Johnson County community discusses local concentrated animal feeding operations

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors hosted a community post for community members to express their opinions on the Johnson County Comprehensive Plan, and many of these comments regarded the issue of CAFOs.

Supervisors+Mike+Carberry%2C+Kurt+Friese%2C+Janelle+Rettig%2C+and+Lisa+Green-Douglass+listen+to+public+comment+during+a+Johnson+County+Board+of+Supervisors+meeting+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+9%2C+2017.

Joseph Cress

Supervisors Mike Carberry, Kurt Friese, Janelle Rettig, and Lisa Green-Douglass listen to public comment during a Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.

A listening post hosted by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Monday evening allowed community members to voice their opinions and concerns regarding Johnson County’s Comprehensive Plan, which is still in the draft stage.

Much of this discussion focused on the county’s support for a moratorium on concentrated animal feeding operations in the area.

Johnson County Supervisor Mike Carberry said the construction of large-scale farms is regulated at the state level, so the county itself cannot mandate that none are built in Johnson County, but the language in the comprehensive plan encourages a moratorium on the confinements.

Members of advocacy groups such as 100 Grannies, as well other community members who have been affected by the operations, spoke at the meeting. Iowa City resident Aaron Silander described the dangers she felt the operations pose to the quality of the air, soil, and water because of the waste they produce.

Silander said they no longer eat meat in her household because they find the practices of industrial farming to be unbearably cruel.

“Animal-feeding operations produce an enormous amount of waste, almost more than we have the capacity to handle,” Silander said. “While I can’t say for certain CAFOs waste is the cause of the air-quality problems in my neighborhood, I can’t imagine what it must be like for families that live near them.”

RELATED: Johnson County debates CAFOs in land zoning

The question of air, water, and soil pollution by the operations also has raised concern about the health implications of the confinements on humans.

Paul Pomrehn, a retired physician who used to work at what is now the UI College of Public Health, called for the farms to be regulated as hazardous.

“Because of the health issues associated with them, I think we really need to think of these more as factories than as farms,” Pomrehn said.

Other speakers were worried about the health and well-being of the animals in operations. Solon resident Lynn Gallagher spoke extensively of the treatment of animals.

“With the industrial model, animal science has replaced animal husbandry, and productivity has become priority,” Gallagher said.

John Ikerd, a professor emeritus of agricultural & applied economics at the University of Missouri, called for a moratorium on industrial farms so members of the public can inform themselves.

“CAFOs could mean the end of agriculture, especially when independent farmers are driven out by these confinements,” Ikerd said.

Farmers were also present at the meeting, and they discussed benefits of the operations.

Nancy Stach, a farmer in West Branch and part of a farm family that owns and operates large-scale farms, argued that diversity in agriculture should be celebrated. She said it is better to use all methods of farming and not just one.

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