How to Stop an Infringing Factory Farm
A nightmare is on your doorstep, and you are panicked, angry, or overwhelmed. There are several things you can do to try to stop an unwanted factory farm threatening your neighborhood. We also recommend that you work with one of the advocacy groups here to help you mount the best fight against the factory farm.
1. Don’t Get Surprised. Monitor for Factory Farm Activity. Be vigilant about monitoring for factory farm activity in your county. The sooner you find out about any proposed infringing CAFO, the better chance you have for stopping it. Check weekly with your county auditor’s office and with your local DNR Field Office for any new applications. Periodically check with your Recorder’s Office for suspicious surveys. A one to five-acre parcel off a larger field may indicate a future confinement.
2. Alert Neighbors. Contact everyone in a two mile radius of the factory farm to let them know about the application and to find out where they stand. Make a list of everyone who is willing to oppose the confinement. Organize a meeting to plan out your strategy.
3. Gather Information. Get a copy of all the paperwork involved from your county Auditor’s Office or the DNR field office. This includes the construction design statement, manure management plan (MMP), construction permit for confinements over 1000 animal units (2500 hogs), and the Master Matrix in counties that adopt it. Identify the confinement owner, the integrator (corporate supplier of the hogs and feed), and anyone who is accepting manure onto their fields.
4. Review the Application. Compare the manure management plan with MMP’s of other factory farms in the area to make sure they are not over applying manure to any one field. Closely examine the Master Matrix to make sure the confinement deserves the points it’s taking. Challenge anything that is questionable on the application.
5. Talk with Farmers About Taking Manure. Educate farmers about the potential consequences of accepting CAFO manure for his/her fields. If the factory farmer can’t find a location for his manure, he won’t have a viable manure management plan, and he won’t be able to put hogs in the building.
6. Meet with the Confinement Owner. Believe it or not, sometimes a community meeting can change a factory farm owner’s mind about building a confinement in your neighborhood. Use this meeting to explain your concerns about the confinement. Try to keep the meeting cordial and productive, but be firm that you don’t want the confinement built near you. It the factory farm owner understands they will have fierce opposition, they may walk away from a difficult situation. If not, and you wind up in court, this meeting will work in your favor.
7. Start a Petition. Gather signatures of all neighbors within a two-mile radius. Include homeowners and renters, businesses, schools (parents are a good source for signatures), churches and its parishioners, and other organizations. Show this petition to the factory farm owner when you meet. (But don’t give him/her a copy.)
8. Send the Confinement Owner a Strong Message. Use a variety of strategies to let the factory farm owner know his actions are not welcome in your community. Posters around town, yard signs, protests, letter writing campaigns, and ads are just a few approaches. Talk with friends of the confinement owner to let them know the community is upset with his/her actions.
9. Prepare for Public Hearings. If a public hearing is involved, carefully prepare your comments and write them up for submittal. Be strong but be respectful, bringing up salient, legitimate points.
10. Use the Press. Go to the press with concerns about the factory and try to get news coverage. Write letters to the editor; take out ads listing your concerns. Be very careful not to say anything libelous or to make any personal attacks.
11. Getting Nowhere? Consider Legal Action. Iowa’s laws favor industrial agriculture over community rights, and no matter what you do, many confinements get built. Once a factory farm is operating, there are laws in place to protect you and your family from any infringements the confinement may impose on your rights as a citizen. Nuisance and trespass are two legal theories that can provide your family and home with protection from nearby CAFOs.
There are several attorneys in Iowa that practice environmental law and litigate against CAFOs. Some take cases on a contingency-fee basis.