For years, community groups have been calling on legislators to pass a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms. Between water contamination, the loss of independent family farmers, and toxic air pollution, there’s a pretty strong case to be made that we need to put a halt to factory farming’s takeover of Iowa.
For the past several years, with the support of thousands of Iowans, Representative Sharon Steckman introduced legislation that would do just that. In 2019, the bill picked up close to twenty sponsors in just a few weeks, only to face obstruction by Representative Dean Fisher in the House Environmental Protection Committee.
Fisher refused to even assign the bill to a subcommittee, where it would get a hearing and debate. In response, hundreds of Iowans called on him to ask him to assign the bill and allow debate. He refused, and the bill died as a result.
This legislative session, Representative Steckman introduced a new factory farm moratorium bill, HF 2127, which had more support than ever. A recent Johns Hopkins poll showed that 63% of Iowans support a factory farm moratorium. Yet, Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley left the bill on his desk for days before formally introducing it and assigning it to a committee. When he finally did assign the bill to a committee, he chose the House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Representative Ross Paustian rather than the anticipated Environmental Protection Committee again.
Did Grassley change the committee to let Rep. Fisher off the hook? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that since refusing to assign last years’ bill, Rep. Fisher likely felt more heat than ever. He received hundreds of emails, letters, and calls asking him to support the legislation, or at least give it a hearing. Hundreds of Iowans traveled from across the state all the way to Des Moines to speak with him during a “Stop Factory Farms lobby day,” but he refused to even meet with any of them. Food & Water Action and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement even ran an ad in his local newspaper and put up a billboard outside of his hometown.
While the new committee assignment takes the responsibility of this bill off of Fisher, it also gives us another chance to advocate for a hearing for this critical piece of legislation. We have one week until the “first funnel,” when bills that haven’t been voted out of committee die. This year, the funnel date is February 21. Now is the time to make sure Rep. Paustian hears from you that we need urgent action on factory farms.
We’re sure Paustian is hearing from the Farm Bureau and Big Ag -- and that’s why he also needs to hear from YOU. Call him at 1-866-581-3558. Tell him enough is enough. Tell him to assign HF 2127 to a sub-committee. It’s time for a factory farm moratorium in Iowa.