Opinion

Supervisors should take stand against CAFOs

To the editor:


The Ledger recently printed letters from Jefferson County Supervisors Lee Dimmitt and Dee Sandquist, defending the board?s handling of CAFO (hog confinement) applications. The supervisors? overall position is that their hands are tied as to what they can do about CAFOs, no matter what local citizens think about them, because the state sets the rules.


It is true that we do not have local control in Iowa, and counties and communities do not have the right to decide what is best for their own people, even about matters of serious local concern.


However, it is not true that there is nothing our county supervisors can do.


1. Supervisors, like any other citizens, have the right to express their own opinions and values, as boldly as they like. Look at other elected officials at every level of government, and ask yourself - do they keep their views to themselves, under a cloak of neutrality? Or do they use their various bully pulpits to try to move public opinion, and their constituents, in the directions they think are important?


If any of our supervisors believed that the proliferation of large CAFOs in our county threatens our quality of life (from the smell, damage to waterways, antibiotic resistance, allergic and asthmatic responses, loss of property values and more) nothing stops them from saying so. Except, perhaps, a reluctance to irritate that small percentage of the population that actively supports the growth of CAFOs, or an inappropriate sense that as supervisors they must always be noncommittal.


2. When the supervisors grade the Master Matrix for a CAFO (the scoring system that comes from the DNR), there is a certain amount of flexibility in the scoring. One can choose, that is, to be more or less strict. If the onslaught of factory farms is seen as a matter of serious concern (as it clearly is seen by many citizens) there is ample justification to interpret the Matrix as strictly as possible, within the bounds of the law. One incurs no penalty in doing so: the state will not revoke a county?s right to use the Matrix simply because a county is being strict.


3. The supervisors can ensure that there is always public discussion about new or expanded CAFO operations, with ample public notice.


4. As other boards of supervisors in Iowa have done, our supervisors could take an active stand on CAFOs ? directly encouraging the state to revise and strengthen the safeguards against the proliferation of factory livestock operations.


Our supervisors have a voice, and they, like all of us, can use it. We should expect forthrightness and boldness in our elected officials, not an attitude of ?nothing we can do? and a retreat into passive neutrality. The officials we elect are called leaders for a reason.


 


- Thom Krystofiak, Fairfield