Thicke Calls for Legislature to Protect Water Quality

(It's a shame state legislators would even consider bills as bad as these. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Francis Thicke, Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, is urging the Iowa Legislature to resist pressure by special interest groups to undermine a law protecting water quality.  Last year, the Legislature created a law prohibiting confinement feeding operations from spreading manure on snow-covered or frozen ground during conditions that would put water quality at risk.  The bill now under consideration would provide an exemption for all confinement feeding operations built before July 1, 2009 — which is nearly all of them — from requirements to have enough manure storage space to be able to comply with the winter manure-spreading prohibition.  

Thicke said, “This bill would grant a permanent exemption to confinement feeding operations that would undermine the intent of the law created last year to protect water quality.”

Research at Iowa State University and other universities has found that when manure is spread on snow-covered and frozen ground it is at greater risk for runoff and water contamination.  Thicke, a dairy farmer and Ph.D. soil scientist, cited the example of an ISU study that found when manure was applied on top of snow on Feb. 14 and a major thaw began the next day, the nitrogen concentration in the runoff was 1,086 parts per million (ppm) on Feb. 15, the following day.  By comparison, in the same study, where manure had been applied the previous fall the nitrogen concentration in the field runoff on Feb. 15 was just 7 ppm.  Thicke said, “This was an extreme example, but it does document the magnitude of the potential risk of applying manure on snow-covered or frozen ground.”

The bills now under consideration by the legislature — House File 2324 and Senate File 2229 — would nullify rules proposed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to require confinement feeding operations to have at least 100 days of storage in order to qualify for an emergency exemption from the winter manure-spreading prohibition.  

Thicke said, “It is reasonable that animal feeding operations should have a one- or two-year grace period to build sufficient manure storage capacity to comply with last year’s law, but to give a permanent exemption makes no sense if protecting water quality is a priority.”  Thicke added, “The fate of the bills now before the Iowa House and Senate will tell us if the Legislature is serious about protecting water quality, or if the pressure of special interests will prevail.”

About the Author(s)

Francis Thicke