Iowa House speaker calls factory farm moratorium a non-starter

Hogs feed in a pen in a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, in 2018 on the Gary Sovereign farm in Lawler in
Hogs feed in a pen in a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, in 2018 on the Gary Sovereign farm in Lawler in northeast Iowa. Iowa groups on Tuesday will call for a moratorium on the expansion of CAFOs. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

DES MOINES — A legislative proposal to establish a statewide moratorium on so-called factory farms will be “dead on arrival,” according House Speaker Pat Grassley

The New Hartford Republican, who is involved in a family farm operation, said calling for a moratorium is not the way to start a conversation about large-scale farm operations.

“If you’re going to approach this from a standpoint of a moratorium, ... you’re never going to have a sit-down conversation that can be a real ‘What are some issues that need to be addressed,’ ” he said.

Since the introduction of a factory farm moratorium in 2017, the Iowa Legislature has failed to rise to the urgency of the moment, according to legislators and interest groups that plan to propose the moratorium in a virtual news conference and rally Tuesday.

Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, and Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, will be joined by fourth-generation farmer Barb Kalbach of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and environmental activists from Food & Water Watch and the Sierra Club.

The push for action has community support, according to the groups.

A 2019 nationwide poll of more than 1,000 registered voters, including 400 from Iowa and North Carolina, another leading hog production state, found that 63 percent of Iowans support a moratorium on expansion of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

A 2020 poll found that 88 percent of independent rural voters support moratoriums.

Grassley, however, doubts that’s the sentiment in his district, which includes parts of Butler, Grundy and Hardin counties.


“I come from a very rural district that has a lot of hog producers, just a lot of livestock producers,” he said. “If we’re going to have a conversation, I think you enter it from what are the priorities that need to be addressed.

“When you come at it from a standpoint of what some would consider basically shutting down any expansion to the industry and probably hindering its future success, the other side is never going to want to have a conversation.”

Following the call for a moratorium at a virtual roundtable Tuesday, a virtual rally will be held at 12:30 p.m. at

The call for a moratorium is a joint effort of Food & Water Watch, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action, Iowa Citizens for Responsible Agriculture, Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, Iowa Farmers Union, Poweshiek CARES and the Sierra Club.

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