County Health Ordinance Challenged

Iowa's first county health ordinance is being challenged in court by a coalition of area livestock and grain farmers.

The Worth County (IA) Board of Supervisors passed a health ordinance July 8 that aims to protect against air and water pollution and ensure worker safety.

But the result may be to displace agriculture, charges Doug Tempus of Northwood, IA, 180-sow, farrow-to-finish producer and spokesman for Worth County Friends of Agriculture, which filed the suit. The Worth County (IA) Farm Bureau and six persons are co-plaintiffs.

“Worth County cannot afford to lose any more farmers,” he says. “As the number of regulations increases, so does the cost of doing business, forcing more farmers to leave.”

Compliance costs for this ordinance are projected at $2,500-$6,000 up front and $330 annually, says Tempus. Ironically, those costs will drive out the smaller producers the ordinance was originally supposed to protect. That would leave a livestock vacuum best filled by larger producers who could spread out the cost of compliance over more animals, he says.

The cost of violation is a fine of $50/day/source violation. The ordinance:

  • Sets maximum allowable air emission standards for buildings, manure storage and treatment and carcass disposal. It sets emission standards at the property line for carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, carbon monoxide and ammonia.

    If an odor complaint is registered by a resident within two miles of the site, the county board of health must test the site within 72 hours. The property owner has 10 days to correct the problem. The plaintiffs charge that rule is a violation of state law.

  • Covers worker safety. All employees who work at least two hours a day and at least 60 hours a month in a confinement building are covered. They must be tested at employer expense for pulmonary function every six months. The employer must pay for tuberculosis testing at the start of employment. Personal protective gear is to be provided.

    Also, indoor air quality tests are to be taken every quarter for hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and dust.

  • Applies water pollution standards to all confinement livestock operations except those that do not contain liquid manure storage. The operation must prevent leakage into the water supply. Three monitoring wells are to be placed around each building and manure structures to monitor twice a year for nitrates, fecal coliforms and bacteria. If contamination is found, an impermeable barrier is to be built.

The ordinance states that the terms of the ordinance become effective Jan. 1, 2012.

Floyd County's (IA) board of health has also recommended a health ordinance be passed. And, two dozen other counties are looking at the ordinance.

Des Moines attorney Eldon McAfee represents the livestock plaintiffs in the Worth County case. He represented a group of Humboldt County livestock producers in their battle over a ordinance that was designed to protect the public's well-being and safety. It was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court in March 1998. That was followed by state legislative action also in 1998 that expressly preempted Iowa counties from adopting ordinances regulating livestock operations. The Worth County ordinance provides the first test of the scope of those state actions, he says.

USDA Publishes New “3/70/20” Confidentiality Rule

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published the a new confidentiality rule for mandatory price reporting.

The 3/70/20 rule, which replaces the 3/60 rule, allows price reports to be published as long as three conditions are met: 1) at least three entities provide data at least 50% of the time over the most recent 60-day time period; 2) no single entity provides more than 70% of the data for a report over the most recent 60-day period; and 3) no single entity may be the sole reporting entity for a report more than 20% of the time over the most recent 60-day period.

In addition, USDA has added a new swine market news report. The “National Daily Direct Hog Prior Day — Slaughtered Swine” report includes net cost price information, live and carcass weight data and carcass characteristics for all hogs slaughtered the previous day. The report also gives information on hog slaughter scheduled for each of the next 14 days.

USDA Releases New Direct Marketing Publications

The USDA has issued two publications to help producers market directly to consumers.

The updated “Farmer Direct Marketing Bibliography” contains more than 70 new entries and three new categories on farm-to-school marketing, Internet marketing and technology transfer in rural areas.

The “National Directory of Farmers Market and Direct Marketing Associations 2001” lists 41 local, state and national farmers markets and direct marketing associations.

Both publications are available at For more information, contact Jennifer-Claire Klotz at (202) 720-8999 or email