A citizen panel Tuesday overturned state regulators by denying permits for two large Dallas County, Iowa hog confinements. The surprise 6-2 vote by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Commission blocks a pair of confinements with capacity for 7,440 hogs each that had previously received state approval.
"There are battle lines being drawn on this," said Henry Marquard, chairman of the commission. "It creates a political situation that the Legislature cannot ignore. Marquard said he believes the commission has broader authority than natural resources officials, who are obligated by state law to approve animal confinements that meet certain requirements.
The process awards points based on the operation’s estimated effects on air, water and neighbors. Granger farmer Robert Manning Jr.'s proposals near Dawson easily scored the points needed for department approval.
"That should be a shot across the bow of the Legislature to review those parameters," said state Sen. Dennis Black, D-Grinnell, chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee. "We've got to quit believing that the current matrix is a panacea for what ails our natural environment."
Marquard said Tuesday that commissioners are convinced that the standards are too low and they want to protect the environment, he said. The Raccoon River watershed, one of the most polluted in the state, is at the center of the issue the commission said. The Raccoon River is a source of drinking water for the Des Moines metro area.
"The commission decided ahead of time that it was time to send a message," said Manning's attorney, Mike Blaser. He said Tuesday that he was unsure whether Manning would take the commission to court. He has 30 days to decide.
Iowa raises about one fourth of the nation's pork, and the industry is responsible for about 63,000 jobs in the state.
Manning said he applied to build the confinements to get enough manure to fertilize 7,000 acres he farms in Dallas County with his father and brother. Cargill would own the hogs.
Residents "have the right as much as I do to contest it, but what they don't understand is that they lay a set of rules out, and if you follow those rules, you're supposed to be allowed to build those buildings," Manning said Monday.
Eldon McAfee, an attorney for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said his group was "not at all pleased" by Tuesday's commission ruling. "The association believes that when the producer meets the extensive requirements of state law, that a permit should be issued," he said.
Source: The Des Moines Register