Proposed DNR Livestock Rule Draws Fire

DNR "director discretion" idea riles farmers. Such a rule would give DNR chief too much authority in regulating livestock facilities. Compiled by staff

Published on: Apr 7, 2006

A proposed state environmental rule drew protests from a majority of people attending recent hearings at five locations across Iowa. The rule would give the director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources broad discretion to approve or disapprove operation of any livestock confinement or open feedlot.

Critics of the proposal say it tosses out the 10 year window of discussions, legislation and rules developed to regulate the state's livestock industry to prevent pollution. If the proposal is passed, the head of the DNR along with the nine-member Iowa Environmental Protection Commission could do as they wish in regulating any livestock operation, large or small.

"This rule would give DNR the power to override 10 years of legislation," says Susan Carlson, a hog producer from Red Oak. The rule would allow DNR to impose any sanctions on a livestock operation, some potentially so tough it would make it difficult for the farmer to raise livestock.

Most oppose DNR's proposed new rule

"We have legislators who have worked writing laws. They were elected," says Dale Sporrer of Dedham. "The rule would give the DNR director and the EPC authority to come up with rules above the law."

The rule would be costly to the livestock industry and would prohibit growth, adds Evan Vermeer of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. "No industry can live with whimsical decisions that may come out of such a rule. Cattle feeders spend $25,000 to $30,000 for engineers to design feedlots for approval by DNR. This rule would allow one person to stop applications at their discretion." 

Livestock and related industries are enabling young Iowans to get started farming. This rule would discourage young farmers, says Mark Zaccone, a farmer from Harlan. He notes that Nebraska, the Dakotas, Illinois and Indiana are trying to turn around livestock industries stifled by over-zealous regulations.

Proposal is too broad and too vague

The rule is so broad and vague it would hurt economic growth, says Marty Danzer, a Carroll farmer and member of the county board of supervisors. "Livestock is 62% of our county's total economy. To limit livestock would have a severe impact."

Summing up the sentiment expressed by the majority of farmers who testified at the five meetings in March, here are their main concerns:

  • The proposed change would give DNR director the authority to prohibit construction of any size facility.
  • The DNR director would have the power to determine if a livestock operation is likely to cause pollution.
  • Farmers say the proposed rule overrides the Legislature, giving one person too much discretion in regulating livestock operations.