Clean water and the governor’s race

Barb Kalbach is a fourth-generation family farmer from Adair County and board chair of CCI Action Fund. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In the gubernatorial debate on Wednesday night, lots of issues were discussed, but one got short shrift: Iowa’s clean water crisis.

Iowans across party lines want clean water and air. But pollution from corporate factory farms is making that impossible, as millions of gallons of untreated waste ends up in our waterways.

Fortunately, more and more Iowans are taking a stand. One in four Iowa counties have passed a resolution or sent a letter to the state in support of stronger permitting standards, local control, and/or a moratorium on factory farms.

As the Des Moines Register editorial board put it last fall, “If lawmakers can’t provide more local control, then they should pass a moratorium on new confinements.”

The governor plays a crucial role in this issue. Not only can the governor introduce and veto legislation, he or she can appoint the director of the Department of Natural Resources and the members of the Environmental Protection Commission.

In other words: the path to clean water runs through the governor’s office. That’s why we need a governor who is a clean water champion and not afraid to stand up to corporate power.

Kim Reynolds is not our champion – in fact, she’s the opposite.

Reynolds is cut from the same cloth as Terry Branstad. During her time in office, she has embraced corporate agribusiness, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from factory farm insiders like Bruce Rastetter and Iowa Select’s Jeff Hansen and his family.

Last legislative session, her solution to our clean water crisis was to cut from the education budget to clean up the mess created by corporate agribusiness. A Reynolds victory in November means more of the same.

Fred Hubbell, on the other hand, is better on clean water than Reynolds. He and his wife Charlotte have a history of prioritizing environmental issues. That said, he still needs to be a lot stronger on this issue.

Hubbell hasn’t signed on to calls for a factory farm moratorium, local control, and making polluters pay. Instead, his position on clean water is to convene a “blue-ribbon commission” to draft changes to the Master Matrix (a flawed system that counties can use to score factory farm construction permits), and to institute a 3/8th-cent sales tax to pay to clean up our water.

At CCI Action, we know that a “blue-ribbon commission” won’t work. Why? Because it’s already been tried. The industry-friendly Master Matrix was created by a similar commission in 2002. The Matrix has been a rubber stamp for the expansion of factory farms in Iowa ever since.

CCI Action also opposes a sales tax to clean up our water. Polluters – not the public – should pay to clean up the mess they created. Corporate agribusiness claims to be a $112 billion industry. They have the money to fix their pollution problem.

We need to tax corporate agribusiness profits, not pass more of the burden to everyday Iowans. And, we need stop the pollution problem at its source and demand mandatory, not voluntary, water protections.

The Reynolds administration has been a disaster for clean water. We can’t afford more of her industry kowtowing, corporate ag cronyism, and false solutions.

Fred Hubbell needs to be stronger, but for us to have the chance to push for clean water solutions instead of engaging in constant defensive battles, we need Hubbell as Governor. For him – and us – to have the power to appoint a good DNR director and Environmental Protection Commission members, or to introduce a clean water bill, or to veto bad industry bills, he first needs to make it to the governor’s office.

We need a clean water champion as governor. We hope Fred Hubbell will step up to fill that role.

Top image: Barb Kalbach.

  • Iowa water pollution

    I agree with a lot of what's above. Iowa has let the hoglot industry control state politics to a ridiculous degree. Rural residents of other states don't have to live in terror of a farmer neighbor deciding that a new hoglot is exactly what is needed to get his/her kid started in farming, with the smug assurance that the hoglot can be built just about anywhere.

    I also agree that Fred Hubbell would be far, far, far better on environmental issues than Kim Reynolds. I put in three "fars" because when it comes to the environment, Reynolds has set a very low bar. Make that very very low.

    Two additional points, however. First, a lot of Iowa's nutrient pollution comes from conventional rowcrop agriculture. Certainly some landowners and producers are doing a great job of using farm conservation to prevent most nutrient pollution from leaving their rowcropped land. But those landowners and producers are far outnumbered by those who are doing little or nothing to protect water.

    Frankly, I don't care if those who are doing little or nothing are family farmers (whatever that means in 2018), corporate farmers, or kindly old Uncle Ned and Aunt Sally who get extra retirement income from the 200 acres that they own and rent out. They all need to step up and do the right thing. Unless most of Iowa's 22 million rowcropped acres get water-protecting conservation such as cover crops, wetlands, bioreactors, or other effective measures, Iowa will continue to have horrible water and send it south to grow the Dead Zone.

    Second, many Iowans, including almost all conservation groups, strongly support the IWILL sales tax proposal that would dedicate a portion of a penny of the next sales tax increase to natural resources. I'm one of those Iowans. I see what substantial reliable natural resource funding is doing for Minnesota, Missouri, and some other states, and I want that for us. We currently have one of the lowest natural resources funding rates in the nation. I'd like to see actual conservation progress in this state before I die, and leaving that up to the Iowa Legislature is a proven recipe for zilch.

    And IWILL is not just about water pollution. It's also about public conservation land, of which Iowa has less than almost any other state. And the majority of Iowa voters who voted on the IWILL proposal voted yes. I do respect the right of CCI Action to have a different opinion.. This is an issue about which reasonable minds can and do differ.

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