Ag Organizations Offer To Cover Defense Legal Fees In Farm Runoff Lawsuit

Sep 13, 2016

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa Corn Growers Association are offering to pay the legal costs in a lawsuit that names three northwest Iowa counties.  Des Moines Water Works alleges that farm runoff from drainage districts in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac Counties has caused exceedingly high nitrate levels in the city's water supply. 

Craig Hill is president of the Farm Bureau. He says the counties have been unfairly singled out in the Water Works lawsuit.

"It is a statewide problem. It is a watershed problem...It's something that all of use need to be working for, not just these individuals," says Hill. "We want to be there to defend and to assist." 

According to Sac County drainage attorney Colin McCullough, the three county boards of supervisors haven't had an opportunity to consider the offer. 

“We're going to meet next week," says McCullough. "Initially we were happily surprised and look forward to working with the Farm Bureau and Corn Growers." 

McCullough notes that the Iowa Soybean Association has also provided assistance in covering the defense's legal costs. He says so far legal fees for the defense have totaled over $1 million, but adds, "It’s any person’s guess," as to how large the final bill will grow. 

Bill Stowe of the Des Moines Water Works says the financial support by the Farm Bureau and Corn Growers shows that these organizations are in denial of industrial agriculture's downstream effects.

"Iowa's surface waters continue to degrade. They are extraordinarily difficult to make safe for drinking water purposes for a half million central Iowans," says Stowe. "We'll continue to push this forward and believe that we have the support of not only the law, but a majority of Iowans." 

The trial for the lawsuit is scheduled for federal district court in June 2017. On Wednesday, the Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether drainage districts have unqualified immunity from damage claims.