DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A hog farm in southeast Iowa run by a Carlyle, Ill., corporation has become a battleground between environmental groups, state officials responsible for protecting the environment and modern farming operations that consolidate thousands of animals in confinement buildings.
Environmental and community activist groups including Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Humane Society of the United States have been increasing pressure in recent years on the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to step up enforcement of environmental regulations against hog farms, which they say pollute the state's rivers and streams too frequently with manure spills.
The groups want hog farms to be forced to obtain Clean Water Act permits, which would require them to conform to stricter rules by spelling out specific changes that could include costly upgrades of manure storage equipment and other measures. The permit process could also result in increased fines for future spills.
The focus now is on the Maschoffs farm near Keosauqua, an operation where 7,500 hogs generate 11 million gallons of liquefied manure a year. Last November, the farm spilled thousands of gallons when an underground pipe clogged and broke under the pressure.
That spill has become part of a dispute over how Iowa oversees such facilities.
The state has resisted increasing the regulatory burden for the hog farms because it would increase costs and signal a change in the farm-friendly perception Iowa has develop to attract the industry, which generated nearly $7 billion in cash receipts in the state last year. Iowa is the nation's leading pork producer with about 21 million hogs on farms, nearly a third of the nation's 68 million animals.
Under pressure from environmental groups, the DNR in September reached an agreement with the EPA to inspect more farms and more strictly enforce penalties for manure spills. The agreement requires those enforcement rules including a permit process to be developed by March and finalized by next September.