The Iowa Environmental Council has joined with more than 230 organizations from 30 states to urge President Obama to protect our nation’s waterways from animal waste produced by industrial livestock operations.
Food animals in the United States generate up to 1 billion tons of waste every year, which often contains nutrients, pathogens, sediment, antibiotics, and metals such as copper or arsenic. That waste contaminates some of our most prized waterways, such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and Mississippi River, as well as streams, estuaries and wells. It also can taint drinking water, kill fish, and close beaches, harming human health and local economies.
Read the letter from human health, environmental, faith-based, farming, community, animal protection, sporting, environmental justice, and student groups after the jump.
Manure spills can wreak havoc on aquatic ecosystems. According to the Council’s analysis, illegal manure spills killed more than 1.2 million fish in Iowa in the last ten years.
News broke recently that Governor Branstad has weighed in on a continuing dialogue between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about whether Iowa is adequately protecting its rivers and lakes from harmful manure spills.
In documents released by the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, and the Environmental Integrity Project, the governor expressed reluctance over a draft EPA plan calling for Iowa to verify that livestock operations are not putting local waters at risk.
The Iowa Environmental Council believes that given the harmful effects manure spills have had on Iowa waters, additional protections and oversight are needed.
Last year, the Council analyzed public records about manure spills over the last decade and found spills from livestock operations remain a major threat to water quality and aquatic life. We identified 262 manure spills that reached Iowa waterways between 2001 and 2011, 42% of which did not result in a documented monetary penalty assessed by DNR. Fish kills were documented in approximately one-third of spill cases, and DNR estimates revealed at least 1.2 million fish died as a result of these manure spills.
Iowans expect state government to fulfill its responsibilities for providing water that is safe for drinking, recreation, and aquatic life. Our analysis of manure spills, EPA’s own report on DNR’s practices, and concerns expressed by many Iowans in comments to state government or in the media demonstrate that today, that responsibility is not being met.
Signs of conservation action: A drainage grate in Allerton, Iowa, reads “Dump no waste! Drains to waterways.” A sign near Chariton advertises the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance. Windsor Heights, Iowa, has installed signs identifying the Walnut Creek watershed, which includes a big piece of the city.
Matt Hauge is the Council’s communications and outreach director.
Talking with other Iowans about what we’re doing to protect our land, water and air is one of the best parts of my job. As I am out traveling or working events for the Council, I have heard enough of your inspiring stories to be absolutely convinced Iowans can solve any environmental challenge we face.
That’s why I was surprised yesterday when a woman approached our booth at the Natural Living Expo and said to me, “You won’t like me.” But why not?
Iowa Environmental Council:
Editor’s note: We thought this essay was so good we are taking the rare step of re-blogging it to share it with you.
Originally posted on Iowa Learning Farms:
Iowa Learning Farms farmer partner Richard Sloan recently submitted an opinion piece to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Sloan farms near Rowley and serves on several conservation-related organizations: Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project advisory board, Practical Farmers of Iowa, assistant commissioner for the Buchanan County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Lime Creek Watershed Improvement Association.
“With pasture and Conservation Reserve Program lands being converted to row crops and fewer perennials in our fields, rains in excess of 1.5 inches per day will run off quickly, leading to potential erosion, pollution and spoiling of national resources. But farmers who want to protect the environment and their communities’ future do have opportunities to refine their conservation plans and integrate several new techniques.”
Sloan goes on to discuss these techniques. Read his column here.
The Senate Agriculture committee met today to consider amendments to the Committee’s draft Farm Bill. While there are many issues the Council is following in the Farm Bill, our top priority is to re-link crop insurance premium subsidies to conservation compliance as was the case prior to 1996. The Farm Bill that came out of the Senate Agriculture committee today re-establishes that link. An amendment to the Committee Bill by Senator Hoeven (R-ND) that would have stuck the tie between Conservation Compliance and crop insurance failed in committee.