JFAN President Jim Rubis Retiring; David E. Sykes
Appointed New JFAN President
Founding Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc.
(JFAN) board member and president Jim Rubis announced his retirement from the
JFAN Board of Directors effective October 1. Rubis is stepping down after nine
years of dedicated service to the Jefferson County community in which he was
instrumental in establishing JFAN as an effective resource for protecting
Jefferson County’s quality of life from the proliferation of factory farms.
Rubis was sought out for the board during JFAN’s formation
in 2005. His earlier 33-year tenure as director of the Fairfield Public library
combined with his farming experience and community service made him an ideal
candidate to reach out to a broad spectrum of the Jefferson County community. Rubis
gracefully stepped into the role and served as a bridge to many diverse
Rubis was especially effective in helping to keep the channels
of communication open between CAFO owners and neighbors. “I feel really good
about that,” he says. “That helped to create an awareness in some CAFO owners
about how their confinement would impact neighbors. It helped to site some
CAFOs away from concerned neighbors.”
“Jim had a real feeling for the community-at-large. I deeply
valued his perspectives,” says JFAN Executive Director Diane Rosenberg.
Despite his retirement, Rubis will remain connected with
JFAN as its first Emeritus Board member. “The entire board is extremely pleased
that Jim has agreed to accept this position so JFAN doesn’t lose the benefit of
his experience and wisdom,” says JFAN legal counsel, and incoming president
David E. Sykes.
“I’m not leaving JFAN behind,” Rubis says. “I still care
about it, and I’ll still be involved, just not on a daily basis.”
With the serious CAFO threat menacing Southeast Iowa – nine
new CAFOs were proposed in Jefferson County this year alone – the JFAN
Board unanimously elected Fairfield attorney David E. Sykes to succeed Rubis as
JFAN president, signaling a harder line JFAN will take in the fight to protect
Sykes says he wishes to work closely with JFAN’s executive
director to expand JFAN’s activities to create an even stronger and more active
JFAN. Five new board members representing the farming, rural, residential, and
business communities have been added to further strengthen JFAN’s outreach.
“I am one of the more active attorneys fighting CAFOs in
Iowa at this time, along with my legal associates Charlie Speer and Richard
Middleton. My litigation activities on behalf of my rural clients and
communities should send a message that JFAN will now take a stronger approach
to protecting Jefferson County and our nearby sister counties, from infringing
CAFOs” says Sykes.
Education is essential in fighting CAFOs, he adds, and JFAN
must continue to empower people by helping them understand the CAFO problem.
“CAFO operators and their corporate suppliers (Integrators)
are attempting to present themselves as modern “family farmers.” But in
reality, CAFO operators and their corporate Integrators over the past 20 years
or so have eliminated 95% of independent traditional family farms that used to
be an integral part of our local community. Agribusiness is rewriting what it
means to be a farmer and is attempting to sell this concept to consumers and
the public. Unlike the family farms that existed for hundreds of years in
harmony with the land, we now have the problems CAFOs present.
“We have to educate the public about this deceptive
advertising approach being taken by industrial agriculture. It will take
courage and fortitude to stand up to the “new” industrial agricultural model to
save the soul of Iowa,” says Sykes. “JFAN is gearing up to meet that challenge
to the best of its ability.”
Sykes is an Iowa general practice attorney and founding JFAN
board member. He’s represented Iowans fighting CAFOs for the last five years
including plaintiffs of the Pleasant Plain lawsuit. In 2010, that lawsuit
settled out of court to the satisfaction of its plaintiffs. Last spring, Sykes
formed an Iowa legal team with nationally renowned environmental attorneys
Charlie Speer from Kansas City, Missouri and Richard Middleton from Savannah,
Georgia to take CAFO cases on a contingency fee basis.
Sykes is licensed to practice law in all Iowa state and
federal courts and is a member of the Iowa Bar Association. Earlier this year, the
Humane Society of the United States retained him as Iowa counsel in its case
against Maschhoff Pork concerning their manure spill in Keosauqua in violation
of the Clean Water Act.
The new JFAN president is also co-founder of Noah’s Ark
Animal Foundation and is currently president and chairman of the board. Sykes
has resided in Jefferson County since 1983.