Top Stories

Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

Branstad: Local control will never happen

By Jason Hancock | 10.12.10 | 8:00 am

The state will never allow local governments to decide whether large-scale animal confinement operations can be built in their areas, GOP gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad said earlier this month following a town hall forum in Ames.

Terry Branstad discusses local control with Webster County farmer Gene Brown.

“Local control is something that won’t ever happen in Iowa,” Branstad said when asked by a Webster County farmer about the issue.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an organization that has made local control one of its main issues, wasn’t surprised by Branstad’s position. Adam Mason, an organizer with CCI, said Branstad helped form the local control movement in 1995 when he signed a bill into law that stripped all local authority from regulating factory farms. Since 1994, the year before the bill was signed, the number of hog farmers in Iowa has dropped from 29,000 to 8,300 as the industry continues to consolidate.

“In 1995, then-Gov. Branstad signed House File 519, and that opened the door for factory farming here in Iowa,” Mason said. “It opened the door to corporate ties to livestock ownership. That’s really where we saw the huge explosion of factory farming here in Iowa. And from that point on, local control was seen as a way for communities to fight hog confinements and factory farms.”

Branstad has long been opposed to the idea, and answered a question from The Des Moines Register about whether he supported local control simply with “no.” Branstad’s campaign did not respond to repeated requests for further comment on this issue.

Gene Brown, the Webster County farmer who asked about local control, said in an interview with The Iowa Independent that while Branstad talks about the need to enforce regulations on factory farms, his fear is that he’s only interested because Jack DeCoster is in the news.

DeCoster is the owner of several agribusiness interests that have become infamous for running afoul of state and federal regulators. Most recently, DeCoster’s egg farm was implicated in the recall of more than half-a-billion Salmonella-tainted eggs. An aide to Branstad helped lure DeCoster to Iowa in the late 1980s.

Branstad told Brown that since local control isn’t going to happen, the focus should be on enforcing the state’s laws and holding violators accountable.

“If local control was really all that important to Democrats, they’ve been in control for four years and they haven’t done anything about it,” he said. “We need to do what we did when I was governor when we were on course to have [DeCoster] put out of business.”

Brown said his fear is that Branstad will quickly forget about factory farm issues when DeCoster’s latest violations fade into memory.

“I think [Branstad] may be talking about this issue because DeCoster is in the news again,” Brown said. “But there are plenty of other companies that just haven’t been caught yet. So what happens when DeCoster is no longer in the news?”

If local officials and residents had more authority, they could help police those who habitually violate Iowa’s regulations, Brown said.

“When DeCoster first came into Iowa, myself and some local people were concerned with what he was doing with his facilities,” Brown said. “We tried to get the DNR and the governor, who at the time was Terry Branstad, to do something about the situation. But, no one would do anything. People are frustrated, especially people who live close to these facilities.”

CCI’s Mason says Branstad’s campaign pledge to back legislation to require a staggered, four-year rolling sunset of all state regulations affecting job creation and retention, when coupled with his opposition to local control, is troubling. Branstad said in a previous statement that the legislation would “drive a top-to-bottom review of our existing rules to find and eliminate redundancies, inefficiencies and job-killing bureaucracy.”

“We don’t need to streamline regulations. We need stronger regulations,” Mason said. “The fact that Iowa has 430 some polluted waterways already, rolling back regulations just means our waterways are going to be more polluted. People aren’t going to want to move to Iowa to work here if we don’t have clean water and clean air.”

Despite the clear difference in rhetoric in regards to local control between Branstad and Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, Mason said CCI members are no happier with the incumbent’s record on the issue.

“A lot of Iowans, especially in rural Iowa, are frustrated because they know in 2006 Culver got votes in rural Iowa because of his support of local control,” Mason said. “That’s one of the things we hear from members every day. They are sick and tired of lip service.”

Culver did campaign on this issue, and as recently as Monday, told The Des Moines Register “I’ve always been for local control as well. I think we need to have that discussion in the legislature, too.”

“The governor is going to say the legislature hasn’t passed a bill he can sign for local control,” Mason said. “However, we haven’t heard the governor use the bully pulpit to advocate for local control in the last four years.”

Follow Jason Hancock on Twitter


  • Newswatch

    Iowans are tired of politicians like Terry Branstad and current ag secretary Bill Northey who say it can't be done. They need to step out of the way of people like Francis Thicke, who have the political will to put quality of life ahead of corporate greed, and give voice to your call to return local control of CAFO siting to county boards of supervisors, where it belongs.

  • Will Merydith

    A large majority of Iowans want local control over CAFO sitings for obvious quality of life reasons. Branstad is standing against Iowans on this issue.

    This only highlights why the election of Francis Thicke is important for Iowans who may not be focused on the Sec of Ag race. I suspect Republicans will split from their ticket to vote for Francis if they know he stands for local control over CAFO sitings.

  • brianhorsfield

    Not only do we need local control, we also need more focus on local food. The industrialization of Iowa agriculture in recent decades has been coupled with the demise of local economies in small towns throughout Iowa. Many studies have been done to show that CAFO's do little to support the local economy. We need the fresh thinking of Francis Thicke for Secretary of Agriculture to stop the decay of small town economies throughout Iowa.

  • Iowa1

    This issue should have made my list of a dozen reasons to vote for Francis Thicke for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture on Nov. 2. That is didn't, though, just indicates that there must be dozens more reasons to vote for Francis.

    1. Send a message to Washington, Monsanto, Cargill, Syngenta, and ADM; not to mention the pharmaceuticals and chemical companies.

    2. Better oversight of our food system

    3. Reduction of dependence on fossil fuels. Reduction in fertilizers, pesticides, _fossil fuel_ to run farm equipment, and reduction in transportation.

    4. Open markets for agricultural products so small scale players can compete.

    5. Put more of the food dollar in the farmer's pocket

    6. Development of bio-fuel, wind, and solar energy production and use on the farm and so in my home (the NASA effect). That's the development of three green forms of energy use on the farm resulting in similar technology becoming economical for use in my home.

    7. Energy independence for the farm

    8. Lots of good, safe, jobs for Iowa. It's a vote for better regulation of the dangerous jobs so that the people in them can be safer, happier, and healthier.

    9. Communication of the economic sense of sustainable agricultural practices.

    10. It's a vote to protect our waterways.

    11. Development of local production of more of Iowa's food needs. That's local jobs and local cycling of those dollars.

    12. Cheap _healthy_ food; not just cheap junk food.

  • iowavolunteer

    Somebody please ask bransdadt how many time his brother's farm has been cited for violating the clean water act by polluting the waters by his farm with livestock waste.And, how much money he has finally paid for these violations. FRANCIS THICKE is the man to vote for…Culver, TOO

Switch to our mobile site