“An Act requiring consumer labeling information for food, providing penalties, and including effective date provisions”
Thank your Democratic representatives in the Iowa House and Senate who introduced the bills, Bolkcom, Thede, Anderson, Steckman, Berry, Abdul-Samad, Mascher, Hunter, Hanson, and Kearns. Click here to support the passage of SF 194 and HF 463
Rally and press conference today at 10:00 am
Monsanto: A Corporate Profile (report can be downloaded here)
New Food & Water Watch report sheds light on GE seed giant that is major force behind keeping GE food unlabeled
Des Moines, Iowa—As consumer demand and grassroots efforts grow in support of SF 194 and HF 463, bills to mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods in Iowa, the consumer advocacy organization Food & Water Watch will release a new report – Monsanto: A Corporate Profile. The new report provides a thorough overview of the biotechnology giant that now holds 1,676 patents on seeds, plants and other agricultural applications, outlining Monsanto’s history and its undue influence over lawmakers, regulators, academic research and consumers.
WHAT: Press conference and rally to announce key findings of Food & Water Watch’s new report on Monsanto and its implications for the movement to label genetically engineered foods in Iowa.
WHO: Food & Water Watch along with its allies.
Speakers will include:
Matt Ohloff, Iowa-based organizer with Food & Water Watch; Naomi Sea Young Wittstruck, Leadership Development Minister for Social Justice and Mission with the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church; George Naylor, family farmer and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition; Chris Petersen, family farmer and past president of the Iowa Farmers Union.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 3 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: West Steps of the Iowa State Capitol, E. 9th and Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA 50319
CONTACT: Matt Ohloff, email@example.com, 515-988-3737
We think probably not. Here is an excerpt of an article by Tom Philpott at MotherJones.com about China’s dead-hog scandal and how Iowa and the U.S. compare.
Consider Iowa, which houses around 18 million hogs, making it our most hog-intensive state. All of those hogs concentrated into a relatively small space generate unthinkable amounts of toxic manure. How much? Food & Water Watch weighs in:
• The nearly 733,000 hogs on factory farms in Plymouth County, Iowa, produce twice as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
• The more than 857,000 hogs on factory farms in Hardin County, Iowa, produce three times as much untreated manure as the sewage from the greater Atlanta metro area.
• The more than 1 million hogs on factory farms in Sioux County, Iowa, produce as much untreated manure as the sewage from the Los Angeles and Atlanta metro areas combined.
And it’s not just hogs that are crammed into the state’s factory farms. According to FWW, Iowa’s vast confinement facilities also house 1.2 million beef cattle, 52.4 million egg-laying hens, 1 million broiler chickens, and 64,500 dairy cows. Altogether, this teeming horde annually churns out “as much untreated manure as the sewage from 471 million people—more than the entire US population.”
As you might imagine, keeping such titanic amounts of shit out of water is a near futile task.
Last night I witnessed an incredible hearing on two proposed CAFOs to be built near Batavia — totaling 10,000 hogs – in Wapello County. About 50 neighbors of the farmer proposing the CAFOs poured out their hearts with their very legitimate concerns about how the CAFOs would ruin their quality of life and threaten their health. They were not hysterical or ranting; they were very articulate and focused but frank in their comments, pointing out that the farmer’s brazen willingness to ruin so many lives revealed that he was heartless, greedy and an outright bully.
The CAFO farmer came into the meeting cocky and with a smirk on his face. By the end of the night he was completely disgraced, red-faced and unable to even look at anyone, even when they directly challenged him to look at them. When challenged to respond he just stared at the floor.
It will be interesting to see if the heartfelt appeal of his neighbors – many of them childhood friends — will cause the farmer to change his mind about building the CAFOs. As a friend who attended the hearing with me said, “the only thing I can think of for him to do is to move to another state and change his name.”
WASHINGTON, January 15, 2013—The U.S. Department of Agriculture appointed environmentalist and farmer Francis Thicke, Ph.D., to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) today, adding valuable perspective to this 15-member advisory Board.
