A new ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that counties cannot control livestock confinements through local health ordinances will not affect Buena Vista County.
"It's not going to affect anything in Buena Vista County," said County Zoning Administrator Kim Johnson. If an operation is large enough, it then falls under a master matrix plan, Johnson said.
"We've never tried to go beyond what the state laws allow us to do," Johnson said.
The ruling addressed a case in Worth County in which the plaintiffs tried to use county ordinances to address what they saw as an environmental threat from confinements. The Iowa Farm Bureau had asked that the court set aside the county ordinance.
Vince Davis, Farm Bureau regional manager for the area that includes Buena Vista County, said he expects no impact on the current process in which confinements of 1,000 units go before their local county board of supervisors who make recommendations. "That's just a friendly recommendation," Davis said.
For cattle, a unit is defined as one head while for swine 2.5 fully grown animals comprise one unit.
Farrowing operations can go beyond 2,500 head since litters do not count for the same unit value as fully grown pigs.
Davis said Farm Bureau's position is consistent with that of family farmers. Among the 100 voting delegates that determine Farm Bureau policy at each annual meeting, said Davis, "You're not going to find very many corporate farmers in there. The grassroots membership is well represented."
To illustrate the relative size of a pork operation, Davis said 7,000 hogs are needed to equal the median income for Iowa.
The Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors has recently made recommendations on a number of hog confinement operations. In one recent operation that came before the supervisors the county made its wishes known before the operator's application went on to the state Department of Natural Resources office. The application involved a change in the waste plan for the confinement facility, and so was subject to at least county recommendations.
Buena Vista County Auditor Karen Strawn said several years ago the county board of supervisors began working on a manure-management policy. That was shortly before a plan by Humboldt County after the same purpose was shot down.
"We never finished the process," Strawn said.
Jim Gustafson, a Buena Vista County supervisor and farmer who used to raise hogs, also sees no impact from the court decision.
"I had a feeling that was the way that was going to come out," Gustafson said. He said he favored local control over health issues as they apply to confinements.
"Local control is something that we need. Right now," Gustafson said.