Iowans: Act on CAFO moratorium

It is clear advocates for a CAFO moratorium have science, the future and the public on their side. Will that outweigh the wishes of industrial agriculture?

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Two years ago this week the Iowa Policy Project published our paper on industrial hog facilities: The Explosion of CAFOs in Iowa and Its Impact on Water Quality and Public Health.

We showed the industry’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) were responsible for manure leaks and spills, fish kills, nitrate and ammonia pollution, antibiotic-hormone and bacterial contamination, algae blooms, impaired waterways and closed beaches.

Most important to both of us, as emeritus professors in Public Health, was that CAFO neighbors suffer increased childhood asthma and adult asthma, bronchitis, airway obstruction, nasal and eye irritation. Animal agriculture still consumes, largely for growth promotion, over 70 percent of medically important antibiotics. This practice promotes antibiotic resistant infections.

CAFO neighbors also suffer odor-associated increases in stress, tension, depression, confusion, less vigor, and decreases in measures of quality-of-life and well-being. And, CAFO neighbor property values, depending on distance and prevailing winds, decrease 20-40 percent.

We called for a moratorium on new facilities, a position with growing support. The American Public Health Association’s Governing Council’s called in November 2019 for a national moratorium on new or expanded CAFOs, citing their “threat to air quality, drinking water and human health” and to “stop using medically important antibiotics in healthy animals.”

A poll from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future finds that a majority of registered Iowa voters support a moratorium.

  • Sixty-three percent (81 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans) deemed it important for the General Assembly to pass legislation to ban new CAFOs or expand existing CAFOs.
  • Eight in 10 of those surveyed expressed concern about the threat of water and/or air pollution on CAFO workers and nearby communities.
  • A majority (51 percent) agreed that CAFOs contribute a “significant amount” to water pollution, and 49 percent agreed that CAFOs contribute significantly to air pollution in nearby communities.

On Thursday, January 23, the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture (IARA) and other advocates for a moratorium on new or expanded CAFOs will be rallying at the State Capitol. It is clear they have science, the future and the public on their side. The General Assembly must decide if those constituencies outweigh the wishes of industrial agriculture.

2017-Merchant-095115James Merchant is Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Medicine and Founding Dean Emeritus of the College of Public Health.

 

 

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David Osterberg is Professor Emeritus of Public Health and co-founder of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project.

 

 

Also see:

The Matrix: What if we told you it doesn’t work?

Proposed large hog operations have to show little to get what they want. “Right now it’s almost not possible to not pass,” says IPP’s David Osterberg.

Several Iowa counties are dissatisfied with the so-called “Master Matrix” designed to put standards for locations where large hog operations may be built. The Matrix keeps state requirements ahead of local concerns on this one type of industry.

A state panel soon will hear arguments for a stronger system to protect environmental quality and public health.

IPP’s David Osterberg and Fort Dodge radio host Michael Devine discussed the issues on the “Devine Intervention” program on KVFD 1400-AM.

Osterberg noted the low bar for approval under the Matrix means proposed large hog operations have to show little to get what they want.

“Right now it’s almost not possible to not pass,” says Osterberg, who asks for a “little bit of reasonableness” that will not harm the industry but will satisfy neighbors.

Devine noted the political landscape poses challenges to change on the Matrix or efforts to achieve local control.

“There is a blind defense of pork production in the state of Iowa,” said Devine.

Hear the conversation. Click here.