Hamilton and Calhoun County. Hardin County is the home of Iowa Select Farms.
Dunn, who lives near Pine Lake, noted the negative effect factory farm pollution has had on the lake. Upon retirement, Dunn began kayaking on Pine Lake. As time went on and the water quality worsened, it had adverse effects on Dunn’s health.
“It was really cool. I loved kayaking, at least until the first summer when the water started getting bad,” Dunn said. “I got this rash on my arm that didn’t go away for four weeks.”
A local doctor informed her the rash was due to the Pine Lake water and she should stay out of the hazardous lake. As a form of protest and way to inform others about the polluted waterway, Dunn began kayaking Pine Lake in a biohazard suit. She has continually warned state park goers of the polluted waters as the years have progressed.
“I am unwilling to leave it to my children or my grandchildren to solve,” Dunn said. “This is about water quality and air quality. The very water that we drink. The very air we breathe. I will not leave though issues for my grandchildren to deal with later.”
Bob Juber, Eldora, shared his story of how factory farms had affected him and his family.
After seeking respite in the country, Juber and his wife moved to Hardin County. After a year-and-half of living their dream, the factory farms started going up near their property.
Juber began seeking out county supervisors for their opinion on the matrix. He told attendees to educate themselves and start working now to keep factory farms from encroaching on their properties.
“It’s not if a pig barn comes by, but when it comes, because it will get here eventually,” Juber said.
He also told attendees to get involved, sign petitions and meet with local and state legislature to have their voices heard.
Seeking a moratorium
According to literature provided by CCI Action, an affiliate group of CCI, Iowa Select wants to build 19 new factory farms. This would add an estimated 90,000 more hogs and produce nearly 36.7 million gallons of mure. CCI Action is encouraging a moratorium on factory farms for the following three reasons:
• They cite that factory farms are polluting the air, water, soil and quality of life for Iowans
• The Master Matrix system is broken and outdated
• With the DNR’s recent discovery of 5,000 additional factory farms, the CCI Action Fund cites the DNR’s lack of inspectors and firing of whistle-blowers
The CCI Action organization recommended taking the following steps after the summit:
• Make an impact at forums and stay educated on both issues and legislators
• Find sources
• Utilize petitions and gather signatures
• Write Letters to the Editor at local publications
• Attend upcoming forums across the North Central region of the state
• Join CCI and work to spread the importance of air and water quality across the state
There are three upcoming North Central Iowa Legislative forums that CCI Action is encouraging citizens to attend.
• Representative Todd Prichard will be at the Chickasaw County Farm Bureau, 506 Milwaukee St., New Hampton, on Friday Feb. 2 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
• Representative Terry Baxter will be at the Algona Public Library, 210 N. Phillips St., Algona, on Saturday, Feb. 17 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
• Representative Helen Miller will be at Iowa Central Community College Main Campus, 1 Triton Circle, Fort Dodge, on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
• Calhoun County Public Hearing on Friday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. at the county courthouse, 501 Court St., Rockwell City
• Factory farm teach-in on Tuesday, Feb. 6 from 6-8 p.m. at Ellsworth Community College Equestrian Center, 707 Ellsworth Dr., Iowa Falls
• Evironmental Protection Commission hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 9 a.m., 2001 Forest Ave., Des Moines.