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Water lawsuit filed against state’s ag sector

Article cover photo
The suit, filed March 27 to the Iowa district court for Polk County, names the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and its leadership, the Environmental Protection Commission and its commissioners, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and its Natural Resource Commission and its commissioners. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Bethany Baratta, ISA senior write

   

Two environmental groups—Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (ICCI) and Food & Water Watch—brought a lawsuit against Iowa’s regulatory ag groups earlier this week, claiming they aren’t doing enough to protect the Raccoon River.

In their lawsuit, filed March 27 to the Iowa district court for Polk County, the groups seek an order which would require the state to adopt a Raccoon River remedial plan with mandatory ag water pollution controls and an order prohibiting construction and operation of new and expanding animal feeding operations in the Raccoon River watershed.

The suit names the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and its leadership, the Environmental Protection Commission and its commissioners, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and its Natural Resource Commission and its commissioners.

ICCI and Food & Water Watch said the state and its ag authorities have failed to regulate animal feeding operations and have failed to set numeric stream and lake water quality standards. They said the state hasn’t been quick enough in making progress under the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, called the allegations “disappointing.”

“I am incredibly disappointed that we are once again headed down a path with litigation. Our focus will continue to be on implementing the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The only way that I know how to make the improvements we want to see in the water is to work with partners, farmers, landowners, businesses, cities and put practices on the ground. Lawsuits don’t bring the kinds of solutions that we’re looking for,” he said.

Iowa Soybean Association’s CEO Kirk Leeds called the lawsuit “divisive”, much like the lawsuit that was launched in 2013 by the Des Moines Water Works against 10 drainage districts in the state. The case was later dismissed.

“If we learned anything from the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit it was that it did nothing to improve water quality,” Leeds said.

He noted that farmers across the state are committed to the voluntary approach in the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, not a one-size-fits-all solution.

“At the end of the day, ICCI and their partners suggest a legislative argument in legal proceedings. They are trying to use the court system when this is, in fact, a legislative issue. The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit showed us this is best handled in the political arena. Asking for a legal remedy on a clearly political argument is not effective.”

   

Joseph L. Murphy, ISA senior communications manager, contributed to this story.
Contact Bethany Baratta at bbaratta@iasoybeans.com.

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at kjohnson@iasoybeans.com or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at aputze@iasoybeans.com

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