“Since the NOSB serves as a gatekeeper for allowed and prohibited substances, it is essential that members fully understand both organic principles and the realities of organic farming,” noted Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “Dr. Thicke brings a wealth of knowledge of the environmental attributes and is a valuable addition to the NOSB as it carries out its duties.”
An organic farmer for over 30 years, Dr. Thicke currently operates an 80-cow, certified organic dairy in Fairfield, Iowa, producing milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese. He has been active in many environmental organizations including the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Leopold Group Sierra Club in Southeast Iowa, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, and Food Democracy Now.
Previously, Dr. Thicke served as a National Program Leader for Soil Science at the USDA Cooperative Extension Service, and has worked extensively in water quality and sustainable agriculture programs. He was named the 2012 Farmer of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, and is a current member of the Cornucopia Institute’s Policy Advisory Panel.
As a scientist specializing in soil fertility, Dr. Thicke also has a solid working knowledge of agricultural and food chemistry. Given the NOSB’s role in vetting substances to be used in the production and processing of organic foods, his unique blend of on-farm and scientific expertise will add significant depth to the NOSB.
Dr. Thicke’s five-year term will begin January 24, 2013, replacing Barry Flamm, Ph.D. as one of the three environmentalists serving on the NOSB.
Made up of dedicated public volunteers appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, NOSB members include four organic farmers, two handlers, three environmentalists, three consumer advocates, a scientist, an organic retailer, and an organic certifying agent.
The National Organic Standards Board is designed by law to advise the USDA National Organic Program on which substances should be allowed or prohibited in the production and handling of organic products. The Board also makes recommendations on other topics related to the implementation of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, including standards for organic honey and pet food.
For further information about the NOSB, visit www.ams.usda.gov/nosb or contact the National Organic Program at (202) 720-3252.
The comment period for Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy has been extended for two weeks until Jan. 18, according to the Des Moines Register. By extending the comment period, the best interests of Iowans will be served. One hopes the strategy will improve Iowa’s waterways and reduce our impact on hypoxia zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the seriousness of the problem, delaying action, particularly on non-point source runoff, is unacceptable. To date, more than 350 comments have been submitted on the plan.
Readers are encouraged to get involved by watching the video, reading the documents and publicly commenting on the matter. Click here to visit the home page for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and get involved.
I continue to encourage readers to make formal comments on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy before Jan. 4.
The impact of Gulf of Mexico hypoxia zones that are created from agricultural runoff has been grievous enough to activate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. The problem asks for a solution, and the federal government has jurisdiction.
The strategy currently open for comments is the Iowa part of a response to the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan. As indicated elsewhere, Iowa is the second of twelve states to develop a strategy, and the executive branch developed the current documents in isolation from public discourse, with significant input from the Iowa Farm Bureau.
The response period, sandwiched between the 2012 general election and the beginning of the 85th Iowa General Assembly, seems designed to minimize public and legislative comments. Activist groups, like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement the Environmental Working Group, and the Iowa Policy Project have begun to weigh in, but unless a citizen has been following the issue for a number of years, comments on the plan are difficult to develop with a reasoned approach.
What has bothered me about Governor Branstad’s strategy is it’s similarity to the way the George W. Bush administration removed the climate crisis from its agenda. According to former Vice President Al Gore,
“we now know that during the first weeks of the administration, Vice President Cheney began meeting with his infamous Energy Task Force and secretly advised lobbyists for polluters that the White House would take no action on global warming. He then asked for their help in designing a totally meaningless ‘voluntary’ program.”
This voluntary program was meant to be cover for the president as he dismantled the Kyoto accord and other environmental regulations. Substitute “Gov. Branstad” for “Vice President Cheney,” the “Iowa Farm Bureau” for “infamous Energy Task Force,” “nutrient runoff” for “global warming” in the quoted text, and the parallels are compelling.
While a dash of cynicism is reflected in my views, it is important to develop a reasoned response to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Even the most strident opponents to regulating water quality understand that if the voluntary strategy is unsuccessful, the EPA will step in and they don’t want that.
