Hogs 1

Hogs in a North Iowa confinement. 

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette

MASON CITY | Cerro Gordo County supervisors on Tuesday once again agreed to send a letter in support of residents seeking changes in the state's master matrix regulating animal confinement facilities.

But they said afterward they don't expect much to come of it.

They sent a similar letter in April. The one in April went to the governor and state legislators. The one approved Tuesday will go to the Department of Natural Resources.

The vote was 2-1 with Chairman Casey Callanan voting against it. In April, he supported the first letter but said he did so reluctantly.

Regarding Tuesday's vote, Callanan said, "If I honestly thought this resolution was going to advance the master matrix dialogue, I would have supported it. But the reality is, it does not."

He said the only governing body that has statutory authority regarding this is the state legislature. 

"As an elected official, I have to deal with the facts as they are, not as some would hope them to be," said Callanan. "This would be like us sending a resolution to the DOT asking that they change the speed limit on I-35 in Cerro Gordo County to 95 miles an hour.

"We don't have the statutory authority to do this. I will continue to work behind the scenes with elected officials and citizens to facilitate a positive discussion," he said.

Supervisor Tim Latham put the item on Tuesday's agenda. Latham said afterward he is a big supporter of agriculture and is opposed to a moratorium and is skeptical as to whether the letter will do much good. But he said he believes those who want changes in the matrix have valid points.

Supervisor Chris Watts, who supported the letter in April and the latest one, also believes changes need to be made and that citizens' voices need to be heard.

The matrix is a set of standards established by the state legislature in 2002 governing construction of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Each proposed CAFO is judged on a point system based on the answers to a series of questions.

The law does not allow for local control even when county officials see potential health hazards. Opponents of the current matrix system say it has too many loopholes to be effective.

In the past, Cerro Gordo County officials have submitted reports to the DNR raising concerns about CAFO constructions, impacts on drainage, road infrastructure, residential development, and health and environmental concerns.

Other North Iowa counties have done the same. The DNR has consistently overruled local concerns and granted CAFO permits because applicants have met the state matrix requirements.

Last year, the Environmental Commission Board denied Cerro Gordo County's appeal to stop construction of a hog confinement facility near Ventura.

The county had appealed to the commission after the DNR approved a permit request that county supervisors had rejected.

River Edge Farms LLC applied to build a facility to house 4,992-head of finish hogs on 300th Street, about a half-mile east of Balsam Avenue, north of Ventura.

Supervisors turned down the request, citing environmental and quality-of-life concerns because of the facility's proximity to homes and wildlife areas.

The DNR overturned the county decision because the application met state matrix requirements.  

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