Council Comments on Proposed Changes to CAFO Rules

posted on Friday, May 27, 2016

Stream - Council comments on proposed changes to CAFO rules

Proposed changes that are part of a five-year update to the state’s Animal Feeding Operation regulations could allow more ag-related pollution in Iowa’s waters the Iowa Environmental Council warned at a public meeting on Monday.

“A number of the proposed changes would probably have a neutral effect for the environment, but we have significant concerns about several proposals,” said Agricultural Specialist Ann Robinson, who delivered the Council’s comments and has been working with other staff and partners to review the proposals.
The rules are part of the Environmental Protection Commission’s Notice of Intended Action to amend the state’s “Animal Feeding Operations” rules in Chapter 65 of the Iowa Administrative Code. In addition to the preliminary comments offered Monday,  we are reaching out to partners and individuals around the state to encourage them to voice their own concerns by submitting comments  to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources by the deadline of Friday, June 3.

The Council’s primary concerns include:  

  • A change to allow the DNR to continue to accept insufficient manure storage capacity as a reason for emergency application of manure on snow-covered and frozen ground by confinement feeding operations that have no manure storage structures constructed after May 26, 2009. The previous rule, which had been negotiated by stakeholders including livestock organizations, allowed this as a temporary exemption from the winter 2010-2011 through winter 2014-2015, which was to end after that five-year period. The proposed rule change would allow high risk manure application practices and related pollution to continue into the future. The Council believes this is unfair to farmers who made responsible improvements to their manure storage capacity so they would not have to winter-apply past the five year exemption. We also contend that such backpedaling reduces the motivation of farmers and other businesses to respond promptly to new regulatory requirements in the future, and instead opt to try to weaken the rules.
  • Revising the definition of a public use area to focus primarily on separation distances from areas with structures for the purpose of siting animal feeding operation facilities and deleting reference to a list of lakes that have public uses. The Council believes that the entire area of lakes with public access should be protected for public use, not just more developed areas and structures, such as picnic areas, fishing jetties and playgrounds.  
  • A change to allow “unformed” settled open feedlot effluent basin in areas identified as karst terrain. Karst terrain, which includes landscapes composed of soluble rocks such as limestone, is characterized by natural underground drainage systems that connect surface water and groundwater through underground caverns and springs. This unique terrain is especially vulnerable to groundwater and surface water pollution. This change conflicts with previous rules that only allow more protective “formed” structures in karst areas. If anything, we need to strengthen, not weaken, rules that apply to animal feeding operations and manure application in karst areas.
  • A proposed waiver to separation distance requirements from a residence, business, church, school and public use area, as negotiated by the involved parties, which we believe is inappropriately vague and could apply to future expansions that would represent a taking of the rights of future property owners.

In addition to concerns raised about the content of the proposed rule changes, concerns were raised at the first public hearing regarding the Department of Natural Resource’s process for developing these rules.

“A DNR representative indicated that the agency sought input from the regulated community as it developed the proposed changes, but not environmental or community interests concerned about water, odor and quality of life issues,” Robinson said. “This was a major concern of many of us at the hearing. In the future, the Council urged the DNR to seek input from more diverse stakeholders from the beginning of the rule-making process, which we believe would result in proposals that better represent the broad interests of all citizens of the state.”

Links to the proposed rules and current rules can be found at the DNR website. Comments should be directed to Gene Tinker, Department of Natural Resources, Wallace State Office Bldg., 502 E. 9th St., Des Moines, Iowa, 50319, or by e-mail to

Two final public hearings are scheduled for:

Tuesday, May 31,10:00 a.m.

Washington County Conservation Board Education Center at Marr Park
2943 Highway 92

Friday, June 3, 10:00 a.m.

Northeast Iowa Community College Diary Center, Room 115
1527 Highway 150 South

Questions? Contact Ag Policy Specialist Ann Robinson at or 515-244-1194 x211

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