April 14, 2024

New Report Sparks Questions and Controversy Over Possible Causes for Iowa “Cancer Crisis”

Amid increasing scrutiny of a potential link between Iowa farm chemicals and cancer, a new report is generating controversy as it blames rising cancer rates not on the toxins used widely throughout the state, but on something else entirely: binge alcohol consumption. The Iowa Cancer Registry, a health research group housed at the University of Iowa, reported on February 20 that Iowa has the second-highest and fastest-rising incidence of cancer among all states. An estimated 21,000 new …

Read More

“Best Management Practices” Aren’t Best and Don’t Work to Curb Farm Nutrient Contamination

America’s immense, productive, polluting, and disease-generating farm sector is a big target for reform and improvement. It has been every year since Earl Butz, the Secretary of Agriculture during the Nixon administration counseled farmers to “plant fence row to fence row,” and “get big or get out.” Congress complied with changes in farm policy that encouraged payment of subsidies for field crops that eventually were uncapped, promoted ethanol from corn as a substitute for gasoline, …

Read More

Cancer-Related Disease and Deaths Spur Actions to Fight Farm Chemical Contamination in Corn Belt

When directors of the public water utility in Des Moines, Iowa, went to court in 2015 to try to stop toxic farm nutrients from contaminating the city’s drinking water, they knew the federal lawsuit they filed would be seen as not just a desperate step to protect public health, but also a brazen act of defiance that would provoke a ferocious response from Iowa’s powerful farm and political leadership. As they anticipated, a cohort of agricultural interests …

Read More

Austin Frerick’s “Barons” Uncovers A Second Systemic Farm Scandal – Antitrust Waivers

Two years of investigation into the causes and myriad health and environmental consequences of America’s dangerous industrialized farm practices finally enabled me to develop the one-line elevator explanation of what’s really going on. Essentially, U.S. agriculture is a rogue industrial enterprise financed with hundreds of billions of public dollars and operating without constraint within the laws it contorted for its own benefit. The consequence is that agriculture is the worst water polluter in the nation’s …

Read More

Toxic Terrain’s Dogged Reporting

The essential purpose of project investigative journalism is to engage readers with new information about a subject of relevance and importance. In doing so, journalists seek to prompt changes in policy and behavior that benefit the public interest. As Upton Sinclair once said of his dogged journalism about the filth and danger of Chicago slaughterhouses: “The source and fountain-head of genuine reform in this matter is an enlightened public opinion.” Those who’ve followed my work …

Read More

“We Can’t Sit Back”– Amid Polluted Water and Climbing Cancer Rates, Iowa Health Officials Eye Farm Chemicals

With one eye fixed on Iowa’s startlingly high cancer rate and the other wary of a political pushback, public health leaders are embracing a novel strategy for preventing malignancies in the nation’s largest farm state. In a departure from other state cancer prevention programs, which rarely address environmental risk factors for cancer other than radon, a known cause of lung cancer, Iowa is working to better understand and make the case for limiting exposure to …

Read More

Only In Iowa; Barrels of Waste Buried On Farm Go Untested

The Iowa Capitol Dispatch, one of the fine non-profit online news organizations at the center of the country, posted an article last week by Jared Strong that caught my attention. Following more than a year of administrative pondering the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on November 30 fined a prominent cattle farm in Stockton $5,000 for illegally burying barrels of chemical waste on its land. Why, you ask, would such a modest fine issued by …

Read More

Will Energy From Manure Help or Harm Water Quality in Michigan?

HARTFORD, MI – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s plan to generate all of Michigan’s energy from renewable sources by 2040 is meant to limit climate change gases. It also has consequences for improving or damaging the state’s waters. Replacing polluting fossil fuel plants with cleaner energy sources would limit oil pipeline spills, curtail mercury contamination, and halt discharges from coal-fired power plants. But those benefits could be easily overwhelmed by the development of a new renewable energy …

Read More

Manure Biodigesters Raising a Stink

AMES, IOWA – Because crop farmers can apply as much commercial fertilizer as they like to farmland, and livestock farmers spread over one billion tons of raw livestock feces and urine, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified nutrient discharges from U.S. agriculture as “the single greatest challenge to our nation’s water quality.” The E.P.A.’s effort in stemming the pollution, though, has been listless for decades. And the farm sector categorically rejects accountability and responsibility …

Read More

EPA Orders Minnesota to Protect Residents From Toxic Farm Nutrients

For two years I’ve investigated and reported on the biggest water pollution scandal in the United States — the mammoth unregulated discharge of phosphorus and nitrates from commercial fertilizer and manure into the nation’s surface and groundwater. Agriculture is the source of the worst water pollution in the country’s history. More than coal mining and combustion. More than chemical or steel manufacturing. More than oil refining. More than sewage treatment. More than hard rock mining. …

Read More