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 troubling.

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.