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In letter, Webster County Supervisors request new hog confinement rules

Master matrix needs review from state Legislature, leaders say

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 confined animal feeding operations, needs to be updated.

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.

“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, that more points should be required to pass the matrix, and that 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.

“Increase the total points more than the 440 to pass the matrix. At 440 there is very little required to protect the people and the environment.

“The counties should have more control. 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 P&Z Commission Nov. 3 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:

– Must have 40 acres to build a CAFO.

– Require trees and bio filters.

– Increase distance requirement to residential properties and waterways. These distances are way too close for property rights and environmental protections, according to the statement released Tuesday by the supervisors.

– Have a three-mile distance from cities or subdivisions.

– Have points taken away if the community does not want the CAFO .

– CAFO need to be set back at least 300 feet from road right of ways.

– Production records need to be given to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources yearly. This is to confirm there are not more than the allotted number of animals in the units.

– The measurement to residential properties needs to be to the property lines, not the structure.

– The overall agricultural exemptions need to be looked at. These are not small farmers that need to have the ability to make a living on their farm. The system is being abused by large corporations.

– Remove matrix items that are already covered by the manure management plans.

– Manure management plans 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 the county in 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 a mile and a half 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.”