DES MOINES – Hundreds of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Food and Water Watch, and Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture members from across Iowa gathered in the Capitol building today to lobby their state legislators to support a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms. House File 203 and its companion bill Senate File call for a moratorium on new and expanded factory farms until the impacts of factory farming have been assessed.
Iowa is in the midst of a factory farm crisis. Currently, Iowa is home to more than 10,000 factory farms, which produce more than 22 billion gallons of manure per year. This industry and its unchecked expansion are wreaking havoc on independent family farms, communities and drinking water.
Barb Kalbach, a fourth generation farmer and Iowa CCI member, said, “Iowans have had enough of factory farms polluting our water and destroying our quality of life. Family farmers are struggling more than ever, and rather than offering an agricultural system that allows family farmers to flourish, we prop up factory farms and let them run independent family farmers out of business. It’s not right.”
As our family farmers are struggling, so are our rural communities. Over a 30-year period, the Iowa counties that sold the most hogs and had the largest farms also had declining countywide incomes, slower growth in median household income and declining numbers of local businesses compared to the statewide average reports.
Emma Schmit of Food and Water Watch said, “Unchecked, rapid expansion of the industry is unsustainable. Our rural communities are turning into ghost towns, because we put profit before our environment and before our people. A moratorium is the only solution that address all of the problems associated with factory farms. Taking a time out will give legislators and regulators an opportunity to understand the effects factory farms have on our food, water and communities. We need a factory farm moratorium now.”
Factory farms are not only a rural issue. Des Moines Water Works, the largest water utility in Iowa, consistently struggles to provide safe drinking water to Des Moines residents due to excessive amounts of nitrates from factory farms upstream. With more than 750 impaired waterways in Iowa, largely a result of industrial agriculture, Iowans have reached a tipping point. Communities must act quickly and boldly to address the water quality.
Bill Stowe, the CEO and general manager of Des Moines Waters Works said, “It’s past time for Iowa to reclaim its leadership role in protecting our source waters. Please join us in supporting and demanding measurable and sustained improvements in the water quality of Iowa’s rivers, lakes and streams.”
There is widespread discontent in Iowa with factory farms and with the state’s inadequate regulatory system. A quarter of Iowa counties are calling for a moratorium or an overhaul of the Master Matrix with Story County, the latest to pass a moratorium resolution. Iowans are demanding change.
Diane Rosenberg, co-founder of Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture said, “What we heard today is a sampling of the way factory farms may impact both rural and urban communities in every corner of the state. Iowans are suffering. Our water quality is degrading. That’s why the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, a coalition of 31 community, state and national organizations, is calling on the Iowa State Legislature to immediately enact a factory farm moratorium. We salute Rep. Sharon Steckman, Sen. Claire Celsi and all the bill cosponsors who understand that we have a serious problem and are taking responsibility to address it.”
Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture (IARA) is a diverse coalition of national, state and local organizations and individuals who are concerned about the harmful impacts of factory farms and are each working to promote traditional and ethical agriculture in Iowa. More information can be found at www.cleaniowanow.org.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement works to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities; involve them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic and environmental justice. Check out www.iowacci.org.
Food and Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. They stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects the environment. Go to www.foodandwaterwatch.org.