Reprinted from the August 27, 2015 edition of the Fairfield Weekly Reader
News from Jefferson
County Farmers & Neighbors, Inc.
By Diane Rosenberg, Executive Director
The Iowa LLC Loophole
There is a concerning trend occurring in Jefferson County
and around the state. CAFO owners are getting around permitting and Master Matrix
thresholds by constructing multiple confinements side by side in different LLC (limited
liability corporation) names. This can occur as a new set of facilities or as
an expansion to an existing CAFO.
We’ve seen this transpire in Jefferson County between a
married couple, business partners, and relatives. Most cases involve two
2480-head CAFOs constructed under different LLC’s. But we’ve also seen a
similar instance involving two 1200-head hog confinements that is particularly
Factory farms under 500 animal units – 1250 hogs – do not
have to file manure management plans (MMPs) nor do they have to adhere to
separation distances from homes and other public areas, although some distances are required from
water sources. Neighbors conceivably could have CAFOs built within a few
hundred feet of their homes. Since there is no MMP, we don’t know where manure
is applied. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can’t track these
CAFOs since no paperwork is submitted.
Several DNR field officers have told JFAN this practice is rampant
around the state. It’s not hard to see this could be a problem for
neighborhoods and for water quality.
This loophole exists for two reasons. First, according to
Iowa law, the legal owner of a CAFO is the LLC, not the individual(s) behind it.
The second factor is how Common Management is defined and
applied. CAFOs that fall under the definition of Common Management must be a
half-mile apart otherwise they are regulated as one larger facility. Common
Management, as defined by the Iowa Code, means that one person has a
significant amount of control over the day-to-day operations of the facility.
Since contract growers receive detailed instructions from the corporation on
how to raise the hogs, the corporation is the manager.
However, according to a DNR official, when Northwest Iowa
began to crowd with CAFOs, it became difficult to find enough land to separate
the confinements by a half-mile and have them regulated as single CAFOs. The State
Legislature then changed the definition to exclude situations where CAFO owners
contract with corporations. The definition now only applies to a corporation-owned
facility that hires employees to run it.
It’s clear that the law must be amended in order to address a
loophole that allows too many CAFOs to skirt laws that were put in place to
regulate them. The place to start is by contacting your elected officials and
urging them to fix this loophole that puts the agribusiness interests before
community and environmental well-being.