Iowans Concerned About Large Farm Emission Reporting Exemption

March 09, 2018 06:55 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- For the past four years, Gail Schwartzkopf and her family have lived in their home just off Highway 18 in rural Floyd County. When they first moved in, there was only one concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) near their home. Now that two more have been built within feet of their home, the family is concerned about the impact on their water and their health.

"The closest one is south of us, it is 1,987 feet from our bedroom window," Schwartzkopf said, gesturing toward the farm.


The family moved to their home in the hopes of spending time outdoors, pursuing hobbies like walking and gardening. Schwartzkopf said the smell from the farms has become unbearable when outside. That's not her main concern, however.

"Besides the smell, it’s the water quality," she said. "What they actually had to do was put a radon reduction system into the house before we bought it, and they ran pipes from the basement out through the walls and out through the chimney."

Despite her concerns about the environmental impact of CAFOs, a bill currently in a U.S. Senate subcommittee would exempt them from reporting requirements for hazardous materials that come from animal waste.

Floyd County Supervisor Mark Kuhn, who served multiple terms as a Democratic state representative, is also opposed to the bill, going as far as testifying in front of the subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Thursday.

He said the state legislature has failed to address the issue, so now the federal government needs to step in to protect residents like the Schwartzkopf family.

"In the past 16 years we have not enacted any new emission requirements that would provide protection, and even worse CAFOs have been given more nuisance suit protection," he said.

Of further concern is the fact that the master matrix, which outlines criteria for siting CAFOs, hasn't been updated in years, he said.

Not everyone agrees with Kuhn; Tyler Bettin, who directs public policy for the Iowa Pork Producers Association said farmers are already taking steps to reduce environmental concerns but additional regulations could harm an industry that employs one in 12 Iowans.

"Today's barns are designed to protect our rivers, streams, drinking water and manure applied in that fashion as well. And that zero-discharge law that we have in Iowa is above and beyond federal requirements," he said.

Bettin admitted the manure from the CAFOs can stink but said it's part of living in rural Iowa. 

Kuhn said there are still steps CAFOs, farmers and larger corporate farms can undergo to be better neighbors.

In this case, "... the Schwartzkopfs were here first and the CAFOs moved in," Kuhn said. "So why isn't there certain regulations that would respect their quality of life?"

Both Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, which is still in committee.



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