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Sep 22, 2016 03:29PM

Factory farm moratorium? JFAN conference covers water quality, community options


By Annie L. Scholl
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Bill Stowe, CEO and general manager of Des Moines Water Works, will deliver the keynote speech at Reclaiming the Soul of Iowa: Why Iowa Needs a Factory Farm Moratorium, the Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors (JFAN) Inc.'s annual conference in Fairfield, Iowa, later this month.
When you turn on your faucet, chances are you're not thinking about factory farms. But that likely will change if you attend the Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors (JFAN) Inc.'s 10th annual conference this month in Fairfield, Iowa.

The conference, "Reclaiming the Soul of Iowa: Why Iowa Needs a Factory Farm Moratorium," will begin at 7:15 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, 200 N. Main St., Fairfield.

The keynote speaker will be Bill Stowe, CEO and general manager of Des Moines Water Works (DMWW). Stowe will touch on Iowa's water quality and the effect factory farms has on it. He also will address a solution that is being championed by the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture (IARA): a statewide factory farm moratorium.

"(Conference) attendees will leave with knowledge, inspiration and action steps to help bring this about," says Diane Rosenberg, JFAN's executive director and president.

The IARA is a coalition of more than 25 national, state and community environmental and family farm organizations that came together to address the proliferation of factory farms throughout the state of Iowa.

"Iowa has some of the dirtiest and polluted water in the nation, and this has to change," Rosenberg says. "Our water problems affect the health and pocketbooks of millions of Iowans."

DMWW, for example, has to filter out nitrates coming from three intensive farming counties north of Des Moines, whose watershed empties into the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, she says.
"This comes at a cost to Des Moines residents who have to pay for the extra filtration costs. But why should they?" Rosenberg says. "They didn't create the problem."

Rosenberg adds that bacteria, such as E.coli, fecal coliform and enterococci from factory farms can wind up in wells, lakes, ponds and streams, "creating a health risk for Iowans." She says in some cases, rural residents have to abandon their wells and purchase rural water because of concerns over their drinking water.

"We also see dangerous algae blooms when phosphorus levels get too high," she says.

"Recreational activities can become limited or unavailable to hard-working Iowans. Last year, there were 25 beach closings in the state."

Iowans, she says, need to understand the effect of the corporate livestock industry on water quality and feel empowered to advocate for change. That's the reason she believes people should attend the October conference.

"We all need to feel we have the right to demand pure water for our state and that our children deserve to be handed a better legacy," Rosenberg says.

JFAN was founded 11 years ago to "educate, protect and advocate for our county neighbors who felt helpless to stop CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) from being built near their homes and communities," Rosenberg says.

"People often feel powerless when a hog confinement, backed by the multi-billion dollar pork industry, is proposed. However, JFAN shows them they do have some options to protect themselves. In many cases, knowing their rights and giving them options to consider empowers these communities to speak out and let their opposition be known."

Rosenberg believes JFAN's work in Jefferson County has been effective in deterring CAFOs from coming into the county.

"At the present time, Jefferson County has 1/10th the number of the hogs as in neighboring Washington and Keokuk counties," she says. "But it requires us to be vigilant all the time as this is an ongoing issue that requires proactive commitment."

Each year, the JFAN conference attracts around 400 to 500 people. While the conference is free, a $5 donation helps JFAN "protect Jefferson County's quality of life," Rosenberg says.

"We have over 7,000 factory farms and 20 million hogs in Iowa at any one time," Rosenberg says. "The pork industry contributes a significant amount to the deterioration of our water quality. Why should this be allowed to continue? Why should the financial interests of the vertically integrated corporate pork industry come before the health and well being of millions of Iowans? All of IARA's organizations feel enough is enough."

Annie L. Scholl is a frequent Radish contributor.

IF YOU GO:

What: “Reclaiming the Soul of Iowa: Why Iowa Needs a Factory Farm Moratorium,” with keynote speaker Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works
When: 7:15 p.m. Oct. 26
Where: Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, 200 N. Main Street, Fairfield, Iowa
Cost: Free, though $5 donation appreciated
For more information: jfaniowa.org


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