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Opponents of Factory Farms to Rally at Iowa Capitol

It's estimated that 200 Iowa communities struggle to treat for factory-farm pollutants caused by runoff from the state's large number of hog confinements. (MabelAmber/Pixabay)
It's estimated that 200 Iowa communities struggle to treat for factory-farm pollutants caused by runoff from the state's large number of hog confinements. (MabelAmber/Pixabay)
February 20, 2019

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowans who want to see a moratorium on factory farms in the state rally at the State Capitol tomorrow, even though they aren't convinced the bill they're backing will pass this year.

Iowa is home to 10,000 factory farms, estimated to produce 22 million gallons of animal waste each year. Some 70 organizations will call on legislators to back House File 203, to stop factory-farm expansion until stricter regulations are adopted.

Emma Schmit, an organizer for the group Food and Water Watch, believes the pollution generated by industrial animal operations is diminishing the state's quality of life.

"We have over 750 polluted waterways in Iowa,” says Schmit. “And a lot of that is because of the nitrates that come from hog manure that's being spread in our fields, and then slipping into our waterways."

Opponents of new regulations on factory farms say large animal-confinement operations allow individual farms to better participate in the global economy. The Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers argues they already navigate a "maze of state and federal regulations" before building a new hog confinement.

Nonetheless, a recent University of Iowa study found that nitrogen pollution flowing out of Iowa to the Gulf of Mexico has grown by nearly 50 percent in the past two decades.

Schmit says most Iowa lawmakers haven't shown much interest in changing the state's permitting system for factory farms, meaning moratorium advocates know what they're up against.

"We don't anticipate the bill passing, but this is more of a sending a message for a bill, it's about representatives listening to the people and realizing this is something that needs to be done,” says Schmit.

Four hundred new confinement facilities were built in Iowa last year. Schmit says House File 203 has 13 co-sponsors, double the number a similar bill had last session, and at least 20 representatives committed to supporting it.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA