FORT DODGE — Webster County supervisors are calling for state lawmakers to put a moratorium on new animal confinements in the state until the Legislature can look into the rules guiding where they are built.
The request comes after a large number of new hog confinement applications in the county prompted both the supervisors and Webster County residents to suggest that the master matrix, which guides approval of concentrated animal feeding operations, needs to be updated.
Fort Dodge is about 25 miles southwest of Eagle Grove, where Prestage Foods of Iowa plans to build a $240 million pork processing plant.
The board will bring a list of proposals to state Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, at this week’s Iowa State Association of Counties legislative meeting, Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau said.
“This is just a preliminary list of what Webster County would like to see,” Dencklau said.
“Webster County is very supportive of agriculture,” the letter reads. “We understand that we are agriculture-based. We have had a great expansion of high-value bio-based industries. We do, however, feel the CAFO industry is getting out of control.
MASON CITY — Interest in construction or expansion of CAFOs — confined animal feeding operat…
“There are very few regulations and no local control over them. We feel as a county that if the number of units built is not controlled, the overall environment, economic development and quality of life will be greatly affected.”
The county suggests all CAFOs of any size should have to pass the matrix, more points should be required to pass the matrix and local leaders should have more say in placement of the projects.
“A CAFO of any head number should have to do the matrix,” the letter reads. “The process is skewed to benefit putting up a less-than-2,500 unit first and then just adding to it.”
The county suggests more points should be needed to pass the matrix, citing little protection to “the people and the environment” at the current minimum.
“The counties should have more control,” the letter reads. “The state should not have control over what the citizens of a county want.”
Webster County Planning and Zoning Coordinator Lonnie Nichols worked on the list, Dencklau said, with input from farmers in the county.
Also offering input was Becky Sexton, with Twin Lakes Environmental Services, who works with confinement builders to help them pass the matrix.
Landowners met with the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month to discuss changes they’d like to see. About 20 participants, including hog farmers, had a good, open discussion, Nichols said.
Other recommendations on the list are:
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Requiring 40 acres, trees and bio filters to build a CAFO, which should be set back at least 300 feet from road right-of-ways.
Increasing distance requirements to residential properties and waterways. Current distances are too close for property rights and environmental protections, according to the statement released Tuesday by the supervisors.
Requiring a three-mile distance from cities or subdivisions.
Removing points from the matrix if a community does not want a CAFO.
Supplying production records to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources annually, confirming there are not more than the allotted number of animals in the unit.
Reviewing agricultural exemptions.
Removing matrix items covered by manure management plans, which the supervisors say need to have distance requirements from residential properties and waterways.
Although the supervisors review hog confinement applications to ensure the matrix has been scored correctly, they have no say in approving or denying an application. The DNR makes the final decision.
Seven new hog confinement sites have been proposed for Webster County the last two months.
Kraayenbrink and state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, were both present at a meeting in Webster County Sept. 20 when the supervisors voiced their disapproval of one of those sites, about 1.5 miles west of Clare.
The application for that site has since been withdrawn.
Miller, who is the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said at the time that it may be time to revisit the matrix scoring rules.
Both legislators said they have seen an increase in confinement operations.
“We are seeing more and more hog confinements across the state,” Miller said. “It’s not just something happening here.”
This article was reprinted with permission from the Fort Dodge Messenger.