“Does anyone really believe that voluntary compliance will protect our water (or land or air)?
Did you read the Nov. 16 story in the Des Moines Register titled Farm Bureau text in state report,
DNR staffers say they had no input on draft of plan to cut ag runoff?’
I am outraged! Aren’t you?
The fact is that not all farmers are stewards of the land.
We would like to believe that people can be trusted to “do the right thing.” Think about how well that worked with Wall Street. We need to protect the commons.
If the state of Iowa cannot enact and enforce regulations to protect the environment, then I welcome the Environmental Protection Agency to come in and do so.
Please consider contacting your legislators and the governor. This is unacceptable!”
Well written, Lynn.
Elections have consequences. When Terry Branstad won the 2010 general election with 52.3 percent of the vote, one of those consequences was expected to be the avoidance, repeal and reduction of regulations related to business generally, and agriculture in particular. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy of voluntary compliance is another variation on this theme. Different from the perceived problem of excess government regulation, hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico is real, a problem that will not go away without action.
If the governor’s plan of voluntary actions works, hats off to him. But as Gallagher’s letter suggests, not every point and non-point source polluter will voluntarily comply.
If the plans of Iowa and other Mississippi River basin states don’t abate nutrient runoff sufficiently to reverse Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, the federal government is expected step in again. States won’t like it.
While I would have liked to have seen Iowa put sensible regulations in place, Governor Branstad had other ideas, and for now, it is his show. Be assured that the same people who supported the election of Terry Branstad will be supporting him with comments to his plan to reduce nutrient runoff.
It is important that every voice be heard. I urge readers to go to the website, watch the video, read the documents and enter your comments. The fight for what is right does not end with any election, especially if our candidates lose.
We could do nothing, work on the next election and wait for the mythical day when the planets align and all of our candidates are concurrently serving in office. For me, the work is too important to wait for that.
In May 2010, I first posted on Blog for Iowa about Iowa’s nutrient runoff and its effect on the Gulf of Mexico, where it creates hypoxia zones. It is a serious problem, grounded in reality, and Governor Branstad, along with a number of state agencies, is proposing a voluntary action plan to address nutrient flow from point and non-point sources into our rivers and streams, and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. On Monday, the governor’s office released the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy for public comment. Find the press release here.
As someone concerned with the quality of Iowa’s waterways and the well being of our oceans, I urge readers to take this initiative seriously. There has been public discussion of the fact that parts of the plan were lifted directly from the Iowa Farm Bureau’s policy book. Did we seriously expect the Farm Bureau to be absent from a discussion that involves Iowa agriculture policy development in a Branstad-Reynolds administration? The cynics among us are sure to find reasons to refrain from action.
It is not a perfect plan and it may not be a viable plan. It is the plan we have and my advice is that because nutrient runoff is having dire consequences for our oceans, our best course of action is to get over it and participate in the process for public comments.
The concern about the Farm Bureau’s involvement is whether doing what is right should be a matter of law with obligatory compliance or of common sense and voluntary compliance. The Farm Bureau favors voluntary compliance, but what matters more is the fact that doing nothing about nutrient runoff is unacceptable.
Here is the link to the Nutrient Reduction Strategy home page. I hope readers will watch the video, read the materials, and take time to comment between now and Jan. 4, 2013. If the Branstad-Reynolds administration does not heed the public comments and do something to mitigate nutrient runoff, there will be an election in 2014 to find someone who can.
Say what you will about CCI… do you know anyone else trying to keep the state of Iowa from being overrun by gigantic factory farms? Surely anyone can support that. We can. Thanks, CCI.
Linn County Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) to Meet with Top DNR Officials Tuesday in Center Point
Meeting will focus on community, legal objections to proposed Maschhoff Pork factory farm
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members from Linn County will meet with top officials with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Center Point Tuesday night to press their demands that a construction permit for a giant factory farm near Center Point be denied.
The meeting will be held at the Center Point Public Library at 7pm Tuesday night.
