JFAN Letter to the Editor Published in the April 2, 2015 Fairfield Ledger
When a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) threatened Dickinson County, home of the Iowa Great Lakes region, the Dickinson County Supervisors decided to survey all Iowa counties asking if they would support some form of local control.
Jefferson County Supervisors will address this survey at their April 6 board meeting. JFAN believes it’s in everyone’s best interest to support local control and to urge our supervisors to do so.
Local control in agriculture was rescinded in 1995, paving the way for unfettered CAFO development. The Master Matrix was added in 2002 in response to public outcry over its loss.
While better than nothing, the Matrix hasn’t mitigated the problems of inappropriately placed CAFOs. Laws regulating factory farms are weak, and CAFO owners have a wide berth as to where they can build a confinement. Neighbors have virtually no say in the matter.
I know many people who live next to CAFOs built close to their homes. They can experience headaches, confusion, nausea, and retching caused by breathing in toxic air containing 150 noxious gases and particulates blown out of confinements. I can hear wheezing and shortness of breath caused by environmental asthma developed after the CAFO moved in. Public health research links all these health problems to living near CAFOs.
I see their despondency over losing hard-earned home equity, often their retirement nest egg, because of plummeting property values. I witness the grief and hopelessness that pours out when a CAFO is built next to a beloved century farm and frustration when a home is covered in flies.
Shouldn’t these neighbors have had a say in where those CAFOs were located?
Returning local control would do just that. County supervisors could evaluate a confinement’s proximity to homes, schools, hospitals, businesses, lakes and parks. They could assess factors that affect the quality of life, economic vitality, and environmental health of the entire county.
Supervisors could implement separation distances greater than minimal state distances or declare certain parts of the county off limits to CAFO development. They could seek input from residents in developing a plan that encompasses everyone’s needs, not just the CAFO developer.
Agribusiness interests will say local control is too complex. If we look to Minnesota where local control is successfully implemented, we can see that argument is a lie. Agribusiness doesn’t like local control because it limits the power for blind CAFO development that ignores the needs of others.
The vast majority of Iowans support local control: 64 percent of Iowans want it returned, according to a 2007 Des Moines Register poll.
The business interests of a CAFO owner shouldn’t be allowed to proceed without those most impacted having a say. This isn’t the democratic process we pride our country in upholding. Local control is about community rights.
If you support local control, let your supervisors know, and please attend Monday’s meeting. This survey won’t change laws, but could be the first step toward restoring a more fair and equitable way of doing business in Iowa.