ACTION ALERT - Tell the DNR to Do Its Job and Protect Iowa's Water Quality! Deadline Extended

Updated: Oct 5

DNR Now Accepting Comments Until October 21

Last month the Iowa Department of Natural Resources released a draft of proposed rule changes that regulate CAFOs, opening them up for public comment.

Unfortunately, the changes the DNR proposes are not stringent enough to protect our waterways. In fact, the DNR even weakened some of the rules.

We need to tell the DNR to strengthen the state’s CAFO rules and protect Iowa by October 21!

As the rules stand now, they do not:

  • Close the LLC loophole

  • Guard against an excessive amount of manure and fertilizer that's applied to cropland where it can leach into groundwater or run through tile lines into surface water

  • Enable the DNR to use its full authority to stop the most egregious proposals that threaten water quality. 

JFAN has multiple recommendations to improve the rules that you can view and use for your comments here. We briefly list 14 of our most important recommendations below.

Urge the DNR to provide stricter oversight of CAFOs by emailing comments to AFO@dnr.iowa.gov by October 21.

Let us all do all we can to improve CAFO regulations and protect our state.

Selected JFAN Recommendations to the

Chapter 65 AFO Rules

More recommendations can be found here.


  • The LLC loophole should be closed once and for all by requiring official legal business documentation to prove the LLC owners of adjacent CAFOs don’t have a 10% or more ownership in the other LLC. Right now a simple letter is only required, effectively leaving the loophole still open. More on this comment here


  • Manure management plans should be collected on a DNR database rather than with the antiquated hard copy method now used. This will allow for greater DNR oversight of where manure is applied, eliminate more than one CAFO applying manure to the same field in a given year, and provide easier public access. More on this comment here.


  • The Director’s Discretionary Rule should remain. This rule allows the director of the DNR to deny a CAFO that is an egregious threat to the environment. The DNR claims they don’t have the authority to use the rule and wants to remove the language, but the Environmental Protection Commission has complete rulemaking authority which would legally allow its use. More on this comment here. 


  • The Iowa State University Nitrogen Rate Calculator should be required to calculate the correct amount of nitrogen to be applied to cropland. Various methods are allowed, but invariably nitrogen is overapplied to cropland, leading to high nitrates in public drinking water threatening public health. More on this comment here. 


  • The DNR should require documentation of the actual number of animals in a CAFO, not just the number that is planned be in a confinement as is reported on a CAFO application. The DNR has admitted they are aware of some CAFOs being over the “2480” or “2499” amounts claimed, and this skirts requirements for a construction permit, Master Matrix, and greater separation distances. The DNR could require submittal of a delivery slip to prove true animal capacity. 


  • The “commercial enterprise” definition should include businesses that operate part of the year in order to be eligible for the separation distances from CAFOs to apply. Businesses such as outdoor event centers, campgrounds, and other tourist attractions shouldn’t have to financially suffer from the noxious odor of a closely sited CAFO. 


  • The “public use area” definition should include recreational trails to be eligible for the separation distances from CAFOs to apply as many are highly trafficked. 


  • The “floodplain” definition should expand to include any water source, not just major water sources, because a flooded CAFO would be disastrous in a floodplain of any size water source. SAFOs, mall animal feeding operations – those under 1250 hogs – should be prohibited from floodplains. 


  • The DNR should annually inspect the implementation and utilization of design, operation, and maintenance plans that are required for some questions selected in the Master Matrix to ensure they are being followed. Right now, once the plans are submitted and approved with a Master Matrix, there is no follow up to ensure compliance.


  • Separation distances from public use areas should be measured to the boundary line of the facility, not just the main attraction of a facility itself, given the entire area of a public use area may be utilized (such as a park, campground, etc.). 


  • There are multiple areas where data coming from “credible sources or methods” is deemed acceptable for developing manure management plans (MMPs}, but these are vague terms that could mean anything. The DNR should outline in each case what it deems a “credible source or method.” MMPs should be responsibly developed in order to adequately protect Iowa’s waterways. 


  • CAFOs are currently prohibited from being built within 2500 feet of a “designated wetland.” But if a designated wetland was identified after a CAFO was already sited within 2500 feet, the DNR should prohibit the expansion of that CAFO. Currently it’s allowed. 


  • The titleholder of a public property (school, park, etc.) can waive separation distance requirements from a CAFO if they so choose. For any public property, the titleholder should be required to file a public notice in the largest local newspaper 14 days prior to filing the waiver in order to give the public an opportunity to comment on the waiver. 


  • CAFO owners are required to submit full manure management plans every four years and annual updates in other years. They now have the option to submit annual updates electronically or with hard copies. But the electronic updates don’t contain all the information that the hard copies do. The DNR should update the electronic filing system to contain all information required in a hard copy. 

JFAN has numerous other recommendations that you can review here and use as a basis for your comments as well.

This is a first informal comment period, which we believe provides us with the best opportunity to influence changes. A formal rulemaking process will begin once all the comments are considered and the DNR incorporates selected recommendations.

This is our opportunity to try to make a difference. We urge you to contact the DNR at AFO@dnr.iowa.gov to submit your comments. Let us all do all we can to strengthen CAFO regulations.