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New regulations chafe some farmers

BY TING XUAN TAN | AUGUST 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Some Iowa livestock farmers feel they are facing setbacks as more regulations are brought up.

On Aug. 19, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission will vote on the rule that will line up the state regulations with the federal Clean Water Act.

The new rule will give the Iowa Department of Natural Resources the authority to require permits regulating manure handling for livestock farms that spill manure into waterways.

Natural Resources estimates that there are 8,500 livestock operations in the state that will need to be examined to decide if they need permits.

The Iowa Cattlemen's Association has expressed its support for the new regulation because it aligns with the federal Clean Water Act.

However, officials have noted some drawbacks.

“It is very unfortunate that this type of regulation is actually going to affect the smaller producers and smaller farmers that we have here in the state of Iowa,” said Justine Stevenson, the director of government relations and public policy at the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “It may affect Iowa’s ability to grow as an animal-feeding state and the ability for our producers to continue to enhance their operations.”

Stevenson said the livestock farmers are attuned to the state regulations and especially careful with manure-control regulations.

Cattle farmer Steve Swenka said the new guidelines could really restrict many smaller farming operations.

“It adds a lot of daily paperwork to create government reports and records and the environmental regulations should really focus on catching the violators and not unfairly punish those trying to protect the environment,” the Tiffin resident said. “It’s too restrictive and costly to impose these regulations on a small herd or a family-farming operation.”

Swenka said he also hopes the committee will consider adopting more standards that are commonly used be commodity groups, which include the Farm Bureau, the Cattlemen’s Association, and the pork producers.

“The trouble with these federal standards, they were developed by people sitting in the city of Washington, D.C.,” Swenka said. “And they have very little knowledge on how an actual farm works, and so they don’t have a grasp on what they’re trying to regulate.”

When asked about the new rule, Neil Albertson, a hog farmer located near Fremont, Iowa, said he was not worried about the new rule because he has a small farm.

However, he said, the number of regulations seems to keep increasing and he, too, will have to make some upgrades.

“I would probably have to change some things,” he said. “It would probably cost me something. We may have to have some settling basins and things like that to hold the manure from outside lots.”

Farmers with confined animals would have bigger problems with the regulation than farmers such him, who let their animals run outside, he said.

Carl Edgar Blake II is glad he moved his farm out of Iowa. The former Iowa farmer, who found fame trying to breed the perfect hog, says the state had chased him out with its increasing regulations and decreasing infrastructure.

“Iowa has ruined farming,” he said. “Unless you’re a big corporate giant, you cannot make it in the state of Iowa. There’s just no infrastructure anymore. A small farmer can’t get feed, can’t get a processor, unless you have 500 pigs or more.”

Blake said that when he had a farm in Iowa, he had to drive 600 miles round trip to get one pig processed. With the increasing number of regulations, he said, more small farmers will move out of the state if they want to continue farming small.


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