“Matt Ditch and Maschhoff Pork’s proposal does not meet the legal requirements for a construction permit and the DNR must stand up, do their job to protect the environment from factory farm polluters, and deny the construction permit for this bad proposal,” said Regina Behmlander, a CCI member from Center Point who has helped galvanize community opposition to the proposal.
The contrast between Democratic and Republican approaches to the government’s role in job creation could not be clearer than with the Branstad administration’s recently announced deal with the Egyptian corporation Orascom. The company plans to build a fertilizer plant in Lee County. Touted as a “win-win,” the project will result in a $1.4 billion construction project and 165 permanent jobs, according to news sources.
The deal appears to be predicated on cheap natural gas, proximity to fertilizer users, and a package of tax incentives that according to Peter Fisher of the Iowa Policy Project, “amount to more than $650,000 for each permanent job.” CF Industries, Inc., Dow Chemical and Royal Dutch Shell are reported to be mulling similar projects, so Iowa is participating in a broader economic trend related to the explosion of natural gas supply in the United States due to hydraulic fracturing, and its intersection with agriculture.
The Orascom deal is done, it creates jobs, and it occurred on the Republican watch. However, is a tax incentive to a foreign corporation the best way to create Iowa jobs? Democrats have a different answer, one that favors Iowa businesses, and small businesses particularly.
Recently, the Solon City Council approved a $125,000 package of forgivable loans to a local company planning to open a restaurant and microbrewery on Main Street. One can debate how many jobs this will create, but management, a cook, a brew master, wait and kitchen staff, maintenance and accounting functions will all be part of the business. Perhaps five or six jobs and parts of others after the construction is finished and the business opens. For the money spent on each Orascom job, five or six small businesses could receive such a loan, multiplying the job creation many times per dollar spent over the Republican deal.
If one cares about job creation, supporting Main Street is more sensible than giving tax breaks to large, multinational corporations. There is the partisan difference, Democrats support Iowa businesses on Main Street, Republicans support tax breaks to large corporations.
Democrats support a strong Iowa economy by supporting a reduction in commercial property taxes for every Iowa business, focused on Main Street in small towns. We also support giving Iowans first bidding rights on government contracts, and buying American and Iowa made products where cost competitive. We support financial incentives for small businesses like the one in Solon.
This approach would do more for the Iowa economy than providing tax incentives to foreign corporations for a business relying on the economics of the questionable practice of hydraulic fracturing.
The Orascom fertilizer plant deal shows once again that while Republicans favor large corporations, Democrats favor doing business in Iowa with Iowans. It points out that Democrats make the better job creators.
Say what you will about CCI, there is no other grassroots group that we know of fighting factory farms in Iowa.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a formal response yesterday to a July investigative report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was highly critical of DNR’s factory farm enforcement program for:
- Failing to issue permits to factory farms when required,
- Not having an adequate factory farm inspection program,
- Frequently failing to act in response to manure spills and other environmental violations,
- Not assessing adequate fines and penalties when violations occur, and
- State setback distances for manure application not meeting federal requirements.
In their response, which you can read here, the DNR promised to:
- Initiate new rulemaking beginning November 1, 2012 to bring Iowa into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act
- Ask the state legislature for more funding to hire 13 new full-time field staff,
- Develop a plan to inspect every factory farm in the state of Iowa, and
- Change other protocols and procedures to bring Iowa’s program up to par with federal standards.
The DNR’s reply is a major victory for Iowa CCI members like you and our allies at the Environmental Integrity Project and the Iowa Sierra Club who have been pushing this issue for years. But the proof is going to be in the pudding.
The DNR is promising a lot of big things, but we know from past experience that the DNR only acts when they are forced to by outside pressure – by people like you.
And all the new rules in the world won’t mean much if the DNR lacks the will – and the money – to enforce the law.
