New Champions for Local Control Legislation: Farmers
By Mark Nolte
Until recently the issue of local control was a movement aimed at keeping environmentally detrimental factory style hog confinement operations away from Iowa communities and farms. Citing issues of water table contamination, odor and property devaluation, a variety of groups have lobbied legislators to give local citizens the ability to determine how property in and around their community is utilized rather than relying generic standards set at the state and federal levels.
Corporately funded opposition to local control legislation has sought to paint these groups as being anti farmer, anti business and anti economic development. Stating that in Iowa, farmers should be allowed to farm.
But now there is a growing acceptance of such legislature by Iowa farmers themselves. They are coming to acknowledge that, while local control is one way to keep factory confinement operations away from residential property, local control is also a way to protect Iowa farmland and our environment from rural sprawl.
A Washington County farmer, who asked to remain anonymous stated, “I think it is ridiculous that people build homes next to Century Farms and then turn around and complain about the (sic) smell. We should be able to prevent them from developing so close to our farms.”
While groups opposed to large scale hog confinements and family farmers might seem like strange bedfellows on the surface, research from the American Farmland Trust indicates that, Every year, more than 11,000 acres of farmland are lost to development in Iowa.
If Iowa continues to allow uncontrolled development in rural areas, we run the risk of losing the family farmers who have served as the stewards of our land for centuries. Legislation that would allow local control may be farming families last tool to protect and preserve Iowa’s most pristine lands and our agrarian heritage.
This legislation also gives residents more control over the property tax burden they must bear to provide the costly infrastructure necessary to allow this overdevelopment.