Iowans Fight Back

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Concerned Citizens of Iowa (CCI) is currently leading 2 major efforts. One is to stop the State legislators from killing previously hard won legislation to stop the practice of putting manure on frozen ground by exempting factory farms constructed prior to July 09. This bill which passed the Iowa House ag committee would exempt virtually all of the 5500 factory farms/CAFOs. CCI has secured a commitment by the governor to oppose the bill. CCI points out that the Des Moines water treatment plant which has the largest nitrate treatment system in the world (see reference #45) had to seek alternate water sources because of high nitrate levels in the Des Moines River. While the nitrate graph in the River is similar to our Choptank River the level is twice that of the Choptank approaching 10 mg/l, the EPA’s MCL( See reference #41 and 43).

CCI, Food & Water Watch, The National Family Forum, and Food Democracy Now have prevailed on USDA and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to hold an antitrust hearing in Ankeny, IA on March 12. How bad is it?  CCI says:

– More than 85 percent of U.S. beef cattle are slaughtered by just four companies.

– Two companies control more than half of U.S. corn seed.

– One company controls 40 percent of the U.S. fluid milk supply.

– Five corporations dominate the grocery sector, ensuring that low prices paid to farmers aren’t passed along to consumers at the store.

The Chesapeake Bay watershed has a lot in common with Iowa in that. Iowa pollution which winds up in the Gulf of Mexico comes from corn production used for Hog and Cattle CAFOs and for processed food and ethanol. Chesapeake pollution as shown on the EPA’s nutrient load charts is divided into two distinct areas. One is the corn fed/Hog and Cattle CAFO’s of Pennsylvania extending up into New York and the other is the Corn production/Chicken CAFO corridor which extends from Lancaster County substantially down the Delmarva Peninsula. While the pollution from chicken CAFOs is just as severe in all coastal estuaries in all coastal States down to the Gulf, it receives little attention in places like Pamlico Sound and other Southern coastal estuaries compared to the attention given to the Chesapeake.

For more information on the work of CCI contact Kristin Schaaf iowacci@iowacci.org

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8 Responses to “Iowans Fight Back”

  1. Dave Murphy Says:

    Hey Don,

    Thanks for your kind words and we really appreciate you including us on your website.

    You obviously have a passion for this subject and we’re honored to have your support.

    Funny to see a blog post titled, Iowans Fight Back, since every time I think of our elected
    officials here in this state and what they get away with, I realize how few people really
    understand or know about these issues. That said, there has been an incredible awakening
    in the past few years and eventually we will win. IMHO.

    Thanks again for your support.

    Best
    Dave

  2. Dave Murphy Says:

    Dave
    I posted your comment under the Iowans fight back post. You can do this by submitting a comment under any post. If Food Democracy Now wants to be a guest commentator please advise.
    Don Kerstetter

  3. kerstis Says:

    Open letter to the Justice department

    Legal Policy Section
    Antitrust Division
    U.S. Depart. of Justice

    Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments for next year’s
    Department of Justice and USDA hearings, which are a sorely-needed
    first step to address concentration of ownership in American
    agriculture.

    These hearings should address the broad implications of anti-
    competitive practices. A combination of vigorous enforcement,
    regulation, and legislation will be needed to restore competition and
    level the playing field.

    Our food supply, from seed to grocery store shelf, essentially
    belongs to a handful of companies. As a result, prices are rising,
    research and innovation are restricted, fair contracts are difficult
    to negotiate, and farmers’ and consumers’ choices are limited The
    problem is worsening. The effects of concentration are widespread,
    from seed research to meat processing.

    Costs of seed and other inputs are rising to historic highs while the
    prices farmers receive are falling.
    Farmers are losing their right to save seed, and independent seed
    companies are disappearing. More than 200 have disappeared since 1996.
    Farmers do not have the explicit right to bargain collectively, which
    they need in order to level the playing field and negotiate fair
    contracts.
    Patents and licensing agreements severely restrict plant breeders’
    and researchers’ access to genetic material and prevent researchers
    from testing existing varieties.
    Programs at public universities are increasingly dependent on funding
    from private companies instead of public funds. As a result, publicly-
    owned seeds and breeds are dwindling, and innovation is declining.
    Manufacturers of GE crops are not held liable for contamination of
    farmers’ crops. In fact, farmers are held liable, even when the GE
    content provides no economic benefit.
    Contracts often leave farmers with little financial or legal control
    over their situations and take away their right to privacy.
    The Packers and Stockyards Act prohibits unfair practices in the
    poultry industry, but it is rarely enforced because enforcement
    authority is split between the USDA and the Justice Department.
    Lack of regional competition and tacit collusion between poultry
    companies restrict contract farmers’ options.
    The ranking system for contract poultry farmers is not based on true
    competition, and farmers who lose poultry contracts are not able to
    recapture their initial investments.

