Washington Evening Journal
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Legislators talk CAFOs, pipelines and ‘obscene’ books
FAIRFIELD – Legislators representing portions of Jefferson County answered questions about teens in the workforce, animal confinements, and removing obscene books in schools during their monthly legislative forum hosted by the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Diane Rosenberg, president of Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors (JFAN), said she was disappointed that her organization’s push to put a moratorium on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) had not received any attention in the Capitol. She said it has not even had a hearing in subcommittee. She asked the legislators if they would be willing to advocate for it to get a hearing in subcommittee.
Sen. Adrian Dickey (R-Packwood), representing Senate District 41, said that he was not on the agricultural committee, so he was not in a position to recommend it for subcommittee. Rosenberg asked him if he at least supported the idea of a CAFO moratorium, and he said he didn’t feel comfortable endorsing a bill he hadn’t read.
Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Birmingham), representing House District 87, said regulating CAFOs must strike a balance between environmental concerns and the economy. He said a moratorium on CAFO would be a tough sell if it would raise the cost of food in an already inflationary period. He said that the best way to change the food system is to have the changes led by consumers.
“The state can’t dictate what our food system looks like,” Shipley said.
Shipley advised Rosenberg to focus on a narrower portion of the issue where she was more likely to make headway, such as a bill that focused specifically on water quality. Shipley said that would have a better chance of passing than a bill that targeted the whole industry of animal agriculture.
Rep. Helena Hayes (R-New Sharon), representing House District 88, said she lives just 750 feet from a CAFO, and does not think the smell is bad.
“Maybe it’s just the lay of the land,” Hayes said.
Hayes echoed Shipley’s comments about how the Legislature has to weigh competing concerns about the environment and the economy. She said the legislators have to keep in mind that Iowa is a huge ag state, and the largest producer of corn, pork and eggs.
The legislators were asked for their thoughts on a bill that would loosen child labor regulations. The man who asked about it was worried about teenagers doing dangerous jobs, and mentioned that he saw a news item about a North Carolina teenager who was killed in a wood chipper accident. A Google search for this news item revealed that in 2015, a 19-year-old man in North Carolina was killed by a wood chipper.
Dickey said he knew just the bill the man was talking about because he’s the floor manager of the bill. He said the bill needs to go through editing to clean up language, particularly the section that exempts employers from liability. He said that section is meant to refer to instances where students are working at a business as part of an apprenticeship program through the school, where the school assumes liability for the student.
Dickey said the bill does not allow young people to perform dangerous tasks that were previously illegal. Current law prevents teens from working at establishments with dangerous working conditions, even if the teen wishes to work in the office, away from any danger on the factory floor. Dickey said that didn’t make sense, and that teens should be able to work in a business provided they are away from danger. He said current law also goes too far in classifying certain activities as dangerous, such as the law barring 14-17 year olds from using a microwave.
Another part of the bill would allow teenagers to work longer hours. Dickey said he has a son who is a senior in high school, and he’d rather his son spend his nights working. He said that kids in sports are out until 11 p.m. or even midnight if they have an away game. He told the audience that, if it’s OK for a student to be out late playing a game, why shouldn’t it be all right for them to work?
“Why prevent a student from having a job?” Dickey said. “This is not a child slave labor bill.”
Dickey said that, if a young person has the ambition to get ahead in life by getting a jump start on a career, they should be encouraged in their endeavor.
Fairfield resident Carole Simmons, who spoke on behalf of the Southeast Iowa Sierra Club, urged the legislators to oppose the carbon capture pipelines that have been proposed in Iowa, such as the Navigator pipeline that would go through Jefferson and other nearby counties. Simmons urged them to oppose the use of eminent domain for private companies, and asked the legislators if they would support such a bill.
Shipley said he was also skeptical of the carbon capture pipeline, and saw it as part of a broader international initiative to punish certain countries for their carbon emissions. He liked the idea offered by the Iowa Farm Bureau to require any request for eminent domain to first receive the support of 90 percent of landowners affected. However, he mentioned that requiring a business like Navigator to pay more for easements won’t necessarily torpedo the project, since it would be eligible for millions of dollars in grants from the Inflation Reduction Act.
Hayes told Simmons she was “100 percent against this pipeline.”
“It’s a matter of property rights over profits,” Hayes said.
Hayes said there is strong opposition to the pipeline in her native Mahaska County, and that she has signed onto Rep. Steven Holt’s bill to require 90 percent approval from landowners before granting eminent domain. She said the ethanol plants that are hoping to transport carbon into underground storage areas far away in other states should instead look into storing the carbon under their own plants.
Fairfield Schools Superintendent Laurie Noll spoke about the Legislature’s attempt to remove certain materials from Iowa classrooms that are deemed obscene. She asked the legislators if they had read the books they were trying to ban. Dickey responded by saying he didn’t need to read the whole books, that seeing some of the photos included in the books was enough to know that they didn’t belong in Iowa schools.
Dickey said he’s spoken to other people who have questioned the wisdom of these “book bans,” and in every case, after he showed them the pictures or passages inside, they changed their minds.
“If I showed this to a minor, I would be arrested for child porn,” Dickey said.
Shipley agreed with Dickey, saying that although schools are exempt from state rules against obscenities, some of the materials in certain schools could be considered child pornography. He said that, if school administrators felt these books were important, they could be kept in a separate section of a school’s library and not included in the general selection.
Hayes said children do not need to see graphic depictions of sex, and that it is unhealthy for them to be exposed to these materials.
“We need to let children learn and grow, and not be sexualized,” she said.
Call Andy Hallman at 641-575-0135 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org