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Above, Mike Clifton, standing at right, who is seeking permission to build an eight-barn confined broiler-feeding facility near the Pottawttamie-Mills County line, speaks to those attending an anti-chicken farm meeting at St. John’s Church in Mineola Monday evening. Seated, from left, are Mark Hanwright, who opposed permitting the confinement facility that would be about three miles from his home; Pottawattamie County Planning Director Matt Wyant; Pottawattamie County Supervisor Tim Wichman; and Cory Leick, owner of the property where Clifton hopes to build the facility. Below, Council Bluffs Attorney Dean Jennings speaks at the meeting.

Animal confinement permit process needs improvement

The current permitting process for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) has room for improvement. Consideration should be given for more local control and neighbor input. Due to the current inefficiencies in the permitting process, Pottawattamie County residents and the Board of Supervisors are in an uphill battle against the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on a proposed chicken confinement operation at 253rd Street.

Iowa’s Master Matrix System permitting CAFOs currently provides for too little local control. County residents would not be against these types of facilities if planned through county resources. The county could have assisted with the facility siting to ensure it was in a place with minimal impacts to the community and the environment. The area in which this facility is proposed is considered by county leadership as a prime development area within the next three to five years. The state’s Matrix is not capable of taking the county development plans into account and does not place any parameters around working with local government on site selection.

There is one matrix section that allows for minimal feedback from neighbors. “No. 36 Demonstrated Community Support: 20 points for 100 percent of the property owners within a one-mile radius providing approval.” This does not allow for neighbor concerns. The low point valuation and high threshold for securing the points does not encourage applicants to discuss their application plans with neighbors. We have seen this in the current application, where no neighbors were contacted or made aware of plans by the applicant.

The DNR deciding committee holds that the clear legislative intent is that the matrix is to be the exclusive mechanism for the evaluation and approval of a CAFOs. This legislative intent is what needs to change. The matrix, in its current state, cannot be the only mechanism used in deciding the approval and disapproval of permitting concentrated animal feeding operations.

It alarms me that many of the current bills brought forward related to CAFO’s in the U.S. are extremely anti-agriculture, suggesting a moratorium on all confinement agriculture expansion. I fear if Iowa CAFOs permitting continues in its current state more disgruntled Iowans who are negatively impacted by CAFOs will throw their support towards a moratorium. Our legislators and local governments have an opportunity to positively impact the permitting process and protect the rights of Iowans who are neighbors and operators of CAFOs by improving the permitting process for CAFOs in Iowa.

Lisa Buckentine

Council Bluffs

Every child deserves to feel loved this Valentine’s Day

For many of us, Valentine’s Day is our chance to show our affection for the important people in our lives through cards, flowers and other gifts. But candy and cards will be the last thing on the minds of many of the children in the foster care system who will be facing this special day away from their friends, families and other loved ones.

When a family is in crisis and a child is placed in the child welfare system, they often live outside their own home and away from their home community. Though they have done nothing to deserve it, they face challenges and unforeseen consequences as the result of abuse and neglect. If they are in foster care, they tend to move from placement to placement and school to school — running the risk of losing touch with the people who were significant in their lives.

Volunteers with Southwest Iowa CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) advocate for these children, ensure they are safe and cared for, and support keeping them connected with their communities, families and loved ones while they are in foster care and beyond.

Studies show that one of the key indicators for child well-being is the presence of committed adults in their lives.

CASA volunteers are everyday people who are appointed by a judge to advocate for a child or sibling group in the child welfare system. CASA volunteers get to know the child on a personal level and communicate with everyone involved in their life, including family members, foster parents, social workers and others. They work with those on the case to build and strengthen a lifetime network of family and other committed adults who will support the child and each other even after the child’s time in foster care ends.

Last year, 26 CASA volunteers served 73 children in the child welfare system in southwest Iowa, but over 250 children still need a volunteer to help advocate for their best interests. Every child deserves to feel loved, supported and connected this Valentine’s Day and beyond. Become a CASA volunteer and help give a child and family a better chance at a brighter, happier future.

For more information, visit casaiowa.org or contact me at 712-328-4811 or anne.christensen@dia.iowa.gov.

Anne Christensen

Council Bluffs

In support of red flag laws

I attended Lobby Day at the Iowa Capital with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense to show support for the Extreme Risk Bill coming before the Iowa House. This bill would allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from the possession of individuals at risk of harming themselves or others. I see this bill as helping distressed Iowans who need an extra layer of protection while experiencing homicidal or suicidal ideas.

I spoke with many of my Linn County representatives who supported this public safety bill. The only dissenting voice was from Rep. Ashley Hinson, who was most concerned with the National Rifle Association talking points about due process for returning these firearms. The bill states temporary removal during periods of distress, yet Rep. Hinson was more concerned about the Second Amendment rights over the safety of individuals or public safety.

I believe red flag laws such as these would decrease dangerous gun access while would-be shooters plan their strikes. It would give friends, family, teachers and health professionals an avenue to protect the public from extreme risk individuals.

I would really like to know why NRA politicians like Ashley Hinson protect the Second Amendment at all costs? Isn’t public safety and reducing suicide rates more important than property? I feel she does not represent me when she does not respect mothers who want public safety needs to be the priority. Let’s approach the 2020 election with eyes for representatives that have the interests of public safety in their hearts.

Angie Weiland

Cedar Rapids

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