The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) have offered to underwrite the legal costs for the defense of the drainage districts targeted in the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) lawsuit so the northwest Iowa drainage districts, farmers and rural citizens can focus on defending the lawsuit without the impossible task of covering the cost of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.
The offer was extended to the supervisors in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties last week, since the supervisors act as trustees for the 10 drainage districts being targeted by DMWW’s lawsuit.
“Protecting farmers is really core to our mission at Farm Bureau,” IFBF President Craig Hill says. “With one in five jobs directly tied to agriculture, rural Iowa has much at stake. If DMWW prevails in its lawsuit, it has the potential to adversely impact every Iowa farmer and farmers throughout the United States. We believe it’s essential for the future of Iowa agriculture and our rural communities for us to do what it takes to ensure the lawsuit is appropriately defended with adequate resources.”
A few months ago supervisors in the targeted counties ended their relationship with the Agricultural Legal Defense fund, which left drainage districts without sufficient resources to defend against the urban lawsuit. Drainage districts do not have ratepayers or general taxing authority with which to raise funds for these types of expenses. To date, litigation costs for both sides combined have exceeded $2 million in the lawsuit.
The DMWW’s suit has garnered national attention, since it seeks to effectively change the Clean Water Act, forcing regulations and potential penalties on farmers; such action would put roadblocks on farmers’ efforts to continue trying new, innovative conservation practices to improve water quality.
“Iowa farmers are taking on the challenge of improving water quality. But, they also know this challenge is bigger than just farmers,” Hill says. “It’s why we support the collaborative, research-based Iowa Water Quality Initiative so that farmers can adopt proven methods that work best for their farms. The lawsuit only serves to delay that progress.”
The trial for the lawsuit is currently scheduled to be held in June of 2017.