For now, take stock in the fact that all your hard work is paying off. You are making a big difference on the issues that matter most. But we can’t afford to lay back on our laurels and wait for change to just come to us. We have to continue to be engaged in the public discussion moving forward if we want our vision of a more just and democratic Iowa that puts people first to be realized.
Here are three upcoming opportunities for you to take a stand for clean air and clean water:
Tuesday, September 18 – speakout at the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) against industry attempts to end a 5-year ban on spreading liquid manure on soybeans and reduce fees for groundwater permit applications by factory farms. 9am-noon. Meet at the CCI statewide headquarters, 2001 Forest Avenue, Des Moines at 9am and we will carpool to the EPC meeting at 10am. Public comment starts at 10:30am.
Tuesday, October 16 – speakout at the EPC meeting against attempts by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry to gut factory farm enforcement rules. 9am-noon.
Thursday, October 18 – CCI meeting with Karl Brooks, Region 7 Administrator, U.S. EPA. Iowa State Historical Society Museum, Des Moines. 6:30pm-9pm.
2012 Earth Charter Summit on Economic Justice
Quad Cities 5th Annual 2012 Earth Charter Summit:
Saturday, September 15, 2012
9:00am – 3:00pm
Western Illinois University
3300 River Drive, Moline, IL
Ellen Augustine, M.A., notmypriorities.org
Ellen is a speaker and author on creating a just, peaceful, and sustainable world. She founded/co-founded four nonprofits on environmental regeneration, media violence, international citizen diplomacy, and mentoring at-risk youth. She is a contributing author to A Game As Old As Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption. She is co-author of Taking Back Our Lives in the Age of Corporate Dominance (as Ellen Schwartz). She has presented “Stories of Hope” at universities and associations-profiles of people who are creating businesses which increase profits by incorporating eco-initiatives, and communities and schools which truly nurture and renew us. Ellen has been featured in Utne Reader and Hope Magazine, received the Women of Achievement and Thread of Hope Awards, and was named one of 21 Visionaries for the 21st Century. She serves on the board of the National Women’s Political Caucus of Northern Alameda County. She holds a Masters Degree in Speech Communication.
The Pentagon, the Economy, and the 99%
Most Americans do not know that the Pentagon consumes more than 60% of our discretionary budget, which equals the military spending of all the other countries of the world combined! This takes an enormous toll on quality of life for the 99%: there is insufficient money for health care, education, affordable housing, environmental restoration, and green job creation, to name but few. Ellen will reveal why the military is a poor jobs program, where cuts can be made, what true security looks like, and why science is on our side for the triumph of the Common Good! You will leave with a plethora of ideas for actions.
Passion in Action: Enhancing YOUR Idea for a World That Works for All
In Eastern philosophy, each person is here for a unique purpose, and if you do not do what is yours to do, there is a hole in the universe. Do you have a vision for the common good that just won’t let go of you? Ellen will support participants in coalescing ideas for a more vibrant, joyful, and sustainable world. This workshop is both for people who already have a project in motion as well as for those with a new idea. In this workshop participants will learn to:
- Brainstorm initial steps and prioritize actions
- Write clear and compelling copy for promotional flyers
- Stimulate thinking on generating revenues from fundraising
- Organize a public outreach campaign
- Craft timely and engaging press releases
- Liaison with other stakeholders
- Overcome potential objections
- Develop one-page fact & action sheets
- Lunch provided at 12 noon -
Cost is only $10, $5 for students
(Goodwill donations will be accepted based on ability to pay; full stipends are also available)
Tabling is available to organizations interested in participating at this event
Please share this with your friends, family members, coworkers, civic groups, rotary clubs, etc, to help us reach as many citizens as possible in our effort to promote this event!
