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MASON CITY — Incumbent State Rep. Sharon Steckman and her challenger, Barbara Hovland, differ on how to regulate hog confinement facilities in Iowa — a divisive issue in their legislative district.

Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, is seeking her fifth term in the Iowa House from District 53 which includes Mason City, Rockwell and central Cerro Gordo County.

Hovland, also of Mason City, is the Cerro Gordo County Republican chairwoman and has been active in Republican politics for many years.

Earlier this year, Steckman took an active role in opposing the Prestage pork processing plant that was proposed for Mason City and was ultimately rejected by a 3-3 vote of the City Council. Prestage now plans to build its $240 million plant near Eagle Grove in Wright County.

One of the concerns of opponents was the proximity of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to residential areas because of possible environmental hazards.

Counties are bound by state laws governing the building of CAFOs. If a proposed CAFO meets requirements of the state matrix, it must be approved.

Steckman believes there should be local control; Hovland disagrees.

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“The state matrix was put together in 2002 by 12 legislators, including Mark Kuhn,” said Steckman. “The matrix has too many holes in it. There needs to be local control.

“A big concern is water quality. I don’t want to see water quality impaired any more than it already is,” she said.

Hovland said there is a lot of “fear mongering” going on with respect to CAFOs.

“Control of CAFOs should be at the state level,” she said. “The EPA and DNR are overseeing it. There are strict guidelines on water.

“CAFOs have been around for a long time. We shouldn’t take away from other programs to fund water quality,” she said.

Cerro Gordo County supervisors recently learned firsthand how local control is not an option. Supervisors rejected a proposed CAFO near Ventura because of its proximity to residences and wildlife areas. But the application met state standards so the Department of Natural Resources overturned the county recommendation. The county appeal to the Environmental Protection Commission was denied.

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