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News Brief

Feb. 1, 2024 |  By: Mark Moran -Public News Service

Environmental advocates want tougher CAFO rules


By Mark Moran - Public News Service

After a two-and-a-half-year process, time is winding down for the public to comment on new rules for concentrated animal feeding operations in Iowa.

Backers of stronger rules said the state is not doing enough to protect air and groundwater from leaching manure. The proposed new rules are the product of petitions, drafts, comments and regulatory analysis.

Michael Schmidt, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, said while there are slight improvements, his group has petitioned the Department of Natural Resources to do more to measure how much manure large operators are applying to Iowa's porous soil, known as karst.

"Manure is applied directly to farm fields, and if it is applied at rates higher than crops can use, then it ends up in the water," Schmidt pointed out.

Large-scale operators said they are constantly looking for ways to make their facilities more environmentally friendly while responding to increased consumer demand for healthy livestock. The public comment period ends the third week in February.

Late last year, the DNR backtracked on plans to add karst protections in the proposed new rules. Beyond manure on the ground, which Schmidt noted affects groundwater and air quality, the Iowa Environmental Council is calling on the state to update its manure management plans which, until now, have been decidedly low tech, kept by hand on paper.

"We were pushing for the manure management plans to be done geospatially," Schmidt pointed out. "Use GIS software to map so that you can load it into a GIS program and be able to see where all the fields are that are in these manure management plans."

There will be an in-person session and a virtual one the second week in February, just before the public comment period ends.