Coalition Seeks to Put a Pause on Factory Farm Growth in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa - A new alliance of more than 20 national, state, and county-level groups is hoping to stop Iowa factory farms in their tracks.

The Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, or IARA, seeks to see a moratorium passed in Iowa on new and expanding factory farms until Iowa has fewer than 100 water impairments, down from the record-breaking 754 impairments in 2014.

"There's strength in numbers," said Diane Rosenberg with the group. "You know, there's always strength in numbers, and we're all doing this - it's greater efficiency. We feel we'll have a better impact, you know, reaching out to people, throughout the state, if we work together."

The coalition held a kick-off rally at the Iowa State Capitol Wednesday before delivering a letter to Governor Branstad's office requesting a moratorium. Family farmers and residents of rural Iowa spoke at the rally, giving personal testimonies to how factory farming has harmed them.

"It broke my heart to watch a 90-year-old suffer, gasping for air because of asthma," said Joyce Otto, president of Poweshiek CARES. "It broke my heart when my daughter decided to go somewhere else for childcare because research validates that dangers of asthma in children exposed to toxins from hog factories."

A staunch advocate for factory farm reform and cleaner water in the state, Des Moines Water Works' general manager and CEO, Bill Stowe, was also at the event.

"We have 21 million hogs in the state, and 3 million people; and clearly the hogs and their environmental impact are crowding out the concerns of 3 million Iowans," Stowe said. "We see that in water quality concerns, and certainly for those who are in the immediate area, air quality concerns are very real."

Organizers admit the battle for a moratorium on new or expanding factory farms will be an uphill battle; aside from a letter requesting executive action from the governor, the group intends to lobby lawmakers during the legislative session for a bill that would enact a moratorium.