To Register, Print/Complete the – REGISTRATION FORM HERE. Space is limited and we expect to fill every seat so register today! Make checks payable to PACG and mail to:
c/o Earth Charter Summit
1212 W. 3rd St, Suite 3D
Davenport, IA 52804
If you would like to volunteer to help with this event or to reserve a table for your organization, please contact Caroline at Progressive Action for the Common Good:
MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa— The eight hundred pound gorilla in the Mount Pleasant High School Gymnasium today was the subject of climate change. Governor Terry Branstad called for a public discussion on drought conditions in Iowa and all of the governmental players were there: USDA, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Farm Services Administration. The phrase “climate change,” or any analysis of causation for the current drought was absent from the public discussion. This was a meeting about row crop agriculture and related agricultural producers and it was intended to deal with the as-is situation. The obvious problem, as Mark Schouten of Homeland Security and Emergency Response put it, “you can’t snap your fingers and make it rain.”
In a well choreographed series of speeches, representatives of the Iowa Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association, Pork Producers, Soybean Association and Corn Growers Association all spoke. Their entreaties were to be expected, release CRP acres to haying and pasture, help stabilize markets for commodities and pass a new farm bill, not an extension of the previous one. The only hopeful statement was from the Soybean Association, whose representative said there was time to recover yield in soybeans. The rest of the story, lost yield, stress on farmers, liquidation of sows and related price pressure, trouble dealing with crop insurance and potential farm failures were the dominant themes. The worry about this year’s drought was not that great for well capitalized farms. One speaker said he would capitalize this year’s losses over five years and plant again in the spring. Row crop resilience that is common in Iowa, if a farmer is okay financially.
It was the Farm Services Agency that raised the issue of environmental groups, saying a group had sued for an environmental impact statement before releasing CRP acres to haying or grazing. During the public comment section, a truck driver who had just delivered a load of grain stood at the microphone and demonized the environmental groups for trying to influence food production. It got the biggest applause at the event and the governor jumped on board reminding us of his joining a lawsuit in Nebraska against an environmental group.
Whether it was acknowledged or not, today’s meeting of farmers, citizens, elected officials, bureaucrats, media and advocates is what climate change looks like. Grown men and women (men mostly) who have invested a lifetime in doing what they think is right, facing the existential reality of a changing climate.
What seems true, more than ever, is that it doesn’t matter if a person believes in the science of climate change. We will be forced to deal with its consequences, as was done in a somber room in Mount Pleasant this morning.
Burlington receives grant for downtown revitalization
The Iowa Economic Development Authority has awarded Burlington a federally-funded downtown revitalization grant for the rehabilitation of downtown buildings. Grant funds help leverage private investment and improve physical conditions, while bringing new businesses and job creation on Iowa’s Main Streets.
Grants are awarded based on the potential impact of the project, a comprehensive downtown revitalization strategy, commitment of local resources, and assurance that revitalization will continue following project completion. More information here.
Nobody’s giving up on cutting property taxes
Cutting property taxes is long overdue here in Iowa, and it would be a great way to create local jobs.
Senate Democrats have taken the advice of Iowans, community leaders and business leaders from across the state in putting together a plan for cutting commercial property taxes.
The Legislature does its best work when we avoid divisive issues and work together on the top priorities of Iowans. Iowans want property tax relief. That’s why I’m frustrated and disappointed that the House, Senate and Governor let the opportunity to pass permanent property tax reform slip through our fingers this year.
In 2011, the Iowa Senate voted 46-4 for $200 million annually in commercial property tax relief. Four out of five commercial property tax payers would have received a 40 percent tax cut under the Senate’s bipartisan plan—a plan that would not shift any additional tax burden to homeowners. Unfortunately, our proposal was not taken up in the Iowa House.
During the 2012 session, we developed a bigger, bolder plan that would have cut commercial property taxes by more than $350 million. In the end, Senate File 2344 got caught up in election-year politics. It didn’t garner one Republican vote, despite including suggestions from Governor Branstad and Republican lawmakers.
This was a missed opportunity. It would have dramatically cut property taxes for almost every business and also would have cut taxes for working families.
