A Polk County District Court judge ruled that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) improperly approved Supreme Beef’s nutrient management plan.  The nutrient management plan is a document that lays out the amount of manure that can be applied to crop fields and identifies those fields, so that the manure can be used by the crops and will not run off the fields into water bodies.

Supreme Beef LLC is beef cattle feeding operation in Clayton County, housing 11,600 animals.  It operates as an open feedlot because the animals are housed in an unroofed or partially roofed area. DNR regulations say that if the animals are housed in a building that is at least 10% unroofed, it is an open feedlot. In the case of Supreme Beef, the 10% unroofed portion is the feed bunk. So the animals stick their heads out of the buildings to eat.  The cattle never leave the buildings to go outdoors.

Supreme Beef sits near the headwaters of Bloody Run Creek, one of the most treasured trout streams in Iowa.  It is also designated as an Outstanding Iowa Water.

From the very beginning, the Department of Natural Resources had to contort its rules in order to approve the Supreme Beef nutrient management plan.  The net result was that the nutrient management plan allows too much manure to be applied to the crop fields, which will put the trout stream at risk of being polluted by manure runoff. 

With the judge’s ruling, the Department of Natural Resources has three options – appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court, to ask the judge to reconsider its ruling, or to void the nutrient management plan and issue a new one.

The Sierra Club was represented by Wally Taylor.   During oral argument in the Polk County Court, Taylor pointed out that the picking and choosing of which laws to apply is “the very definition of arbitrary and capricious”.  At the end of his argument, he stated “We are trying to protect one of Iowa’s special places.  This area of Iowa, called the Paleozoic Plateau, has 32 spring-fed Outstanding Iowa Waters, algific talus slopes, and beautiful limestone bluffs.  This is an area revered by trout fishermen.  More than any place else in Iowa, this is the area DNR should be protecting, not manipulating the rules”.

Trout Unlimited also joined the lawsuit as an intervenor.

Regardless of the next step, the Sierra Club will be there for the duration.

Below, photo of Bloody Run Creek by Larry Stone.

Bloody Run Creek trout fisherman, Clayton County, iowa