DES MOINES - A citizens' action group failed to convince members of a legislative panel Tuesday to block a state Department of Natural Resources rule that will give livestock operations another five years to spread manure on frozen and snow-covered ground.
Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) warned the Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee that allowing the loophole until 2015 would allow farm operators to claim inadequate manure storage as an emergency exemption to the spreading ban law that was adopted in 2009.
"A portion of the proposed rule is a clear-cut violation of the federal Clean Water Act because it would lead directly to more factory farm manure in our water," said Kevin Shilling, an Iowa CCI member from Greenfield who urged legislators to "do the right thing" and block implementation of the DNR loophole.
"Everybody knows it's a horrible practice and that's why legislation was passed to put a stop to it," added Jim Yungclas, a CCI member from Wright County.
However, Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, said the extension was needed for some dairy farmers in northeast Iowa who faced expensive modifications under the legislation's original time line and to help livestock farmers deal with unusual harvest and winter conditions. He said he believed the state has "come a long ways" in dealing with environmental issues pertaining to stockpiling and spreading manure on farm land but more time was needed to allow "a very few producers" to comply with the law.
"I think this rule is a step in the right direction," Kibbie said. "We're not going to be able to do it like Grandpa did it."
However, Garry Klicker, a CCI member from Bloomfield, said Iowa has some of the dirtiest water in the nation, with 434 waterways on the impaired waters list and more than 700 manure spills in the past 15 years - a figure that state officials have conceded is likely considerably higher since budget cuts reduced the DNR enforcement and oversight agencies.
"Giving them more time is just an excuse. It's basically gutting the ban," Klicker said. Allowing a small number of producers to pollute has had the affect of moving Iowa from being "the breadbasket of the nation to the sewer of the world," he said.
DNR spokesman Wayne Gieselman said his agency was notified of 88 emergency requests last winter for farmers to spread manure on frozen or snow-covered ground.
Dave Goodner of CCI said his organization filed a rule-making petition seeking to strengthen the state's water protection rule and closing the loophole that would allow factory farms to spread their manure on frozen and snow-covered ground that is slated to come before the state Environmental Protection Commission at its Oct. 19 meeting. However, Gieselman said he would recommend that the commission would keep in place the final rule the committee considered on Tuesday, otherwise the agency would have to start over with the rulemaking process.
Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, a legislative committee member, said he was concerned the DNR rule to hold off on the ban until 2015 was "outsider of the scope" of the Legislature's intent in passing the 2009 law.
On a separate matter, the legislative panel cleared the way for Iowa Board of Pharmacy rules to temporarily classify the synthetic cannabinoids used to treat products such as "K2" and "Spice" as an "imitation" controlled substances after state officials determined the product openly marketed as incense has a high potential for abuse and creates effects similar to smoking marijuana.
Manufacture or delivery of an imitation controlled substance is an aggravated misdemeanor.
During Tuesday's discussion, lawmakers voted to refer the question to appropriate House and Senate committees to determine whether the synthetic marijuana should be covered under a specific law or possibly classified as a controlled substance that could carry felony penalties for manufacture or delivery of large quantities of the prohibited substance.