The Ottumwa Courier

AP Iowa

July 20, 2013

Board reconsiders farm building inspections

DES MOINES (AP) — State regulators are trying to decide whether Iowa farm buildings should have mandatory electrical inspections, though some in the industry are calling it a power grab.

The Iowa Electrical Examining Board is expected to decide Aug. 15 whether Iowa farm buildings must be inspected, The Des Moines Register reported (http://dmreg.co/122PRqj ). The 11-member board weighed conflicting opinions on the matter at a hearing Thursday.

Under the leadership of former Gov. Chet Culver, the Iowa Legislature passed an electrical regulatory bill in 2007 that required farmers to obtain inspections on most electrical installations on their farms. Gov. Terry Branstad later objected to the rules in January 2012.

The state Department of Public Safety in July 2012 ordered inspections on farm buildings — including grain bins, pole barns and livestock barns — to be suspended indefinitely.

Three Carroll County Farm Bureau members also challenged the law in 2012 and the issue went through an Iowa District Court, where Judge William Ostlund ruled in January 2013 that the board overstepped its authority on how it interpreted the law.

Calling the legislation “extremely ambiguous” on agricultural installations, Ostlund remanded it back to the board for further consideration. He also suggested that the Legislature clarify the law, though former Iowa House Speaker Patrick Murphy said farms were clearly not exempt from the rules that apply to residences and retail buildings.

Some say the inspections are a power grab by the board that overburdens farmers.

“If I own my own property, I am accountable for that property. No one else is. . Why don’t you leave me alone?” said Allen Suby of Ankeny, a former resident of Fertile who still has farm investments.

Other farmers and their supporters say poorly installed electrical wiring creates safety hazards.

“This is a public safety issue. I grew up on a farm. My brother farms,” said Jerry Depenning, president of Penn Electric of Marion.

State records say that since 1994, Iowa has had 15 farm deaths from electrocution.

State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds, a member of the electrical board, said the Legislature should address the issue.

“I feel like the Legislature has put this board in a very bad position,” he said.

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