In the state of Iowa we are “blessed” with some real quality politicians. There is ol’ Chuck Grassley of the U.S. Senate trotting out tired rhetoric and, in general, trying to be as incoherent as possible. Representative Steve King deserves his own diorama in the Wingnut Hall of Fame. His latest diatribe about illegal immigrants primarily being marijuana mules is a loving tribute to his insanity.
However, my “favorite” politician in the state has to be Governor Terry Branstad. After leaving office in 1999 after 16 years of service he returned like a villain in a bad movie to resume being the governor of the state in 2011 following the “Tea Party revolution” in the 2010 mid-term elections.
Essentially, the man is a shill for big industry and big agriculture. If you are a large business interest than Governor Branstad has some tax incentives for you. If you are large agribusiness and do not want people to expose the conditions in your facilities than Governor Branstad would be happy to shepherd am ag-gag bill through to his signature.
Lately, it’s gotten even more transparent about how in bed with big agriculture’s interests that the governor has become. At issue is the enforcement of the Clean Water Act by state officials or, rather, the lack of enforcement of the Clean Water Act by state officials. Branstad, along with Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, have bypassed the regional EPA office in Kansas City that had been negotiating with state officials in order to make an appeal directly to the top officials in Washington according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
In essence, the governor and his supporters would like the EPA to continue to ignore the impaired nature of Iowa’s waterways so that industrial scale agriculture operations can continue to pollute with impunity. There is some Orwellian marketing copy about the governor “ensuring the quality of Iowa’s waterways” and “ensuring that the EPA does not overreach the scope of its authority” but this is purely a rhetorical smokescreen. It translates to “let the fox guard the hen house” for a few more years.
How bad is the situation in Iowa? In 2012 the EPA said that Iowa had almost 500 impaired waterways. According to some estimates, there are over 20 million hogs, primarily housed in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), throughout the state producing a mind boggling amount of waste that has to be dealt with. But dealing with that waste is expensive and big ag wants the status quo to continue. So, in rides Governor Branstad to the rescue on the side of industry over the people of the state.
Don’t believe that this guy is in the pocket of agri-business? Remember “pink slime?” Well, it was produced by a company, Beef Products Inc, owned by Eldon and Regina Roth of Sioux City, Iowa. The Roths personally contributed $152,000 to Governor Branstad’s election coffers making them the third largest donor overall and the second largest individual. What was the Governor’s response to the entire debacle surrounding pink slime? He went to the mattresses for pink slime. He went so far as to don a t-shirt proclaiming “Dude, it’s beef.” If you say so Gov.
Wonder why he is so vociferous in his defense of agri-business to continue polluting our waterways? Look at some of his biggest contributors. Debra Hansen of Iowa Select Farms gave $52,000. Iowa Select Farms is a CAFO operator. You can peruse the entire list of agricultural industry contributors at Follow the Money.
To paraphrase a memorable line from Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, there is shit in the water.
I urge EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and her department to cease allowing the Branstad administration to delay implementing enforcement of the Clean Water Act in the state of Iowa. Our waterways have become too degraded by the practices of industrial agriculture to allow for current practices to continue.