On Monday, Iowa CCI members and everyday Iowans celebrated as Iowa Select - the largest hog corporation in Iowa and 8th largest nationally - withdrew permit applications for two massive hog factories in Wayne and Clay counties. Both applications, which were overwhelming opposed by local residents and county supervisors, were likely to be appealed at the October meeting of the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) after receiving DNR permits.
Residents of Wayne County organized opposition, including a meeting with DNR director Chuck Gipp where over 100 neighbors demanded DNR deny the site, wrote letters to the editor, and successfully convinced their county supervisors to fail the Master Matrix and recommend denial to the DNR. The DNR overturned the Wayne County Supervisors’ decision. Wayne County appealed DNR’s approval of the factory farm, and a public hearing before the EPC was scheduled in October.
“We’re celebrating this big victory, but we know that Iowa Select will try to reapply. We are relentless, and we’ll be ready. We don’t want any factory farms and we will fight any that Iowa Select proposes to build,” said Pam Woollis, CCI member and resident of Wayne County.
In Clay County, local residents also organized, gathered petition signatures, and convinced their supervisors to recommend denial of the site, which again was overturned by the DNR. Clay County's Board of Supervisors was set to vote on appealing DNR’s approval of the factory farm at its meeting today.
“We are overjoyed at Iowa Select's decision to not build their large hog factory beside our family. However, more importantly, the health of other farm familes and small towns is endangered by Iowa's lack of regulations to protect the public health and our air and water,” said Sarah Lewis, who fought the 5,000-head factory farm near Spencer, Iowa. "We encourage our Supervisors to make Clay County the 18th Iowa county to call for a moratorium or changes to the Master Matrix until adequate regulations are implemented to protect our environment and families."
“In its written notice to the Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Select cited several reasons for withdrawing, but we believe it’s because they are feeling public pressure and know that these appeals would further illustrate the failings of the Master Matrix,” said Erica Blair, community organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI).
According to DNR’s construction review activity database, Iowa Select has seven pending facilities across the state in Grundy, Hancock, Hardin, Humboldt, Buena Vista, and Greene counties. CCI has received calls from residents of several of these counties asking how they can fight the incoming factory farms.
Iowa Select has a long violation history, including at least 150 manure or ammonia releases polluting air and water, according to DNR’s facility spill database.
"Iowa Select creates new LLCs, allowing the company to avoid scrutiny of past violations, making it difficult to know the true number of spills and violations," said Patti Naylor, a CCI member and family farmer who lives in Greene County, where supervisors just approved a 7,490-head Iowa Select factory farm. "They've become experts at using the Master Matrix to their own advantage."
This news comes as many scandals are coming to the surface for DNR. CCI members point to the EPC and DNR’s dismissal of the Master Matrix petition, former DNR employee Gene Tinker's claim that he was fired for educating counties about the Master Matrix, and DNR's discovery of over 5,000 additional factory farms in Iowa.
"It's clear that we need a moratorium from this polluting industry. Our DNR, legislature, and Governor need to work for all of Iowans," added Naylor.