SUMMARY OF MARCH 13 JEFFERSON COUNTY SUPERVISORS BOARD MEETING:
JFAN Executive Director Diane Rosenberg met with Jefferson County supervisors on Monday, March 13 to request they adopt a resolution in support of a factory farm moratorium. The supervisors were noncommittal and told Rosenberg they couldn’t take action at that meeting as she was just scheduled to present information.
But Supervisor Susie Drish said a public hearing would be the next step and that the supervisors would have to meet again to discuss whether to hold a public meeting, and if so, set a date. Rosenberg pressed to have that discussion considered at a meeting within the next couple of weeks, but nothing was agreed upon.
We will need to continue to urge our supervisors to address this issue. There appears to be some interest and support among two of the supervisors, but it’s going to take effort on our part to encourage them to take action. Here is what you can do:
Contact all the supervisors to thank them for scheduling JFAN’s Diane Rosenberg moratorium presentation on Monday. (See why that’s significant in the full report, below.)
Urge them to schedule a discussion of a public hearing and set a date. Continue to express your support for and the importance of a CAFO moratorium resolution. Contact info follows the full report below.
READ THE FULL REPORT OF THE MEETING
Over a dozen people came out early for a Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, March 13, to support a resolution calling for a factory farm moratorium. Several more participated via Zoom.
Supervisors Dee Sandquist, Susie Drish and Lee Dimmitt heard a presentation by JFAN Executive Director Diane Rosenberg on the importance and need of a CAFO moratorium resolution.
While no decision was made at the meeting, the door remains open with a public hearing as the next possible step.
Rosenberg cited a Johns Hopkins study that found 63% of Iowans support a moratorium and that support was high in Jefferson County. She emphasized that this is not an anti-farming measure and not anti-agriculture. “We all have to eat,” she said.
But instead of CAFOs, she pointed out that there is strong support for small, traditional livestock farms and putting more independent farmers back on the land. “We’ve lost 92% of our hog farmers over the last 50 years,” she said. “We want to see more farmers on the land.”
She underscored that a moratorium is a pause in construction and would not affect any currently functioning CAFOs.
Rosenberg said of all the counties that have passed resolutions, Jefferson County probably has the most support for a moratorium. “Most of us have a good quality of life,” she said, and want to protect Jefferson County’s quality of life, health, and property values.
She shared that there are 751 impaired water ways in Iowa as of the latest 2022 EPA report and that 7,000 drinking wells have been polluted over the last 20 years. “And just a small number of wells are tested,” she said.
(Note and a correction: a 2019 Iowa Environmental Study report found that over a 15-year period, more than 22,000 out of 55,000 wells tested positive for coliform bacteria at least once and 6600 wells had nitrates above EPA's legal limits. There are an estimated 230,000-290,000 private wells in Iowa.)
Sixty percent of municipal waterways are also threatened by high nitrates. “We’re lucky we don’t have that here,” Rosenberg said, but communities that do can’t typically afford to build expensive denitrification plants to remove them.
Dimmitt remarked that there were more impaired waters on the EPA list before the latest EPA report. “That’s true. There were 757 before,” said Rosenberg. But she pointed out that waterways are removed from the list when a plan to clean up a waterway, called a total maximum daily load (TMDL), is developed. Once a TMDL is created the waterway is removed from the list, but she said it doesn’t mean the waterway is cleaned up at that time.
People are Suffering Near CAFOs
Rosenberg spoke about her personal experiences of working with Iowans who live near factory farms. “The suffering is real,” she said, with people experiencing environmental asthma, MRSA, nausea and vomiting, depression, loss of quality of life, and diminished property values. “There are over 50 years of peer reviewed studies that back up these experiences,” she said.
There is also a high cost to county roads, said Rosenberg. She read a part of a Howard County resolution that wasn’t passed but that contained information relevant to Jefferson County.
“Our concern is the lack of taxation for the CAFOs,” the resolution says. “A standard 2499 head finishing building generates a dismal $157 to our Secondary Roads Fund. We project spending an additional $1080 to $10,000 to maintain the roads and bridges per the CAFO unit. The County is, by law, required to maintain the roads and bridges.”
Rosenberg said that this kind of money could be better spent on needed county services, acknowledging that the supervisors are always challenged to balance budgets.
Moratorium Could Take One of Two Variations
Taking this all into consideration, Rosenberg asked if the supervisors would adopt a resolution, or submit a letter, calling for a moratorium on new or expanding CAFOs in one of two ways: until the Master Matrix is overhauled and strengthened or until there are fewer than 100 impaired waterways.
