Farm Bureau against review of master matrix

Says livestock opponents are engaging in war against farmers

The agreement of the Greene County supervisors last week that farming practices have changed since the master matrix was implemented in 2002, and that it’s time to review it, has drawn the ire of the Greene County Farm Bureau board. Several Farm Bureau board members attended the county supervisors March 4 meeting to discourage the supervisors from approving a resolution calling on the Iowa legislature to review the matrix.

County supervisors board chair John Muir opened the discussion during the open forum portion of the meeting, noting who was present and correctly assuming they were there to discuss a letter to the Iowa DNR.

Muir asked county environmental health and zoning director Chuck Wenthold to read a resolution he had drafted for the supervisors. The resolution is very similar to resolutions approved by 19 other counties asking for a review of the master matrix, noting that “CAFOs in Iowa have proliferated at a rate and number likely not anticipated by the authors of the 2002 matrix”; and that the master matrix “has failed to adequately differentiate between the geography, water resources and other critical considerations through different regions of the State of Iowa”.

The resolution notes that the “failure to take into consideration information within the knowledge of local sources, has highlighted the failings of the master matrix to protect the air, water, health, quality of life and economic interests of all the citizens.”

Dale Hanaman is the de facto spokesperson for Greene County residents who want to see the master matrix reviewed. He was also at the meeting, prepared with two different resolutions – one very similar to what Wenthold prepared, and the other with an additional request for a moratorium on granting new construction permits for CAFOs while the matrix is under review.

He didn’t push for a moratorium after Muir said a review was what the supervisors were comfortable asking for, not a moratorium.

The discussion of the master matrix was sparked by an application for a construction permit for a 4,999-head CAFO in Washington Township by Roy Bardole, his sons Tim and Peter Bardole, and his grandson Schyler Bardole. Peter Bardole is on the board of supervisors.

The supervisors held a public hearing on the construction permit Feb. 25 and voted to recommend to the Iowa DNR that the construction permit be approved. It was during the public hearing that supervisors Muir and Dawn Rudolph agreed that it’s time to review the master matrix.

Peter Bardole said at the March meeting he didn’t like the wording in the resolution, that he doesn’t think the master matrix has failed. “There are places I see in the master matrix with it’s age, that there’s a lot of new technology to be included, but having gone through it…. I think the only people for whom it’s a failure are the ones who want a moratorium,” he said.

Muir also said the matrix “hasn’t failed. It hasn’t failed anybody because of the public hearings that are involved…. It’s a harsh statement to say it has failed. I don’t think this board will send a letter that asks for a moratorium.”

Farm Bureau board member Perry Parker said the discomfort with opening the master matrix is that it could result in more regulations, possibly resulting in regulations for a kid with a 4-H calf or a couple of chickens.

At that point Greene County Farm Bureau board president John McCormick gave the supervisors a letter signed by the Greene County Farm Bureau board and the Greene County Pork Producers – no names given.

The Farm Bureau board’s letter said sending a letter to the legislature requesting the master matrix be amended “serves only to disparage your livestock farming constituents,” and that farmers “do not deserve to have their elected county supervisors join in with livestock opponents who are engaging in an out-of-state-funded war against modern livestock farmers through bullying and badgering.”

The letter stated the importance of livestock and grain farmers to each other and that one in five jobs in Iowa depend on agriculture.

“We agree that growth must be done responsibly, so we encourage farmers to work with groups such as the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers….. Working together creates a win-win for everyone. Finger-pointing and endorsing activist-drafted letters does not,” the letter continued.

Hanaman responded saying that any time people petition the supervisors one way or another, “it’s an activist letter. It’s not just people who would think my way. It’s also the Farm Bureau. Any time we petition you we’re becoming active in politics. It’s good. It’s a way in which we add our voice.”

Hanaman asked if there’s a limit to the number of CAFOs that would be allowed in the county. He said the age of the matrix makes looking at it a “wise” thing to do. “It’s going to be a complicated process, but asking the question that it be looked at is not to say we do away with everything. It’s asking for it to be looked at.”

Muir mused about whether there’s a limit to the amount of livestock a county could support. Farm Bureau board member James Holz answered that there’s too much livestock “when there isn’t enough land for the manure.”

Holz went on to say, “If you look at really strong communities that have a lot going on, they’re also heavy livestock.” He named Washington, Sioux and Carroll counties as places with vibrant Main Streets, new businesses and a lot of activity. “If you look at the statistics, they’re also high in livestock,” Holz said.

Reviewing the matrix “would open doors that don’t need to be opened,” he added.

Nancy Hanaman, a cousin of Roy Bardole and the wife of Dale, suggested that “a consideration of revising it is not anti anything… To suggest that anyone who sees the master matrix needs to be revised is anti-agriculture, it’s simply untrue. We’re all in this together and we want people to live and grow and prosper in Greene County. We need to look carefully at what we’re saying and who we’re saying it about.”

Muir said the supervisors don’t have a timeline for making a decision on the resolution, and that there will be a lot of discussion in the meantime. Nancy Hanaman encouraged the supervisors to make a decision while the legislature is in session.

Supervisor Rudolph was not at the March 4 meeting.

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