Founding Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc. (JFAN) board member and president Jim Rubis announced his retirement from the JFAN Board of Directors effective October 1. Rubis is stepping down after nine years of dedicated service to the Jefferson County community in which he was instrumental in establishing JFAN as an effective resource for protecting Jefferson County’s quality of life from the proliferation of factory farms.
Rubis was sought out for the board during JFAN’s formation in 2005. His earlier 33-year tenure as director of the Fairfield Public library combined with his farming experience and community service made him an ideal candidate to reach out to a broad spectrum of the Jefferson County community. Rubis gracefully stepped into the role and served as a bridge to many diverse community groups.
Rubis was especially effective in helping to keep the channels of communication open between CAFO owners and neighbors. “I feel really good about that,” he says. “That helped to create an awareness in some CAFO owners about how their confinement would impact neighbors. It helped to site some CAFOs away from concerned neighbors.”
“Jim had a real feeling for the community-at-large. I deeply valued his perspectives,” says JFAN Executive Director Diane Rosenberg.
Despite his retirement, Rubis will remain connected with JFAN as its first Emeritus Board member. “The entire board is extremely pleased that Jim has agreed to accept this position so JFAN doesn’t lose the benefit of his experience and wisdom,” says JFAN legal counsel, and incoming president David E. Sykes.
“I’m not leaving JFAN behind,” Rubis says. “I still care about it, and I’ll still be involved, just not on a daily basis.”
With the serious CAFO threat menacing Southeast Iowa – nine new CAFOs were proposed in Jefferson County this year alone – the JFAN Board unanimously elected Fairfield attorney David E. Sykes to succeed Rubis as JFAN president, signaling a harder line JFAN will take in the fight to protect Jefferson County.
Sykes says he wishes to work closely with JFAN’s executive director to expand JFAN’s activities to create an even stronger and more active JFAN. Five new board members representing the farming, rural, residential, and business communities have been added to further strengthen JFAN’s outreach.
“I am one of the more active attorneys fighting CAFOs in Iowa at this time, along with my legal associates Charlie Speer and Richard Middleton. My litigation activities on behalf of my rural clients and communities should send a message that JFAN will now take a stronger approach to protecting Jefferson County and our nearby sister counties, from infringing CAFOs” says Sykes.
Education is essential in fighting CAFOs, he adds, and JFAN must continue to empower people by helping them understand the CAFO problem.
“CAFO operators and their corporate suppliers (Integrators) are attempting to present themselves as modern “family farmers.” But in reality, CAFO operators and their corporate Integrators over the past 20 years or so have eliminated 95% of independent traditional family farms that used to be an integral part of our local community. Agribusiness is rewriting what it means to be a farmer and is attempting to sell this concept to consumers and the public. Unlike the family farms that existed for hundreds of years in harmony with the land, we now have the problems CAFOs present.
“We have to educate the public about this deceptive advertising approach being taken by industrial agriculture. It will take courage and fortitude to stand up to the “new” industrial agricultural model to save the soul of Iowa,” says Sykes. “JFAN is gearing up to meet that challenge to the best of its ability.”
Sykes is an Iowa general practice attorney and founding JFAN board member. He’s represented Iowans fighting CAFOs for the last five years including plaintiffs of the Pleasant Plain lawsuit. In 2010, that lawsuit settled out of court to the satisfaction of its plaintiffs. Last spring, Sykes formed an Iowa legal team with nationally renowned environmental attorneys Charlie Speer from Kansas City, Missouri and Richard Middleton from Savannah, Georgia to take CAFO cases on a contingency fee basis.
Sykes is licensed to practice law in all Iowa state and federal courts and is a member of the Iowa Bar Association. Earlier this year, the Humane Society of the United States retained him as Iowa counsel in its case against Maschhoff Pork concerning their manure spill in Keosauqua in violation of the Clean Water Act.
The new JFAN president is also co-founder of Noah’s Ark Animal Foundation and is currently president and chairman of the board. Sykes has resided in Jefferson County since 1983.