Most counties have opted for the Master Matrix version with Black Hawk and Johnson County adopting the 100 waterways impairment option.
Rosenberg reminded the supervisors that she tried to get on the agenda to discuss a moratorium resolution back in 2017, but former Supervisor Dick Reed wouldn’t agree to a presentation. “Dee and Lee, you may remember that,” she said. “You received letters, emails, postcards, and 1153 people signed a petition. Since Dick Reed didn’t allow this to be on the agenda, I presented the petition to you during the public comments portion of a weekly meeting.”
To underscore residents’ support, Rosenberg presented a scanned copy of the 2017 petition to the supervisors again. She thanked the supervisors for allowing her to make Monday’s presentation.
She concluded her presentation with some statistics. There are 15,663 people in Jefferson County according to the 2020 US Census, she said, and 636 farms according to the 2017 USDA Agricultural Census. Figuring an average of four people per farming family, farmers account for 16% of the county’s population. “Even if we raise that to 20 or 25%, that means 75-80% of the county are not farmers,” she said.
Further, Rosenberg said there are 66 known CAFOs in the county and 2-3% of the county’s population are CAFO farmers. “That means 98% are not.”
Supervisor Dimmitt: Moratorium Needs to Happen at State Level
At the end of Rosenberg’s presentation, Dimmitt brought up the lack of interest on the state level where this kind of action needs to be taken. Rosenberg agreed with Dimmitt, but said that advocating for a moratorium is a long-term process, and the role of supervisors is to represent their constituents and provide grassroots support for a moratorium.
Drish commented that there hadn’t been new CAFO development in Jefferson County last year. Rosenberg agreed but said that building costs have held some of that down, and there were still about 150 new CAFOs across the state in 2022. “That can change,” she said.
Drish thanked Rosenberg for bringing the supervisors up-to-date at which point Rosenberg asked if the supervisors would adopt a moratorium resolution. Drish said that discussion of adoption wasn’t on the agenda, just the presentation, but that the next step could be a public hearing where the entire community would be invited for a larger dialog. Whether to hold a public meeting and to schedule a date would first have to be discussed at a follow-up supervisors' meeting.
Several Attendees Voice Support
Attendees weren't permitted to speak on the proposed resolution until the very end during the public comments section of the meeting. Marg Dwyer, Southeast Iowa Sierra Club co-chair but speaking on her own behalf, said there are CAFO operators who do a good job, but there are those that don’t, and that a moratorium would give the state an opportunity to resolve many problems and provide an opportunity to bring back local control. “’Doing a good job’ should be required,” Dwyer said.
Jane Matzen, a certified nurse practitioner, said the American Academy of Pediatrics sets standards for children’s health and that CAFOs are contributing to MRSA infections. “This issue isn’t about any of us. It’s about our children and grandchildren,” she said.
Dimmitt responded by saying the amount of antibiotics has decreased over the last several years. Rosenberg then said that had been true but audy by the US Food and Drug Administration recently found that antibiotic use is rising again in CAFOs.
Rosenberg also pointed to a study by the University of Iowa that found people living within a one-mile radius of a CAFO have a 3 times risk of carrying MRSA and that another MRSA study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that 11% of those afflicted with MRSA infections were living next to fields where hog manure was applied.
She followed her comments again asking if the supervisors would put a discussion of scheduling a public hearing on the agenda in the next week or two but received no response.
Matzen also drove home the point that Lake Darling has so many swimming advisories that children weren’t able to enjoy cooling off there much this summer. Joe Ledger, a local farmer, responded that the pollution in the lake was the result of the Canada geese population that litters the sand with their droppings.
Reiterating that a moratorium is a temporary situation until certain standards are met, Anne Walton, co-chair of the Southeast Iowa Sierra Club said a moratorium provides the opportunity to look at the impacts of CAFOs on water quality, among other data.
Fairfield resident Eric Michener was the last to speak, also urging the supervisors to adopt a resolution. He also shared that the state of Minnesota–also with many CAFOs–seems to do a much better job of enforcement of CAFO rules than Iowa does, and perhaps we could learn from them.
After the meeting, Rosenberg spoke directly with Drish to ask about scheduling a discussion of public meeting, and Drish agreed a public meeting needed to be held.
Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Contact Info:
Supervisor Dee Sandquist
Supervisor Susie Drish
Supervisor Lee Dimmitt