Rep. Charles Isenhart of Dubuque, Sen. Richard Dearden of Des Moines, and local legislators Dan Muhlbauer and Mark Segebart listened to several citizens’ environmental concerns during a meeting at Swan Lake Thursday night.
Rep. Charles Isenhart of Dubuque, Sen. Richard Dearden of Des Moines, and local legislators Dan Muhlbauer and Mark Segebart listened to several citizens’ environmental concerns during a meeting at Swan Lake Thursday night.
Concentrated animal feeding operations were under attack Thursday during a legislative listening session with four state legislators.

State Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, and Sen. Richard Dearden, D-Des Moines, were joined by Sen. Mark Segebart, R-Denison, and Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, D-Manilla, at the session.

Isenhart and Dearden set up the event, which is one of three that will be hosted in Iowa.

Several members of the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement told why they believe Iowa's matrix laws for setting up hog confinements need to be changed.

Jane Alexander, of Bristol Township in Greene County, said she inherited 240 acres of farmland from her parents.

It's now used to farm grains and soybeans.

Alexander said the ground was tiled early because it's low-lying ground that was as swamp.

She doesn't till parts of her land and tries to keep natural prairie grasses growing in the parts that are prone to flooding.

But right next door, Alexander said, is a field that has been turned into a manure management plan.

"That means that will wash over into my ground," Alexander said.

She said that within about a three-mile radius of her farm, where she does not reside, there are now four hog confinements.

There are 69 concentrated animal feeding operations in Greene County.

Alexander said that in the past year 10 new confinements were built and four existing ones were expanded.

She said she's been fighting the large confinements since 1995.

"The current system is just not working," Alexander said. "Current laws are made for animal confinements and none for us."

Lori Nelson, who lives near Bayard in Guthrie County, said his house has been surrounded by "5,000 corporate hogs" all within a half-mile of her house.

She said she didn't find out about the operation until after it started breaking ground and there was nothing she could do.

Nelson said she has to live with diminished air quality.

"We are prisoners in our own house," Nelson said. "Thousands of Iowans across the state have similar problems."

She suggested that state laws be changed so counties have the right to say where factory farms cannot be placed.

Chris Henning, of Jefferson, spoke about the effect large confinements have on water quality.

"I often say, if the people in Des Moines would realize what they're getting from the 28,000 miles of the Raccoon River, they'd be up in arms and you'd be changing your CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) requirements," Henning said.

She said the matrices the counties deal with have little to do with water quality.

"While the public comments are here, they are not taken into account for 98 percent of applications reviewed," Henning said.

She said the biggest company building in Greene County is Prestage Farms from South Carolina.

Henning said 30 people testified against one of its lots that was being built within 11/2 miles of Jefferson.

The Environmental Protection Commission voted 4-3 against the building but was overturned on a technicality.

She said all that her protesting has done over the years is teach the CAFO applicants how to write better permits.

Henning said because of all of the hogs in the area, the Raccoon Watershed is now in danger and being filled with sulfur and phosphorus.

She said Scranton is now dealing with arsenic in its water supply and Churdan has been on a blue baby warning for the last five years.

Henning said she hopes Des Moines is prepared for what's coming there if a major flood happens.

"I'm not an organic farmer. I don't mind pigs," Henning said. "I grew up listening to the saying 'the smell is the smell of money.'"

She said that saying isn't true. It's bad for your health.

Vern Tigges, of Carroll, lives just south of town.

He bought an acreage in 1982.

Tigges said he built his dream home.

"We were there almost 15 years when the hog confinements started moving in," Tigges said.

Where he lives, there are 30,000 hogs within a five-mile radius.

"I put a weather vane on my house to tell me not where the wind is coming, but where the smell is coming from."

Tigges ultimately called for the taxing of manure pits that are located beneath some confinements.

He said the portion of the building on top of the pit is not taxed, and it's costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Lannie Miller, president of the Black Hawk Lake Protective Association, addressed the board about his concerns that the Black Hawk Lake restoration project could lose its funding.

Gov. Terry Branstad has allocated $1 million for the Lake Preservation Fund, down from $6 million last year.

Miller said the lake is looking at a $30 million preservation and at least 25 years to get the lake to where it needs to be.

"I urge you to try to get the funding back to $6 million so we can continue with the 10 or 15 projects that are already going," Miller said.

John Klein, of Carroll, said he's watched towns lose entire lakes.

"Anyone here from Lake City?" Klein asked.

He said more recently Lake Delhi has dried up.

Klein said he wants to see the Legislature making decisions based on what's best for the environment, not lobbyists.

He asked the legislators in attendance to remember the words of author Dr. Seuss' character Lorax.

"I speak for the trees."