Nussle on Czar Vonk, livestock regs

There’s a lot of interest in the state’s regulation of the livestock industry and you can read recent stories here and here about recent developments.  Congressman Jim Nussle, the GOP candidate for governor, was asked about the "hog lot" issue today by a gaggle of reporters during his visit to the State Fair.

Q:  In your speech, you talked about Iowa’s God-given resources. One
of the growing controversies, esp. near the Great Lakes region and
Clear Lake has been the location of hog lots.  What should be the
state’s strategy when farmers locate a big animal confinement near a
tourist area?

Jim Nussle:  "Well, we have a state strategy.  We have a state law.
We have regulations in place and I believe they should be meted out
with consistency, with predictability.  They should be done based on
science and not only based on emotion which oftentimes I think it is
done.  Certainly, there are some important areas and that can be taken
into consideration with the standards that we have.  I also don’t
believe that we should give one person the ultimate right, without any
supervision by the legislature or the governor, having a czar in a
situation like this which is what I think director discretion gives you
doesn’t give any kind of predictability or consistency if in fact you
want to be the kind of state that wants to have a responsible livestock
industry and I want Iowa to have a responsible livestock industry and
that can be done under the standards that we have and the way they are
applied currently."

Q:  The 2490 hogs that are planned near Clear Lake fall within the
statute but it’s in the watershed of the lake and the people there
argue that it makes no sense to…

Nussle:  "Well, I haven’t seen any of the data.  I can’t respond to
one particular instance because I haven’t seen any of the data.  I’ve
heard people say it’s within the watershed.  I heard people say it’s
not in the watershed.  It’s not for Jim Nussle as a candidate for
governor to say whether it’s in the watershed.  I think what we need
are we need clear standards.  We need those to be consistently
applied.  They need to be based on science and I don’t think we should
have one person who after all of that gets to make a decision that’s
independent from anyone else’s review.  That’s what I think is
frustrating to many of the legislators who voted against that standard
here in within the last couple of days."

Q:  You talked about the current rules and there is some feeling
that the DNR doesn’t have any authority right now to reject it, that
they have to accept and although there are matrixes allowed for
counties to use, many counties don’t use them yet so is there a system
you think to reject a site that might be environmentally unsound?

Nussle:  "Well, I don’t think there’s any question that this
controversy will continue to rage as it has for quite some time and
there can be many opportunities for us to look at through the
appropriate system what kind of standards are in place but I guess that
should be the perview of our policymakers, the legislature.  It
shouldn’t be the perview of one person to just blanketly make that
decision.  That’s what I think many people find frustrating about this
current ruling so I would like to see the legisalture, if there’s a
question or if there’s a controversy, they should take it up.  It
shouldn’t be the perview of one person to do that."

Q:  Is it time for Iowa to change its rules regarding livestock siting to quell this controversy?

Nussle:  "No, I don’t believe it is but if there are people who want
to make that proposal then they should make that through the normal
appropriate constitutional process which the legislature can and has
the authority to take up and review."

Q:  So what would you do if you’re in office next January.  Would you rescind the rule?

Nussle:  "Yes, I do not believe the director of the Department of
Natural Resources should have sole, independent czar authority without
any review or oversight and I’m not alone in that.  In a bipartisan
way, the legislature has spoken in that same fashion."

Q:  Iowa lets (can’t hear words, it’s city councils and county
boards of supervisors) turn down shopping malls and Wal-Marts.  Why are
livestock confinements different?

Nussle:  "Because Iowa is an agriculture state.  We’ve made a
decision from a state policy standpoint that agriculture is important
and that livestock should be important as part of that and as I said
here at the soapbox, I really believe that we’ve got a lot of fashion
out there right, we’ve got a lot of candidates running around being
very fashionable about our ethanol industry as an example.  Everyone’s
for it now that gas is three bucks.  First of all, where were they two
years ago, five years ago, 15 years ago when Senator Grassley and I
made the first moves to help support our renewable energy industry but
second it’s really easy to be for the green ethanol side of renewable
energy but what they obviously don’t know or don’t realize is that in
order for it to be successful, we have to have a responsible, thriving
animal livestock agriculture industry as well otherwise it’s not
profitable.  It won’t work.  Iowa will not be the renewable energy
industry and capitol of the world that I think we can become so this
has to go hand-in-hand.  It can be done very responsibly if we want to
attract capital and investment and I think the way that’s done is
through consistent, predictable standards that are based on science."

Q:  Do those exist right now?

Nussle:  "I believe they do."

Q:  What would your philosophy be towards this.  The talk was these rules were needed because…

Nussle:  "What is this? When you say this, what is this?"

Q:  (can’t hear words, as Nussle starts talking over)

Nussle:  "I just said it.  I needs to be based on science and it
needs to be consistent and predictable so that people can make
decisions and make investments."

Q:  But there was a feeling out of the hearing the other day that
the rules are tilted toward agriculture, balanced unevenly between the
two and…

Nussle:  "I don’t believe that."

At this point, Nussle’s staff jumps in and ends the Q&A.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.