Iowa Livestock Confinement Rules Cause Controversy

Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of Sunday’s Des Moines Register that, “Across the state [Iowa], some producers are using a loophole in Iowa law — designed to make it easy for smaller farmers to add pigs at their farmstead — to skirt protections for families, schools, businesses and churches, critics say.

Couple that with another state loophole that lets corporations with different owners locate next to each other, and the result is that producers can build several confinements in a small area, stacking thousands of pigs close to rural families — with virtually no state or local oversight.”

The Register article indicated that, “The struggle over smaller, unregulated hog confinement facilities is the latest fight in the long battle between Iowa’s $17 billion pork industry and critics who contend that the state’s reticence to pass more restrictive rules has led to manure fouling the state’s water and odors making neighbors’ homes unlivable.

“A new animal confinement facility with 2,500 or more pigs must apply for a construction permit that state engineers review. And it must sit at least 1,875 feet from residences, businesses, churches and schools, and 2,500 feet from public use areas such as parks…[B]ut those restrictions don’t apply to facilities with fewer than 2,500 pigs — and some pork producers are using that cutoff to their advantage. The state has even fewer restrictions on facilities with 1,250 or fewer hogs, another threshold that some producers have exploited at the expense of neighbors and water quality.”

Ms. Eller pointed out that, “But lawmakers have shied away from revising the state’s hog confinement laws, unwilling to reopen that extremely divisive can of worms in a state where the pork industry holds considerable political sway.”

Yesterday’s article added that, “Iowa has so few regulations governing small confinement operations, the Iowa DNR is unable to say exactly how many small facilities dot Iowa.”

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