Can Citizens Stop A CAFO?
by Trish Nelson, Blog for Iowa
September 14, 2022
Blog For Iowa, The Online Information Source for Iowa's Progressive Community
Neighbors band together to oppose hog confinement – get an early win.
A group of neighbors in rural Howard County banded together to share their concerns and express opposition to the new confinement being proposed by Iowa Select Farms, the fourth largest pork producer in the nation.
The newly formed group named themselves the Afton Township Neighborhood Alliance. After expressing their concerns to Iowa Select Farms, the Afton Township Neighborhood Alliance was told by company representatives that they would not be building a site at that location!
Members of ATNA plan to contact Howard County on a regular basis to check for new or revised construction permits and manure management plans. Let us know if you hear of a factory farm being proposed in your area so we can fight back for our land, air, and water!
Read our press release for more details on the organizing in Howard County:
NEIGHBORS BAND TOGETHER TO OPPOSE HOG CONFINEMENT
Local community members applied pressure on Iowa Select Farms, who then said they don’t plan to build
Riceville, Iowa – Rural Iowans are increasingly facing the same scenario: a hog confinement being built in their neighborhood. A group of neighbors in rural Howard County banded together to share their concerns and express opposition to the new confinement being proposed by Iowa Select Farms, the fourth largest pork producer in the nation, according to their website.
“When our long-time neighbor passed away, we didn’t know what was planned for their farmland after the public auction,” said Cari Linkenmeyer, who grew up on a farm south of Riceville. “We learned the buyer was Iowa Select Farms and were immediately concerned they would build a confinement, greatly impacting the neighborhood.”
Linkenmeyer, whose parents live less than a half mile of the proposed facility, co-founded a community group on behalf of her neighbors and a large extended family with ties to the neighborhood. “My family has deep ties to this community, stemming back to the pioneer days. They were some of the first people to farm here. I don’t want to see family leave the area because the density of hog confinements has gotten out-of-hand.”
The newly formed group named themselves the Afton Township Neighborhood Alliance (ATNA) and started a Facebook group to communicate with each other. They reached out to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) and the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) for guidance.
Often, one of the first steps to building a hog confinement in Iowa is to file a petition for a Flood Plain Determination with the Iowa DNR. “We contacted the Iowa DNR and found that Iowa Select Farms had filed a petition two days after the public auction, which was well before the land sale was finalized. We learned about the filing after the Iowa DNR had already responded, which confirmed that the proposed site was not in the 100-year Flood Plain and they could potentially build there,” said Linkenmeyer.
Despite the proposed building site being outside of a flood plain, the Linkenmeyer family was concerned about the site, detailed in the petition as a 2490-head Finisher facility, potentially being built within a half mile of their family pond. “We call it “Babe’s Pond” after our grandfather, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 50 in 1978. He built the pond as a place for his family to gather, camp, and fish, and we have enjoyed it for decades. We see it as his legacy, and we want to protect that,” said Linkenmeyer.
Currently Iowa has 751 impaired waterways, reported by the Iowa DNR this April.
“Our water cannot handle any more pollution. We need to stop the construction of new and expanding factory farms until our waters are safe again,” says Iowa CCI member, Penney Morse, from neighboring Mitchell County.
Members of ATNA agree. Three households near the proposed Iowa Select Farms facility in Afton Township recently had their well water tested, and all three were found to have unsafe levels of coliform bacteria.
“We don’t know if the bacteria is the result of the large amount of manure that is already being spread on nearby fields. All we know is that our water isn’t safe to drink right now,” says Rita Linkenmeyer, who lives near the proposed site. “We are drinking bottled water until we get it treated and re-tested.”
“Rural Iowans should not have to pay more for clean drinking water. We need a moratorium, to halt the construction of new and expanding factory farms, until our water quality improves to safe levels all around the state. What Iowa needs is more family farms not factory farms.” said Morse. “It is very clear that factory farms are not welcome in rural neighborhoods,” added Chris Peterson of SRAP and a small family farmer near Clear Lake, Iowa. Chris and his farm are an example of how farming can be sustainable and work with the land – that the corporate ag industries status quo is not the way to go!
After expressing their concerns to Iowa Select Farms, the Afton Township Neighborhood Alliance was told by company representatives that they would not be building a site at that location. “They told us that due to the presence of alluvial soils, they would not be building there. We were happy to hear that, but we are cautiously optimistic,” says Cari Linkenmeyer.
Members of ATNA plan to contact Howard County on a regular basis to check for new or revised construction permits and manure management plans. “We intend to hold Iowa Select Farms to their word, but as long as they own the property, we’ll always be worried that they will build there. It’s a sad reality to live with.”
Members of ATNA recommend contacting the Iowa DNR and your county to stay updated on new confinement applications, talk with your neighbors and local community members, and connect with local organizations for help if you have concerns about a factory farm coming to your neighborhood.
“The support from Iowa CCI and SRAP has been incredibly valuable,” said Linkenmeyer. “-If you find yourself in this, know that there is support from organizations like these and many others who will help you to protect the property you have worked hard for and want to enjoy for generations.” closed Linkenmeyer.