The Iowa State Association of Counties legislative committee finalized their 2019 legislative priorities at their annual meeting last week. The legislative recommendations include changes to Iowa’s factory farm permitting and tax systems.
Iowa CCI members are pointing to the action as a sign of growing support for a factory farm moratorium on new and expanding factory farms in Iowa.
The ISAC legislative proposal (full proposal attached) includes addressing the failure of the Master Matrix and making factory farms pay their fair share of taxes:
- "As this subject continues to be of growing concern to some county boards of supervisors, ISAC strongly encourages that this [Master Matrix] review be conducted by 2020."
- "The result is that the construction of any new agricultural building adds zero net value to Iowa’s property tax base. This situation is doubly problematic because large-scale livestock operations and grain facilities impose significant additional costs on counties, such as for road maintenance, without expanding the tax base to help pay for those costs."
“It’s about time that ISAC recognizes that factory farms are harming Iowa counties - not helping them," said Barb Kalbach, family farmer and CCI member from Dexter. "We’ve tried small tweaks to the Master Matrix, filing complaints about manure management plans, lobbying against tax exemptions, and the legislature is unwilling to act.”
“As an independent family farmer, I pay my fair share of taxes. My corn and soybean farming operation adds revenue and value to Adair County. Our current tax policies allow factory farms to skirt their fair share of taxes. That forces everyone in the county to make up the difference.” Added Kalbach.
Iowa CCI members have pointed out that factory farms are exempt from all kinds of taxes that independent family farmers aren’t exempted from. Factory farm buildings add no new tax revenues to county coffers. Manure pits get a tax break under the Pollution Control Tax Exemption. Wholesale rates on water and electricity are obtained, and factory farms don't pay sales tax on key inputs, like feed and energy.
The lack of county revenue from the factory farm industry has forced some counties to change their Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) formula – a local program to offset propoerty taxes.
“My roads are constantly being torn up by the dozens of daily semi-trucks driving past my house. I’m afraid my daughters are going to get in an accident because of the status of the roads,” said Nick Schutt, CCI member and resident of Hardin County.
“Now the Hardin County Supervisors want to change our LOST formula. If implemented, property owners property taxes will increase so the county can keep up with road maintenance,” added Schutt.
The Hardin County Supervisors have proposed changes to the LOST formula. Right now 80% of LOST revenue in Hardin County is going to offset property taxes. The proposed formula would change that to 40% for offsetting property taxes and 40% for maintenance, improvement, and construction of roads and bridges.
The Hardin County LOST formula change will be on the ballot in November.
Last year, CCI members gathered input from Iowans affected by factory farms across the state and filed rulemaking to strengthen the Master Matrix with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR dismissed the entire rulemaking petition without considering changes to protect our air, water, land, and communities.
“We have already submitted our recommended Master Matrix changes to the DNR and the legislature. They refuse to act. That’s why we’re calling for a moratorium on all new and expanding factory farms. We can’t wait for little tweaks anymore. We need to stop the expansion now,” said Emma Schmit, Iowa CCI member in Calhoun County.
As of today, CCI members and allies have successfully organized 23 counties to pass resolutions calling for a moratorium, local control, and/or stronger protections from the factory farm industry.
Information provided by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.