I am nowhere near being finished reading all the documentation, but the framework of my response would include the following elements:
- Doing nothing about agricultural runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous is unacceptable. The creation of hypoxia zones in the Gulf of Mexico must be mitigated to protect marine life that is important both to our economy and to the well-being of the oceans. Iowa is a significant contributor to hypoxia zones.
- That the strategy seeks to get the “biggest bang for the buck” by including some of the largest wastewater treatment facilities is a red herring. As someone who helped manage a rural wastewater treatment plant, in our operation, we had no budget for voluntary measures. We made sure our output complied with regulations, but financially we were not in a position to do anything more than ask our customers to reduce input of phosphorous containing detergents and use backyard composting to dispose of kitchen waste. Any program to control nutrient runoff from wastewater treatment plants should include changes in existing regulations.
- While it is true, as Farm Bureau spokespeople have indicated, there is a diversity of geographic and topological considerations, the Pareto principle should be applied to agricultural runoff. Getting bogged down in diversity cannot be a substitute for timely action.
- We are kidding ourselves if we do not believe that the substantial amount of farm field drainage tile in Iowa is a primary contributor to chemical runoff. Even today, farm fields near my home are installing new drainage tile, increasing the potential for chemical runoff. Any nutrient reduction strategy has to deal with the twofold issue of drainage tile and potential regulation of its use, and planting cover crops that help keep nitrogen in the soil rather than leaching to a tile.
- The comment period should be extended to enable the input of the Iowa legislature.
Whether Iowa can get beyond the hyperbole and powerful interest group concerns in its nutrient reduction strategy is an open question. Solving the problem of hypoxia zones is too important to eschew a reasoned approach and there is room for a voluntary aspect to solutions. We must try everything we can think of the solve the problem, and there is a role for regulation.
To learn more and make comments on Iowa’s Nutrient reduction Strategy, follow this link.
Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m., Boulders Conference Center, Denison.
Dec. 19, 10 a.m., South Ballroom, Memorial Union, Iowa State University, Ames.
Dec. 21, 10 a.m. Ramada Waterloo/Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, Waterloo.
Rep. Chuck Isenhart of Dubuque had previously called for an extension of the 45 day comment period until Feb. 4, to allow the legislature and the Watershed Planning Advisory Council to weigh in but there has been no response to the request from either Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp or Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. As it stands today, the comment period ends Jan. 4, 2013.
At their annual meeting in Des Moines, Dec. 4 and 5, the Iowa Farm Bureau presented on the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. President Craig Hill said, “Farm Bureau is committed to making Iowa nutrient reduction strategy a success.” Farm Bureau urged members to read the documents and comment on the strategy, sharing the conservation practices members already adopted and some they are considering adopting in the future.
This week, the Environmental Working Group released a report titled, “Murky Waters: Farm Pollution Stalls Cleanup of Iowa Streams,” by Craig Cox and Andrew Hug. According to the report, “forty years after the Clean Water Act became law, the data are clear: Iowa’s rivers and streams are still murky. The pollution that continues to degrade them has become a case study on the consequences of the most serious flaw in this historic and otherwise effective federal law: It does little or nothing to address agricultural pollution.” The report suggests the distinction between point source and non-point source in the nutrient reduction strategy released in November is less important than that agricultural polluters do something to mitigate nutrient runoff. The Farm Bureau was quick to respond to this report.
It is time for Iowans who care about the runoff that creates hypoxia zones in the Gulf of Mexico to consider the Nutrient Reduction Strategy and weigh in. To learn more, click here. To read my previous posts, click here and here.
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.
“We will not tolerate any more factory farms in our community,” said Regina Behmlander, a CCI member from Center Point who has helped galvanize community opposition to the proposal. “We will continue to fight any attempt by any party to build corporate factory farms which pollute our air and water and ruin our quality of life.”
Linn County resident Matt Ditch withdrew his application for a construction permit to build a giant 5,600-head factory farm site near Center Point Tuesday after widespread community opposition organized by local Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) members highlighted enough flaws in his submitted Master Matrix score to prove to both Linn County and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that the application did not meet the legal requirements for a permit.
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.