Iowa Legislature Appropriates $700,000 To DNR To Hire 7 New Factory Farm Field Inspectors

Citizen complaint to the U.S. EPA led to a reversal of a downward funding trend, but CCI members say twice as many inspectors are needed out in the field to inspect all 8,000 factory farms and begin issuing Clean Water Act permits to polluters 

 

The Iowa legislature passed an agriculture and natural resources appropriations bill Thursday that includes $700,000 to hire seven new factory farm inspectors at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members say DNR Director Chuck Gipp must put the new inspectors in the field immediately to begin inspecting and permitting Iowa’s 8,000 factory farms.

“Seven new factory farm inspectors is a good first step and DNR Director Gipp needs to put them to work immediately inspecting and permitting Iowa’s 8,000 factory farms,” said Lori Nelson, a CCI member from Bayard, “but CCI members will continue to fight for more funding because the department’s environmental enforcement division is still woefully underfunded, nor has the DNR shown the willingness to strongly enforce the law against polluters regardless of how many employees they have dedicated to the job.”

Iowa DNR currently has 10 full-time factory farm field staff, down from a high of 23 in 2004.  The addition of seven new inspectors would increase the DNR’s total capacity from 10 to 17.  Hundreds of new factory farms have been built since 2004, which means there are still less staff overseeing more facilities.

The new funding for factory farm inspectors at the DNR was sparked by a 2012 investigative report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that found the DNR did not have adequate field staff to enforce the federal Clean Water Act for factory farms.  Last Fall, the DNR proposed hiring 13 new factory farm inspectors, but Governor Branstad only requested five in his original budget proposal.

Branstad and Gipp to date have refused to sign a binding work plan agreement with the EPA, raising the possibility that the EPA could strip the state of Iowa of its authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.

Iowa has more than 628 polluted waterways, including the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers which have made news in recent weeks because of the nitrate load being handled by Des Moines Water Works.  There have been more than 800 documented manure spills since 1995.

Iowa CCI members filed a de-delegation petition with the EPA in 2007 alongside the Environmental Integrity Project and the Iowa Sierra Club.  CCI members met with EPA Region 7 Director Karl Brooks in Des Moines in February and with top EPA national staff in Washington DC in April.

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