116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Asking the Department of Natural Resources, under current management, to save even a waterway it’s dubbed “outstanding” is an exercise in futility. It’s like ordering manure not to spill or nitrates to refrain from running off, or expecting the Environmental Protection Commission to protect the environment.
But 47 groups and individuals are still trying. They petitioned DNR Director Kayla Lyon this week to use her authority to halt an 11,600-head cattle feedlot planned for a site in the Bloody Run Creek watershed near Monona. Bloody Run, a trout stream, is designated among a small number of “Outstanding Iowa Waters” and draws in runoff from porous karst terrain.
“We’re giving DNR one more opportunity to do the right thing and reverse their decision to approve Supreme Beef’s incomplete and incorrect Nutrient Management Plan. We hope DNR holds to their mission statement ’to conserve and enhance our natural resources,’” said Jessica Mazour, conservation program coordinator for Iowa Chapter Sierra Club, in a statement.
The Supreme Beef project has faced strong public opposition, but, as usual, under the current DNR regime, it has largely fallen on deaf ears. After all, Supreme Beef has friends in high places.
As Erin Jordan reported earlier this month, state Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, contacted Lyon about Supreme Beef on behalf of one of its owners, his son-in-law, Jared Walz. Zumbach, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, reached out to Lyon at a critical point when the project was still seeking DNR approval. He asked Lyon to get “the right folks” in touch with Supreme Beef.
Supreme Beef’s manure management plan was prepared by Becky Sexton, wife of state Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City. Together they founded Twin Lakes Environmental Services, which writes the plans for livestock operations.
Influence? Perish the thought. This was all done in accordance with the “rules of the state,” the DNR says. And in Iowa, livestock rule.
It’s all very cozy, but not at all surprising. Dozens of organizations and Iowans advocating for environmental protection, outdoor recreation and responsible farming can scream until they’re blue in the face and get barely a shrug. But if you want to raise a whole lot of livestock, and get a nice boost from some political juice, there’s no bloody way you’ll be refused, come hell or outstanding water.
The groups’ petition will, of course, be refused. Maybe by the time you read this. That sets the stage for a likely lawsuit to stop the project.
Will it succeed? Uncertain. But the courts are really your only option when the Legislature, governor’s office, DNR and just about every other nook and cranny of state government is controlled by agricultural interests. Heck, there’s a large hog producer on the Racing and Gaming Commission.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ largest donors are livestock producers. During the pandemic she rushed strike teams to their corporate offices to test employees for COVID-19. She turned a blind eye to deadly outbreaks at packing plants to keep the meat moving.
One beautiful trout stream doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy vortex of megabucks, corporate influence and environmental indifference. The lengths state government will go to to protect the livestock industry and downplay its water quality effects are immeasurable. For Iowans concerned about our water, the Capitol has become a dead zone.
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