Expanded JFAN Recommendations to the DNR Rules Review
We Still Have an LLC Loophole – Let’s Close It for Good
For years adjacent CAFOs owned by the same individuals(s) have been regulated as two separate smaller confinements if they are in different LLC names. This loophole skirts the requirements for a construction permit, Master Matrix, greater separation distances, and some cases even a manure management plan.
The DNR attempted to close this loophole in 2019 by changing the definition of common ownership to include individuals who own 10% or more of adjacent CAFOs. The problem is that the DNR only requires a letter stating this claim and not a legal document proving it. This is completely inadequate.
Further, corporations that own the CAFO may also put their individual confinements in separate LLCs, which may sometimes be in various employees’ names.
To close this loophole once and for all JFAN is asking the DNR to:
Require official legal business documentation that contains each CAFO owner and the percent of their ownership in each CAFO
Require the integrator to be listed on application forms in order to determine if a CAFO is commonly owned or managed
Strengthen Manure Management Plans (MMP) and Oversight
The DNR uses hard copy forms for manure management plans (MMPs) that are submitted to county supervisors and the local DNR field office. It’s an outdated system that is inefficient, reduces transparency and public access, and makes it difficult for the DNR to track manure application on cropland or identify violations.
JFAN uniquely maps where manure is being applied and where CAFOs are located in Jefferson County. Our mapping reveals multiple fields throughout the county that are in the MMPs of more than one CAFO – sometimes they are in as many as four or five. While farmers often work with each other to coordinate who will apply manure in a given year, a field in three to five MMPs is courting problems. This “double dipping” is not unique to Jefferson County and leads to manure overapplication and polluted waterways.
The following recommendation can help the DNR get a handle on manure application, eliminate double dipping, and reduce water pollution:
The DNR should develop a database for CAFO owners to submit full MMPs and annual updates, track manure application and rates, and incorporate geospatial mapping of each field. This will give the DNR full information on where and when manure is applied and identify fields at risk for multiple manure application.
The DNR should require CAFO owners to submit manure application locations and rate data to the database each time manure is spread to allow them to monitor for overapplication.
Until the database is developed:
The DNR should require MMPs to list fields that are in other MMPs with the name of the CAFO(s) also using each field.
For fields in multiple MMPs, the DNR should require CAFO owners to report to the DNR when they are applying manure so the DNR can eliminate the incidence of overapplication.
Reduce Nitrogen Overapplication to Protect Iowa’s Waterways
Iowa has 751 impaired waterways, and the DNR attributes 92% of nitrogen and 80% of phosphorus pollution coming from nonpoint sources, a.k.a. agriculture. When nitrogen is overapplied to fields, the excess amount that plants can’t use invariably winds up in waterways in the form of nitrates.
As little as 5 milligrams/liter of nitrates in drinking water has been linked to various digestive cancers and birth defects. Most municipalities can’t afford to build and run denitrification plants, and private wells are at risk. Iowa State University developed a Nitrogen Rate Calculator to assist farmers in determining the right amount of nitrogen for corn crops, but its use is not required. JFAN recommends it should be.
The DNR is also eliminating a long list of recommended practices for applying manure on farmland. With the poor condition of our waterways, the recommended practices in Section 65.3(3) should remain.
The DNR should do everything in its power to get nitrogen pollution under control.
Don’t Eliminate the Director’s Discretionary Rule
Currently, DNR rules provide an opportunity for the DNR director to deny a CAFO application that’s an egregious threat to the environment. The DNR is reluctant to use the rule saying it doesn’t have the legal authority. However, the Iowa Environmental Council put forth a very compelling argument in an earlier petition to the DNR that it does, citing the broad authority of the Environmental Protection Commission to undertake rulemaking directly.
But instead of using or strengthening the language of the rule, the DNR is poised to eliminate it all together. Urge the DNR to retain and use the rule to protect the environment from the most damaging CAFOs.