Humboldt supervisors decline to sign ICCI petition

DAKOTA CITY — The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Monday declined to sign a petition calling on the state to revise the master matrix for confinement operations.

The master matrix was designed 15 years ago for use by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in approving building permits for livestock confinements.

Last week, Humboldt County Zoning Director Melody Larson invited Erica Blair, with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement’s Farming Environment Team, to speak before the board. The Des Moines-based organization is circulating a petition among counties calling on the state to make revisions in the master matrix.

“Greater scrutiny of new and expanding CAFOs is needed more than ever, starting with significant revision to the master matrix,” according to the ICCI.

On Monday, Larson said she was not recommending for or against signing the petition, but was just presenting options to the board. The board heard from three residents Monday about not signing the petition.

“We all know there have been some bad actors in the industry, including farming and livestock industry,” JD Myers said.

Myers is a farmer and member of the board of directors for a grain cooperative in north central Iowa, and a member of the Humboldt County Farm Bureau.

“Working with different farmers, I can tell you the process to get the site through the master matrix is not an easy one,” Myers said.

The process takes six months to a year. He believes the matrix is working and about 50 percent of the potential sites are rejected even before reaching the DNR. People only see the permits that meet the matrix, he said.

Since the master matrix has been in place he doesn’t know of any operation that was shut down because of problems, Myers said.

“I don’t see any reason to change things because it seems to be working really well,” he said.

Myers recommended that the board not sign the petition.

“I’m sure there are people that belong to the ICCI that are good people and have the best intentions, however if you look at their track record they really do some pretty outrageous things,” he said.

He asked the board to do its own research, draw its own conclusions and be specific on what it wants the Legislature to do.

Blythe Edge asked the board to check out ICCI more.

“If there is something that should be done, I just want to make sure that you are answering that question yourself,” she said.

She could find no record of which counties have already signed the petition. She did find out ICCI has a small membership in Iowa.

“Their membership in Iowa is less than the town of Humboldt,” she said.

She didn’t recognize any of the foundations who fund ICCI, she said, adding that not one of those was an Iowa foundation.

“It is quite interesting when you read it to see where the funding is coming from, what they want to do, and the few people that they have in their organization,” she said.

Supervisor Erik Underberg said he felt Edge and Myers spoke for a lot of people.

“I have heard from more than just you people,” he said.

Terry Seehusen said he has spoken with state Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, and said Sexton would appreciate the opportunity to speak to the board about the master matrix.

Board Chairman Rick Pedersen welcomed the comments from the public.

“As a public employee we have to listen with an open mind and we do not deny anyone addressing the board,” he said.

Larson said she wants to be fair to everyone, give everyone in the community the same chance to voice their opinion.

“A lot of our concerns with the master matrix is when we get a building permit we don’t know exactly where the building is going to be built even,” Peterson said. “We just need a little more cooperation from the companies.”

Supervisor David Lee also serves on the Humboldt County Board of Adjustment. The county asks for six copies of each permit to help speed up making a decision but they are not getting them, he said.

“We just want the big corporations that got all these coming in to be legal with us, legit with us, and not start moving stuff all over the countryside, and give us what we are looking for so we can make a decision,” he said.

The board wants changes, but it doesn’t want to involve ICCI, Supervisor Carl Mattes said.

Instead, the board will send its own letter to the Legislature.