Success Stories

Going toe-to-toe (or hoof-to-hoof) with Big Agriculture can seem intimidating, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Grassroots activists across the nation have won key victories through cunning tactics and determined organizing. Never underestimate the potential of people power!

We have collected a number of Success Stories that demonstrate how to defeat big meat, egg, and dairy conglomerates when they target your town with industrial CAFOs. Read them to gain valuable wisdom for your own fight!


Sometimes it is the watchful eyes of CAFO neighbors who make complaints to a state regulating agency that gets action. Occasionally, the public using a well-loved river or lake finds the manure pollution. Sometimes, it is the occasional visit by a regulator to a CAFO that finds something wrong in the operations. In the best cases, the CAFO operator would make the call, about which this story is written in 2023. But what ultimate protection does an $8,000 fine provide for our precious water, land, and air?

“An eastern Iowa company that applied more than 1.5 million gallons of manure to a field and contaminated a nearby creek in 2021 did not take steps to stop the contamination after it was discovered, according to state regulators. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources recently fined Cat-Nip Ridge Manure Application, of Lone Tree, $8,000 for the incident. The company was hired to inject manure from a hog confinement south of Bloomfield into the soil of a field in October 2021, a DNR order said. After the work concluded, another company that manages the facility reported that water was flowing from tile lines that drain the field.”


In every case, our water quality and our environment has already taken a hit because of our complaint-based system of regulation of CAFOs. These manure factories are huge operations that require management skills of a small workforce, control of animals and their excrement, and the field-application of manure.  Concern for environmental impact is up to us.


After three public hearings in 2023-24, and a petition with over 5,000 signatures, Missouri regulators backed off their plan to issue a permit to a meatpacking plant to send their waste onto the fields and into rivers in the area.

“Following public backlash, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is moving to deny a beef packer’s request to pump treated waste into a southwest Missouri river . . . The plan generated intense public opposition due to pollution concerns, and a petition to stop the dumping of waste into the river had generated more than 5,000 signatures as of Wednesday.”

Although, regulators had the antidegradation science to deny the permit request, they were planning to issue the permit with effluent limits and requirements the facility would need to meet. But the public studied the 350,000 gallons of wastewater that would be discharged into the Pomme de Terre River and rallied to change the state’s direction. There would be no permit and no allowance for the meatpacker to land-apply the company’s waste.

The state decided they needed more information on the company’s proprietary microbe treatment technology. John Hoke, water protection program manager for the Department of Natural Resources, stated, “After taking comments on the antidegradation review and questions regarding the iLeaf technology, we revisited our regulations and ascertained that we did not have sufficient information in the current application to make a decision. Missouri Prime Beef Packers does have an opportunity to help sway the state with a complete and acceptable permit application.

In the end, after the meatpacker and the public had further chance to review the state’s intent to deny the permit, Missouri Prime Beef Packers withdrew their application.


Application for a CAFO housing over 200,000 broiler chickens stalled in NE Kansas – Craig Volland

Early in 2021 an application was filed for a CAFO to confine 224,000 broiler chickens near the city of Hiawatha, Ks. in the northeast corner of the state near the Nebraska line. This CAFO was to be located near drinking water, and aquifer monitoring wells serving the city and surrounding area. Some 1800 tons of poultry waste was to be exported, in part, to a neighbor of the CAFO operator and spread upon fields located above this aquifer.

The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club worked with the Kansas Rural Center and Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) to organize and inform local citizens about the threat. The Kansas Chapter prepared the attached factsheet. It was distributed to the local citizens group and also served as the chapter’s official comment to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

On March 29, 2021 we were informed that the application had been withdrawn.

It has been our experience that informing affected citizens with a technical fact sheet gives them more confidence to speak out in opposition. Another big lesson from this experience is the huge regulatory loophole represented by the ability of CAFO operators to “export” or “manifest” their wastes to other entities with minimal information of how it will be handled.


Does the Department of Natural Resources Have the Authority to Protect Our Drinking Water?
Sep 7, 2021

Can the DNR impose rules that will protect Wisconsinites’ drinking water? More specifically, can the DNR impose limits on numbers of animals in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, require monitoring of nearby wells, and restrict the amount of water drawn from groundwater? Yes, says the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in two rulings that advance the cause of clean drinking water in rural Wisconsin.

These cases were both basically about whether the DNR has the authority to carry out its mandate to protect Wisconsin’s environment. The Court delivered a setback to Republican legislators who have been trying, through Act 21, to require all specific regulatory actions by agencies like the DNR to be written into state law. In two 4-2 decisions, the Court ruled that the individual actions of agencies like the DNR do not need to be written into law so long as their ultimate goals are, and that the DNR has authority to take regulatory actions in pursuance of those goals.

Citizens casually following the issue can be excused for being confused about who’s on what side, however – because both cases were challenges to the DNR.


Farmer drops 'karst country' swine feedlot plan
February 12, 2019

A Fillmore County farmer who sought to build the county’s largest animal feedlot has withdrawn his permit application in the face of sustained local opposition, marking the end of the road for the proposed Catalpa Ag hog farm.

State pollution officials said Monday that Al Hein informed them of his decision via e-mail, and that it terminates his application.

Hein, the majority holder in Catalpa Ag, wanted to build a piglet operation with nearly 5,000 pigs on his farm near Mabel, Minn., in southeastern Minnesota. The operation would have been managed by Iowa-based Waukon Feed Ranch.

The feedlot ignited unusual local alarm, drawing large crowds at two informational meetings held by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and a record number of comments during the agency’s public-comment period. Area residents and others expressed concern that the 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure the pigs would produce each year would threaten their groundwater. They pressed the MPCA to require a full environmental review of the proposal and said that southeastern Minnesota, with its porous karst geography, was the wrong place for the large operation.


Company withdraws plan for 10,000 hogs northeast of KC after local opposition, lawsuit
April 14, 2021

…the site had been caught up in litigation over an emergency rule change DNR enacted that critics said was aimed at smoothing the way for a permit. DNR changed how it defines groundwater near CAFOs to exclude shallow, or “perched,” groundwater. Officials had said the reference was inadvertently deleted during a push to cut red tape under Gov. Eric Greitens and that the proposed change was simply a restoration of the earlier definition.

But CAFO opponents, represented by St. Louis environmental attorney Stephen Jeffery, accused the agency of trying to clear the way for United Hog because opponents said they found shallow groundwater near the site. Jeffery said a judge held a hearing last week but hasn’t issued a decision yet.


Christmas Comes Early for Mason County, Illinois, Residents After Funding Pulled for Proposed Hog CAFO
December 24, 2021

Prospective CAFO Fanter Farms applied for a “Beginning Farmer” loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guaranteed FSA loan program.

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, FSA must consider the environmental and cultural effects of government-issued loans made through its program.

A multitude of Illinois residents and members of Mason County Concerned Citizens (MCCC) coalition submitted individual and group comments to FSA regarding the potential negative impacts of the CAFO on surrounding communities and beyond.

The comments raised concerns about the potential impact to the aquifer, local infrastructure costs, property devaluation, the Illinois Chorus Frog–deemed “threatened” by the state–and the proven human health risks tied to living near CAFOs.

Some of the comments called out FSA for relying on faulty and incomplete information when it performed an environmental assessment that determined the CAFO would have “no significant impact” on the environment.