IEC, Sierra Club, and more than 40 Iowa groups call on DNR Director to use 'Director Discretion Rule' on Supreme Beef

posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2021 in Water and Land News

47 community groups, environmental leaders, and legislators sign on in support of

DNR doing another review of Supreme Beef NMP

May 25, 2021 - Des Moines, IA - Monday the Iowa Environmental Council, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, Iowa conservationists Steve Veysey and Larry Stone, and more than 40 other community groups, environmental leaders, and legislators submitted a letter to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Kayla Lyon requesting DNR review the Supreme Beef concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) under a section of the law commonly known as the "DNR Discretion Rule".  

The authority granted to DNR under 567 IAC 65.5(3) and IAC 65.103(5) allows the DNR to conduct a “departmental evaluation,” which would provide special protection to environmentally exceptional areas when reviewing proposed CAFO construction projects and Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) and Manure Management Plans (MMPs).

The Director’s Discretion Rule is believed not to have been used since it was adopted by the DNR in 2006. 

Sign on Letter

May 24, 2021

Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Wallace State Office Building
502 East 9th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Re: Supreme Beef NMP and Departmental Evaluation

Dear Director Lyon:

As part of public comments submitted regarding the Supreme Beef Nutrient Management Plan, many Iowans wrote passionately about the truly unique and environmentally sensitive nature of Bloody Run Creek and surrounding watersheds. This area of Karst geology contains cold water trout streams, Outstanding Iowa Waters, spring creeks, limestone bluffs, algific talus slopes, and many other wonderful features. Along with this great beauty comes danger. There are thousands of identified sinkholes and uncountable fissures and crevices in exposed and barely hidden fractured limestone and dolomite that are direct conduits from the surface to the shallow spring-laden aquifer below. Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a duty to protect Iowa water and landscapes from contamination that threatens public health and livelihoods. Some agricultural operations subject to DNR’s permitting authority must be restricted from areas where the risk posed to water quality and the environment is just too high.

Several commenters specifically discussed the authority granted to DNR under 567 IAC 65.5(3) and IAC 65.103(5) to conduct a “departmental evaluation,” which would provide special protection to environmentally exceptional areas when reviewing proposed CAFO construction projects and NMPs and MMPs. This authority is sometimes referred to as the “Director’s Discretion Rule.”

In the April 2 “Summary of Comments” the agency response on this issue states ”DNR has reviewed the NMP and it meets the requirements of the regulations.” No further explanation was given. Respectfully, the purpose of the Director’s Discretion Rule is to allow the Department to look beyond specific requirements and conduct an evaluation pursuant to this subrule to holistically determine the potential adverse effects on natural resources or the environment. The response to our comments on this issue did not do that.

We the undersigned request that the Department conduct such an evaluation based upon the factors listed in 567 IAC 65.103(5), make public those findings, and present a decision. Those factors include:

  • The likelihood open feedlot effluent will be applied to frozen or snow-covered cropland.
  • The proximity of the open feedlot operation structures or open feedlot effluent application areas to sensitive areas, including but not limited to publicly owned land, designated areas, trout streams and karst terrain.
  • Topography, slope, vegetation, potential means or routes of conveyance of open feedlot effluent spilled or land applied.
  • Application areas involve cropland with predominant slopes greater than 9 percent without a conservation plan approved by the local soil and water conservation district or its equivalent.
  • Whether open feedlot effluent for land application is hauled or otherwise transported more than five miles.
  • Open feedlot effluent from the operation will cause pollution of a water of the state.
  • Open feedlot effluent from the operation will cause a violation of state water quality standards.
  • An adverse effect on natural resources or the environment will occur in a specific area due to the current concentration of animal feeding operations or the associated open feedlot effluent application areas.

We are aware that the Administrative Rules Review Committee placed an objection on the two separate sections of 567 IAC Chapter 65 that enumerate the Director’s Discretion rule for confinement-based CAFOs (IAC 65.5(3)) and open feedlot-based CAFOs (IAC 65.103(5)). This does not invalidate the rule. Moreover, the ARRC rationale states that the Master Matrix review process is the correct forum to review environmental factors for the decision to approve or deny a proposed facility. This only applies to confinement-based CAFOs. The Master Matrix review process does not apply to open feedlot-based CAFOs, and there is no equivalent review process other than that contained in IAC 65.103(5) that can be used to explicitly protect environmentally sensitive areas. The Department should undertake this evaluation consistent with the factors listed in the rule.

Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sierra Club Iowa Chapter

Iowa Environmental Council

Larry Stone, Clayton County Resident

Steve Veysey, retired Iowa State University chemist 

State Representative Sharon Steckman

Iowa Representative, Ranking Member of the House Environmental Protection Committee Art Staed

State Representative Marti Anderson

State Representative Bruce Hunter

State Representative Liz Bennett

State Senator Joe Bolkcom

State Senator Rob Hogg

State Senator Claire A Celsi

State Senator Pam Jochum, Dubuque

Panora Conservation Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America

Iowa’s Coldwater Conservancy

Trout Unlimited Driftless Chapter

Trout Unlimited Spring Creeks Chapter

Trout Unlimited North Bear Chapter

Trout Unlimited MoKan Chapter

Trout Unlimited TU 710 Nebraska Chapter

Trout Unlimited Twin Cities Chapter

Trout Unlimited Lee Wulff

Iowa Farmers Union

Iowa Organic Association

Iowa Audubon

Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association

Protecting Outstanding Iowa Waters

Common Good Iowa

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement

Food & Water Watch

Environmental Law and Policy Center

Iowa Rivers Revival

AIA Iowa

Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture

Cedar Wapsie Sierra Club Group

White Pine Sierra Club Group

Cedar Prairie Sierra Club Group

Central Iowa Sierra Club Group

Poweshiek CARES

100 Grannies for a Livable Future Iowa City

Midwest Waterscapes

Mike Delaney

Christine A. Curry

Chris Schoen, Resident of Clayton County

Dianna K. Elsinger, Resident of Clayton County

Jennifer Elsinger, Resident of Clayton County

Laura Elsinger, Resident of Clayton County

  1. cafos
  2. clean water
  3. dnr
  4. nitrate pollution
  5. phosphorus pollution