FB not happy with bill
Lang calls proposal a virtual feedlot moratorium
DES MOINES -- Farm Bureau officials say a legislative proposal to reduce pollution from livestock farms will put many farmers out of business, but the organization doesn't want the bill to die.
"We do not want to kill this bill," said Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. "We have a number of concerns that are in the livestock bill."
Lang and nearly 300 farmers met with legislators last week to discuss their concerns and urge legislators to revise the measure so that it allows agriculture to thrive.
The bill would prevent farms from expanding and may deter young farmers from producing pork and poultry in the state, Lang said, calling the measure a virtual "moratorium."
The proposal includes charging farmers who raise turkey, chickens and hogs a fee that would fund salaries for 12 new Department of Natural Resources workers who would enforce farm regulations.
The fee is really a tax, Lang said.
"Farmers today are taxed virtually on everything we do," said Lang, a dairy farmer. "Now, we'll have a livestock tax. It's just an additional burden to livestock producers."
The bill doesn't give counties the right to approve or deny farmers' proposals to build new livestock sites, but they can give an opinion on the matter. Counties would have to use a matrix, or grid of criteria, to score social, economical and environmental risks of the farm and its location. County supervisors would send their recommendation to the DNR, which would reject or allow the farm to be built, based on similar guidelines.
Lang and other producers said that the state should be able to approve or deny applications, but the counties shouldn't be involved in the process.Local control could become political, said Curt Raasch, an Odebolt hog and cattle farmer.
Supervisors who have had a rift with a certain farmer could reject his application, and "it could be personal," he said.
Although environmentalists and the governor have generally been on the opposite side of the issue, they agree with Farm Bureau. The bill needs work, they said, making suggestions on how they would tweak language and clarify provisions.
"I believe they could improve the bill by allowing for more input from local people," Gov. Tom Vilsack said. "There's nothing that prevents the DNR from simply ignoring local input."
The outline for the matrix needs a lot of work, said Elizabeth Horton Plasket, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council, a coalition that has 80,000 members.