Deferring to public scrutiny, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources withdrew their plan to file emergency rules that would have given the department more control over pork operations. Instead, the DNR will wait for public comment before requesting any changes.

Jeff Vonk, DNR director, had wanted the new restrictions in place by Dec. 30 so they would apply to plans for spring construction. He contends that a boom in confinement construction prompted concerns about water pollution.

The rules would have given DNR director Jeff Vonk the authority to block or change plans for additions to confinement buildings as well as new buildings. Now the rules are unlikely to be approved until next spring. A series of public hearings are planned before two state panels take action.

Livestock interests had complained about plans to approve the rule by emergency measures, and then amend it later after public comments. Eldon McAfee, an attorney that represents the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says the measure appears so vague it would be hard to figure out whether a proposal met the requirements.

"We are withdrawing the request for the emergency rule because we want this proposal to be discussed on its merits rather than it being debated based on the process being used to implement it," says Vonk.

On Monday, Vonk clarified the new ways his staff would review construction permits and manure-management plans. They will consider various factors that include land application of manure on frozen or snow-covered crop fields; the distance between the farm and public lands, trout streams or leaky bedrock; the potential for manure runoff into streams, especially if the slope of land where manure is applied is greater than 9 percent; and potential pollution of public water supplies.

In extreme cases, construction would be blocked, but producers could appeal the state's action.

Des Moines Register