New Rules, Same Values

06-18-2024 in Article

Iowa Governor Reynolds’ Executive Order 10 revamped the state’s livestock production rules in an attempt to streamline regulation. It standardized language, added an online interactive flood plain map, and eliminated language that was already on the DNR website or in the Iowa Code.

“There were other tweaks as well,” says Chris Gruenhagen, government relations counsel for Iowa Farm Bureau, including minor changes to construction standards and updated calculations of erosion in Manure Management Plans (MMP). “But the big picture is regulation is still there and producers still need MMPs, and they still need to understand and follow the rules.”

A changing regulatory environment makes the role of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers more important than ever. “They can help translate the legalese,” says Gruenhagen.

CSIF is not a lobbying entity. It does not play a part in setting regulation. CSIF is there to help farmers interpret and implement the rules and do things right.

“Farmers should take the updated rules seriously and be proactive in taking a look at their livestock farms,” says CSIF Executive Director Brian Waddingham. “Livestock rules are stringent, but we can work with them and make them work on most farms. If they have environmental concerns about their livestock farm, I would encourage them to contact CSIF and arrange a no cost, confidential farm visit.”

The rule changes were a 2-year process that involved many of CSIF’s supporting organizations. Once that process was completed, CSIF was an additional resource for farmers.

“CSIF has a unique role, filling in the gap where we don’t have the staff to help farmers implement the rules,” says Cora Fox, director of government relations with the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

“Iowa Pork Producers Association and CSIF are here to be part of the solution,” says Ben Nuelle, director of government relations for the Iowa Pork Producers Association. “We’re all in favor of reasonable regulation. Farmers and their families breathe the air, eat the food and drink the water. And they want to leave the environment better than they found it. When they use best practices, whether it be manure management, odor control, or animal welfare, it makes the entire industry stronger.”

Like ICA, IPPA depends on CSIF to help producers put livestock regulation into practice.

“They’re serious about educating farmers and helping them comply,” says Nuelle.

A key component to CSIF’s approach is the on-farm visit. “It’s an invaluable part of CSIF’s free service,” says Eldon McAfee. McAfee is an attorney with Brick Gentry Law in West Des Moines, specializing in agricultural law.

For more than three decades, McAfeehas focused his career on livestock production in Iowa, advising farmers and farm groups, and defending farmers against nuisance lawsuits. He, along with Gruenhagen, were there when the Coalition was formed in 2004. It was a time when new rules were being made in response to public pushback against the growth and changing practices of Iowa’s livestock industry.

“CSIF was established to get information out, to help farmers interpret the pages upon pages of rules and regulations and make sure they were complying,” tells McAfee. “The goal was to avoid problems and open lines of communication with neighbors and the public.”

He says the effort has been successful. Between 1994 and 2004, seven nuisance lawsuits were filed against livestock producers, with 6 rulings against them. Then the scenario flipped. Between 2004 and 2019, seven suits were filed, with 6 rulings in farmers’ favor.

“That’s because farmers are doing things right, and that’s in no small part because of CSIF,” says McAfee.

“Farmers make good neighbors,” adds Gruenhagen. “And they want to be good neighbors. With the on-farm visit, CSIF helps them identify things to avoid, things that may not be in the regulations. They find ways to make sure feedstuffs and manure are handled in a good way, sometimes above and beyond what is required. And the service is free.”

McAfee emphasizes as regulations continue to change, this is no time for Iowa’s livestock farmers to rest on their laurels. Efforts like CSIF are as important as ever.

“We can’t take the progress that’s been made for granted,” he says. “Farmers, farm groups, and CSIF need to keep doing what they’ve been doing and keep using good practices. The best nuisance case to prepare for is the one that never gets filed.”

With the support of the livestock industry, CSIF will continue to help farmers follow the rules and regulations, choose good locations, protect the environment, and maintain good relations with their neighbors.

“The Coalition receives calls from farmers of all ages looking to grow their family farm or to bring family members into the business. It’s our job to help those farm families grow successfully and responsibly to ensure their farm is around for future generations,” Waddingham adds.

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock successfully and responsibly. It’s a joint partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, Midwest Dairy and the North Central Poultry Association. The non-profit, non-partisan organization provides assistance to farmers at no cost. CSIF does not lobby or develop policy. Farm families wanting a helping hand can contact the Coalition at 1-800-932-2436

(By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF. Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield).


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