Iowa lawmakers should halt construction on animal confinements until Iowa's water quality is significantly improved, a coalition of about two dozen state, local and national groups said Tuesday.
The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture asked lawmakers to support 15 bills tightening oversight of confinements introduced by Sen. David Johnson, an independent from Ocheyeden.
Johnson seeks a moratorium on building or expanding concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, until Iowa's list of impaired waterways shrinks from 750 to fewer than 100 — and until the rules that dictate where confinements can be located are strengthened.
"Iowans need to push back on this and join together with leaders here in the Legislature to stop the status quo," said Bill Stowe, CEO of the Des Moines Water Works, which is a member of the coalition.
"Industrial agriculture" is making Iowa's "rivers, lakes and streams filthy — filthy with nutrients, filthy with bacteria, filthy with organic matter," said Stowe, whose utility unsuccessfully sued three rural counties in 2015 over high nitrate levels in the Raccoon River, a source of drinking water for 500,000 central Iowa residents.
The agency sought to bring drainage districts, and indirectly farmers, under federal clean water laws. The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Iowa’s pork industry is "already one of the most heavily regulated industries in the state and the call for stricter regulations is unwarranted," said Curtis Meier, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
"Today’s Iowa pig barns are designed to contain all manure to protect water quality and enable manure use as a valuable fertilizer," said Meier, who raises pigs near Clarinda.
"Imposing a moratorium on the pork industry would greatly stifle rural Iowa economic activity and limit opportunities for the next generation on the farm," he said, adding that Iowa’s pork industry provides more than $8 billion in labor income annually.