Bill Introduced to Tighten Manure Application Laws

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DES MOINES, Iowa - A bill introduced in the Iowa Senate Wednesday by Senator Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City) seeks to strengthen Iowa's manure application laws in an effort to prevent factory farm manure pollution to the state's waterways. An identical bill was introduced in the Iowa House by Representative Dan Kelley (D-Newton) Thursday.

The bill is supported by the non-profit group, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund; the group has long-protested the processes in many of the state's factory farms leading to manure spills in waterways. If passed, the bill would ban farmers from spreading liquid manure from their farms under the following conditions:

  • The ground is frozen ground or snow-covered;
  • The ground is water-saturated;
  • The 24-hour weather forecast calls for a half-inch of rain or more;
  • The ground is sloped at 20 percent or greater.

Current state law prohibits farmers from spreading liquid manure on snow-covered ground from December 21st to April 1st, or on frozen ground from February 1st to April 1st. This new bill would eliminate the dates for when liquid manure cannot be spread during these conditions. Rather, it would prohibit the spread of liquid manure at any point in the year when these conditions are present.

"This year, Iowa experienced a cold start to the winter," said Sen. Bolkcom. "The ground was frozen before December 21st. This legislation would bring some common-sense thinking to the management of animal waste that are applied to our soils."

ICCI organizers and lawmakers from both chambers in support of the bill held a press conference at the State Capitol Thursday morning, where Rep. Kelley admitted this bill would be an "uphill battle" in the Republican-held House. Rep. Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) says from what he's seen in the bill, some parts don't seem to have much common sense.

"If you're going to raise livestock in the state of Iowa, you're going to have to apply manure - whether it's solid manure or liquid manure," he said. "And if you look at a few of the things - I haven't seen the bill as it was just introduced, but I know a few of the points that are in it - things related to the weather forecast, and other things in the legislation. Who's going to be able to determine that? No offense to your weather man, but if they're only right 50 percent of the time, you're looking at potential where you're going to have farmers who are going to face fines and penalties for just having to go off a weather forecast."

The bill will now be placed in committees within both chambers for review.

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