Ag Policy Blog
Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter

Wednesday 08/28/13

Farm Groups Wants More Conservation, Enviros Sue

As state officials continue to implement a voluntary nutrients reduction strategy and environmental groups push for stricter water standards and more inspections of confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOS, the state's largest grassroots farm organization opened its annual summer policy conference in Des Moines Tuesday by calling on its members to get engaged in conservation.

Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill, a crop and livestock farmer from Milo, opened the conference by praising farmers for conservation progress made and by calling all farmers to heed the call to conservation, according to a news release from IFBF.

"Farmer to farmer, let's look at one another, as stewards of the land, and take a long, hard look at how we care for two of our most precious resources: soil and water," he said in opening remarks.

"It has never been more important than today to have this dialog with each other about conservation. We must go beyond talking, to doing what is right for your farm and for all of Iowa's natural resources."

Hill touted the state's voluntary nutrient reduction strategy and the progress farmers have already made in preserving the soil and watershed.

Earlier this week Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey announced that farmers have applied for some $2.8 million in state funding to support conservation measures.

On Tuesday, Hill said that since the strategy was enacted "many stakeholders and funded by the legislature, Iowa Farm Bureau has been leading the charge to encourage farmers to do one more thing.

State funding was announced recently and 1,096 farmers in 97 of the 100 soil and water conservation districts in Iowa have applied to participate in a cost-share program.

On Wednesday, a coalition of community, animal welfare and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for withdrawing a proposed rule that would have allowed EPA to collect basic information from farms such as locations and animal population sizes.

The Center for Food Safety, Environmental Integrity Project, Food and Water Watch, Humane Society of the United States, and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, filed the suit in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that EPA's withdrawal of the proposed rule lacks the "rational basis required by law."

Hugh Espey, executive director at Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement said in a statement, "While power plants, waste treatment facilities and manufacturers have had to comply with the protective standards of the Clean Water Act, the factory farming industry has managed to evade any meaningful regulation.

"After over three decades, there is no rational reason for why EPA won't enact the types of Clean Water Act approaches with factory farms that have worked well with all of our other polluting industries."

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS said in a statement, "The animal agriculture industry has benefited from EPA's lack of information for decades, and has successfully opposed efforts to increase transparency. This certainly is not good for animals, humans or the environment; it is only good for massive industrialized farms."

The rule known as the CWA Section 308, required the agency to begin gathering basic information about CAFOS. Following strong agriculture industry opposition, EPA withdrew the rule.

The agency now claims that instead of using its authority under the Clean Water Act to gather information directly from CAFO owners and operators, it will seek to gather existing information about CAFOs from various state and federal agencies.

The American Farm Bureau Federation recently filed a lawsuit to stop EPA from releasing additional CAFO information via the Freedom of Information Act. That case is pending in a U.S. district court in Minnesota.

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Posted at 12:36PM CDT 08/28/13 by Todd Neeley
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