I will continue to push for a commercial property tax cut for every Iowa business—one that helps our small businesses the most, without hurting local schools and services. I know we can get the job done.
Opportunities for Iowans to help advance student achievement
There are two new opportunities for Iowans interested in boosting student achievement and improving local schools.
First, the state is seeking members to serve on the advisory boards for six newly established regional STEM network hubs. The board members and hubs will work locally to boost student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math education, while promoting economic growth in these areas. The regional advisory boards are part of the Education Budget (Senate File 2321) that I helped approve this year.
Iowans from a variety of backgrounds are encouraged to apply for the regional advisory board positions. Whether you work in education, workforce development or business—even if you’re a student—your experience can make a difference and help create world-class schools for all Iowans.
Applications are due June 22. For more information, go to www.governor.iowa.gov/news and click on “Branstad, Reynolds, Allen announce Governor’s STEM Regional Advisory Boards.”
Second, an Iowa Teacher and Principal Leadership Symposium will take place on August 3 in Des Moines. In an effort to improve student achievement statewide, the event will focus on new ideas for educational leadership and how they can be used to improve our local schools so that students get the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.
All Iowans—educators, parents, students and community leaders—are encouraged to participate. Your input will be helpful as the Legislature continues to look at ways to improve student achievement during the 2013 session and beyond.
For more information on the symposium or to register, go to http://educationleadership.iowa.gov.
Reports look at local jobs and economy
What opportunities and challenges do we face in growing our economy and creating more good jobs? A new set of reports from Iowa Workforce Development helps to answer that question, providing a valuable tool as we work to improve job-training opportunities, boost our local economy and create more high-quality jobs.
The Workforce and Economic Development Regional Status Reports look at demographics, infrastructure, employment, labor force, local industries, education, government and more. Check them out—and see how we’re doing here in our area and how we can improve .
Nominate an environmentally friendly farmer
Do you know a farmer who has been a leader in environmental stewardship on their farm, using a variety of techniques and best management practices that improve water quality and soil? Consider nominating them for the new Iowa Farm Environmental Leader Award. This award seeks to recognize farmers for their responsible choices and encourage others to build on their successes.
Nominations are open until June 30, and award recipients will be recognized at this year’s Iowa State Fair. Nomination forms are available here.
Connect with the great outdoors at Iowa Trails Summit
This year’s Iowa Trails Summit will be held June 15-16 in Cedar Falls/Waterloo. The event brings together trails enthusiasts as well as state, local and regional groups who care about outdoor trail recreation in Iowa. This year, speakers will focus on re-connecting families with trails, Iowa’s vision for healthy communities and the future of trail development in Iowa.
The Iowa Trails Summit brings together a variety of trail users, including pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians, motorized users, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers and inline skaters. Outdoor recreation exhibits and opportunities will be open to the public, including kayaks and canoes, hiking, ATV rides, biking and horses. To register or learn more, go to http://iowatrailssummit.org.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Action Alert From the Iowa Sierra Club:
The Iowa House of Representatives will soon consider House File 2449, referred to as the “efficiency” bill, that directs the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to inventory all of its public lands (Division V, Section 16) and prohibits the DNR from purchasing any additional agricultural land (Division V, Section 17).
Tell your Iowa House Representative that you oppose these sections of the bill.
Risks Iowa’s Water Quality. Iowa law defines agricultural land as virtually all land in Iowa. The DNR would be prohibited from purchasing wetlands, prairies, parks and river buffers to protect water quality.
Sacrifices the Natural Legacy. This land does not belong to the government. It belongs to Iowans. Don’t let anyone hijack our state’s future.
Is Fiscally Irresponsible. Public land in Iowa generates nearly $4 billion annually. HF2449 sacrifices the land we all share, land that is important to our economy.
Rep. Chris Hall (D-Woodbury) and Rep. Mary Gaskill (D-Wapello) have introduced H-8403 that strips all references to public lands from HF2449.
Neila Seaman, Director
Iowa Sierra Club