Regulating Large Scale Feedlots – Iowa

Date: 21 Nov 2008 | posted in: agriculture | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

In 1946, Iowa passed a law which prevents counties from zoning land or buildings used for agriculture, leaving authority in the hands of state legislators and regulators. In a long string of cases interpreting the statute, courts have said counties have no zoning authority over hog confinements, regardless of their size or nature. However, in 1996 Humboldt County adopted four ordinances not designed to "zone" but to address other issues necessary for the protection of the public’s health.

The ordinances require large operations to obtain county construction permits, which includes a process for public hearing and the gathering of information about how manure will be spread, financial assurance that operation clean-up costs can be paid, restrictions on the application of manure around agricultural drainage wells (155 of the state’s 300-plus such wells are in Humboldt County), and an ordinance dealing with air quality.

InApril of 1997 an Iowa district court upheld all but the air quality ordinance, saying they were valid under the county’s general home rule authority. The air quality ordinance was ruled "preempted" by state law. But the district court decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in March 1998 that the Humboldt ordinances violated the state’s scheme of uniform regulations. In a strong dissent, two justices said the Court’s ruling calls into question applicability of county "home rule," which is guaranteed by Iowa’s constitution.