    Farmers and consumers deserve an open and fair marketplace. Family
    farmers, independent companies, and public research are vital to the
    future of agriculture. These hearings can be an important step as the
    Justice Department and the USDA work to restore fairness and
    competition. Please accept these comments and additionally, use them
    for establishing the scope of your upcoming hearings.

    Sincerely,
    Trappe Landing Farm & Native Sanctuary
    Donald R. Kerstetter-President

  4. Wells Hively Says:

    So many things going on at the same time, here. It seems to me that the main point is not just to reduce nitrate runoff, but to redirect the manure from the CAFOs to actually fertilize farms. Wh is working on this?

  5. kerstis Says:

    The problem of applying CAFO manure to frozen ground is just the tip of the CAFO manure iceberg. The manure is out of balance for phosphorous(P). Farmers who use it to satisfy crop nitrogen need are over applying P. The P does not bind up and stay in the soil as previously thought (see reference #40). The manure particularly ruminant animal manure is high in E. coli and has been found to runoff the field or off feedlot sites. An example is the organic spinach contamination of several years ago. This can be solved by composting which also enhances soil and prevents erosion however no one has found a solution for the antibiotics, growth hormones, arsenic and possible other feed additives being used in CAFOs and permeating the manure. The handling of manure over twenty years due to spillage and inadequate storage facilities on two Delmarva CAFOs (see reference #44) has contaminated aquifers under these sites up to 200 times the natural nitrate background level. It will take up to 5 decades for these aquifers to self purge. Given the above the Pew Commission (see reference #1) has called for Nation-wide treatment of all CAFO manure. Digester technology has been developed to turn CAFO manure into energy and clean fertilizer. Maybe someone familiar with this could comment on the level of commercial success. Beyond these issues are the issues of greenhouse gas also pointed out by the Pew commission and there is the issue of antibiotic resistant pathogens as described by Johns Hopkins in reference #21 (click on the reference under the reference TAB). Also see the Post of Katie Couric’s interview on CBS evening news. These CAFO sites are the new superfund sites. They are much more prevalent than those created by the Industrial Polluters of the last century. I believe they will be much more difficult to clean up because meat producers are powerful and they get that power from a public addicted to cheap meat. Recent evidence of this is right here in Maryland. Both the Governor and the Attorney General promised to “go after polluters” particularly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when they came into office. After much bluster the attorney general backed off and said no current laws were bring violated. The Waterkeepers don’t believe this because they have filed, incredibly, the only suit ever filed in the Chesapeake against a major polluter. The Governor went so far as to have MDE initiate a permitting process for CAFOs. He has apparently backed down under pressure from the Industry. Ultimately the only solution that will work is for the public to be willing to pay the price of pasture raised meat products and demand pasture production. This would also fix the problem of Nationwide topsoil loss which long term might be bigger than the CAFO issue. Perhaps last nights Oscar presentation which showed some clips of CAFOs in the movie Food Inc. will get the publics attention. I wish that a documentary covering all the issues of CAFOs would be produced. Thanks for your comment Wells.
    Don Kerstetter

  6. Donald Kerstetter Says:

    Good news: CCI reports that the attempt by CAFP operators to effectively negate legislation passed in 2009 to stop the practice of spreading manure on frozen or snow covered ground did not get out of the Iowa House by thr funnel date of March 5th an d is probably dead for this session. CCI expects CAFO operators to try again. This brings up the question. Is this allowed allowed in Maryland. I will attempt to find out.

  7. Wells Hively Says:

    Wonderful Information, Don. Thank you! Really, CAFO waste is a lot like city waste. If smart people could figure out how to fix one they could fix them both. First step would seem to be to get those medicinal residues out?

    • kerstis Says:

      Wells
      There is technology now which has been developed by Eagle Green Energy and others to convert the waste to energy ang clean organic fertilizer. The company claims that if sufficient waste is processed the sale of products will offset the cost. However this requires that chicken houses be networked or be physically close enough to avoid trucking. Manure is expensive to truck. So we are back to the real issue of nutrient balance. Excess manure produced in Pennsylvania shoul be trucked to the fields of Iowa where the corn is raised. I will soon post the work of a Penn State researcher who recognized this imbalance years ago.

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