On Wednesday morning, September 12, JFAN and nearly a dozen concerned Jefferson County residents attended the final scoring session of the RWP LLC Master Matrix, Mark Greiner’s expansion that would double his CAFO to 4998 hogs in Penn Township.
The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors passed the Master Matrix with the full 505 points.
Supervisor Dee Sandquist reviewed each question on the Master Matrix individually, and Supervisor Dick Reed reported on the site visit he attended with Washington DNR Field Officer Josh Sobaski. The DNR Field Officer is responsible for measuring and confirming distances claimed on the CAFO application and Master Matrix. Reed said Sobaski found all the measurements correct.
JFAN President and Executive Director Diane Rosenberg once again contested points taken on four Master Matrix questions in an effort to urge supervisors to use high standards in scoring an application for an industrial operation.
Supervisors Grant Points to All Questions JFAN Contests
On Question 17, Proposed Manure Storage Structure is Formed, Rosenberg again reiterated the maintenance plan was not complete even though some of the points were addressed in the operations plan. Reed commented that adding the additional information just generated more paperwork.
But Rosenberg countered that all design, operation and maintenance plans becomes part of the conditions of an approved Construction Permit. This enables the DNR to hold a CAFO accountable for following those plans and issue a violation if they don’t. Sanquist said she agreed that an additional paragraph could be written to cover the items Rosenberg asked to include, but didn’t make it a condition of granting points for the question.
JFAN also contested Question 19 regarding the minimum 120’ required for a truck turnaroundsince an engineering drawing was not part of the design plan. Sandquist said asked the DNR about the turnaround and reported the agency wouldn’t require an engineering drawing.
Greiner also said his current truck turnaround was 120’, and that he was adding another 20 feet to widen the distance.
Rosenberg also brought up JFAN’s concerns about Question 24 regarding animal capacityand the lack of documentation that demonstrated RWP, LLC actually would stock 4998 hogs and not more. She repeated that the DNR knows many CAFOs hold more hogs than owners initially report but that state laws don’t provide the legal means for the DNR to count and verify those numbers.
“A contract should be part of this application,” said Rosenberg. “It doesn’t have to be the entire contract. It could be a page that shows the numbers with private information redacted plus the signature page.”
During the first scoring meeting Greiner offered to privately show his contract to supervisors but didn’t follow through. He said he didn’t think it would have mattered anyway if no one trusted even those numbers. This was in reference to an extended conversation during the first scoring meeting on how to accurately identify animal capacity numbers.
The final question JFAN contested regarded increasing the separation distance from wells when applying manure or demonstrating evidence that an old well was closed.Rosenberg referenced the historic maps that illustrated old former homesteads that could possibly have an unplugged well present and said the Master Matrix didn’t provide evidence that had been investigated. She asked Reed if he walked those fields during the DNR site visit to check for old wells. Reed replied he didn’t.
Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said those fields had been used for growing crops for years and that farmers would have known if a well was present. Sandquist agreed that wells are likely to be plugged because farmers want to plant all available land and that it’s a nuisance to move farm equipment around wells.
The points were granted but the question requires the wells to be plugged under the supervision of county health officials. That wasn’t evident.
The question also requires manure to be injected or incorporated on the same day of application. Once again Rosenberg pointed out there was no contract that demonstrated such an agreement between the manure applicator and Greiner existed. Sanquist said sometimes agreements could be verbal. Dimmitt said the Master Matrix fulfills the terms of a contract, but Rosenberg disagreed.
At one point, JFAN board member Robert Swanson brought up the negative impact CAFOs may have on property values and its possible impact on taxes. He pointed out that if homes near CAFOs were reassessed and their values lowered, a tax reduction would harm the county. “That’s why it’s important to score a Master Matrix with the high standards Diane is recommending,” he said.
The meeting got a little testy early on with Reed and Greiner pushing back on Rosenberg’s and Swanson’s comments. One woman politely addressed the tension by asking why it was necessary. Reed acknowledged her concerns, and the tension in the room eased.
In the end, the supervisors voted to pass the Master Matrix with all 505 points.
Discussion After Matrix Scoring
After the vote was taken, Rosenberg remarked to Greiner that she understood his first interest was to work with Dean Goodale and New Legacy Pork, that she appreciated his intent. “It’s a shame New Legacy Pork wasn’t ready to launch earlier and it had to come to this, but I appreciate that was your first choice,” she said. Greiner replied that he wants to help New Legacy Pork become a successful operation because many young farmers are interested in the model.
Reed also observed that some counties don’t want to do the Master Matrix because of all the work involved and addressing community response. He said he personally was in favor of the Master Matrix and public hearings.
“It’s a sad commentary that some counties don’t want to do the Master Matrix, that they may not want to give their constituents a voice in this process,” said Rosenberg. “I appreciate that you adopt the Master Matrix and hold these meetings so county residents can participate. That’s the democratic process.”
Sandquist also expressed her interest in working with county residents to see what the supervisors could do to address the Master Matrix and other CAFO concerns. JFAN will be meeting with her in the coming days to discuss options.
The experience with both the Bill Huber and Mark Greiner Master Matrix reviews clearly illustrates that the Master Matrix and Iowa laws don’t protect Iowans nearly enough.
JFAN urges community members to continue to lobby state legislators for better laws including a CAFO moratorium on new and expanding factory farms until we have less than 100 water impairmentsto give time to address all the issues posed by factory farms and to completely rework the regulatory process.
We must also continue to advocate that our county board of supervisors adopt a resolution in support of a CAFO moratorium, or at the very least, a revised Master Matrix because this magnifies the voice of their constituents to drive change from the grassroots level.JFAN will be devising a new strategy addressing this in the coming months.