JFAN and other like-minded stakeholders were not represented during early stages of the 2016 Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) Rules Review Process but several commodity groups were. JFAN is looking to change that.
Every five years, the DNR reviews a part of the Iowa Code’s Administrative Rules. In 2021, Chapter 65, which focuses on Animal Feeding Operations. In 2021, the code is again up for review.
The Rules are written for bills that have passed, and provide guidelines to ensure that the intent of the law is in place. The rules can change if revisions will help achieve the law's intent more clearly. Public input is invited. Early stages of the review typically start the year before final revisions are presented at the DNR.
In 2016, JFAN and the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture (IARA) participated in the review process and we received the rules during the spring, analyzed proposed changes, and advocated for better rules. There was only a month to evaluate and comment via public hearings and submitted documents.
However, during the 2016 process, Rosenberg recalled hearing Eldon McAfee, attorney for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, commenting at the Iowa Pork Congress in January 2016 that the rules changes weren’t onerous.
As a result, IARA submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and discovered that Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association were also very involved in the review early on, and had impacted the rules changes that the DNR released to the public for input. No environmental groups were included as stakeholders during the early review session.
Lesson learned:All environmental, community, municipal water utilities, and other like-minded organizations, including members of IARA, should get involved NOW so we can help shape the rules changes to be presented next spring.
Rosenberg contacted attorney Kelli Book, asking how groups could get involved as stakeholders in the 2021. At first Book was receptive to the proposal and asked Rosenberg to collect names of organizations interested in the process. Rosenberg collected a dozen organizations, many of which are IARA members. Book said the timing of the process was uncertain but indicated it would start later in 2020.
During a second call with Book, Rosenberg learned that IF the process happens – because of impacts of COVID-19 on the DNR – it would likely begin in 2021.
Rosenberg then questioned whether the DNR was legally required to hold this process every five years, and Book affirmed it normally was, but said a “continuous review process” had been going on which might suffice, i.e., a few other rules had been changed since 2016.
Rosenberg reminded Book that earlier reviews had started in 2015 for 2016 changes, evidenced from the FOIA documents indicating extensive meetings took place as part of the initial internal review. Book said she was awaiting orders from her supervisors as to when to start the review process.
JFAN jumpstarted the process for increased participation. IARA will submit ongoing FOIA document requests to keep abreast of DNR’s actions, and Rosenberg will reach out to the decision makers at the DNR to learn of their anticipated timeline and keep this group of environmental/community/municipal utility stakeholders front and center. We will continue to inform you on progress.