Save Bloody Run

Save Bloody Run

Update!  In November, 2023, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources approved Supreme Beef's revised nutrient management plan.  The Sierra Club is reviewing the plan and its implications.  Check back later for more information.


In the spring of 2023, 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.

The DNR failed to follow its own rules and procedures when reviewing and ultimately approving the Supreme Beef Nutrient Management Plan (NMP).

Bloody Run Creek is one of Iowa’s few Outstanding Iowa Waterbodies and DNR never should have approved Supreme Beef to build and spread manure in the watershed and surrounding watersheds.

Among the many arguments raised in our lawsuit, the filing details obvious miscalculations. Inappropriate manure storage, improper calculation of the amount of manure nitrogen and phosphorus the 11,600 cattle will produce and the risk of spreading manure on Highly Erodible Land (HEL) poses a dangerous risk to nearby Outstanding Iowa Water designee Bloody Run Creek and other streams in the area.  The judge agreed with Sierra Club.

After the Polk County judge ruled that the DNR improperly approved the nutrient management plan, it was up to the DNR to require Supreme Beef to resubmit a new plan.  Furthermore, the DNR told Supreme Beef that it could not remove any manure from its storage basins until a new nutrient management plan was approved.

That revised plan was approved in November, 2023.

Supreme Beef is an 11,600-head cattle confinement that was constructed in the Bloody Run Creek watershed in Clayton County.  Bloody Run Creek is an Outstanding Iowa Water, a special designation for waters that are meeting water quality standards.  Plus the creek is a trout stream and home to naturally reproducing brown trout.  Additionally the area where the confinement and its manure application fields (farm fields where the manure is spread) is riddled with sink holes, a result of being in karst topography.

There is a high risk that this confinement will destroy the trout stream and will impact the sensitive features of northeast Iowa’s karst topography.  This area of karst geology contains cold water trout streams, Outstanding Iowa Waters (OIW), spring creeks, limestone bluffs, algific talus slopes, and other unique features. In this landscape, there are thousands of identified sinkholes and uncountable fissures and crevices in exposed and barely hidden fractured limestone and dolomite that are direct conduits from the surface to the shallow aquifer below.  Algific talus slopes are extremely rare and fragile ecosystems, often supporting endangered plant and animal species, that only exist in small parts of Southern Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and especially in the driftless region of Northeast Iowa.

Throughout the application process, Sierra Club, along with numerous allies, made appeals to the staff of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), to the Environmental Protection Commission which is the DNR's citizen governing board, and to the Department Director Kayla Lyon.  The appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

But our advocacy work will continue and we will pursue all avenues to Save Bloody Run.

Image of Supreme Beef, manure fields, sinkholes, and Outstanding Iowa Waterbodies

Image courtesy of Steve Veysey. 

Note from above image: AFO stands for Animal Feeding Operation which is an umbrella term for a factory farm, feedlot, or confinement.

What we’ve done so far:

Participated in the DNR Public Comment Period

Sierra Club Iowa Chapter and allies participated in the official public comment period for Supreme Beef. We submitted errors we identified in the Nutrient Management Plan and over 80 Sierra Club members weighed in to support our comments. The DNR did not take our comments into consideration.
Read more here.
Read our comments here.
Watch our Lunch & Learn about the Supreme Beef Public Comment Period.
Watch our Lunch & Learn about Manure Management and Supreme Beef.

Requested a hearing with the Environmental Protection Commision to overturn Supreme Beef's approval

Sierra Club Iowa Chapter and allies, requested that the DNR oversight board, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), hold a hearing and overturn the DNR’s decision to approve the Nutrient Management Plan despite the errors that were left unaddressed. The EPC, at the direction of the Attorney General’s Office, denied our request.
Read more here.
View our request here.
Watch our Lunch & Learn about our request for hearing.

Requested DNR Director Lyon use her authority to deny Supreme Beef

Sierra Club Iowa Chapter and allies submitted a formal request to ask DNR Director Kayla Lyon to use her authority under the DNR Director Discretion Rule to stop Supreme Beef from building. We received support for this effort from 47 organizations, legislators, and community leaders. Director Lyon refused to use her authority.
Read more here.
View the request here.
Watch our Lunch & Learn about the Director Discretion Rule.

Held a webinar with Iowa experts to understand how Supreme Beef and the factory farm industry impact our water

Watch our Supreme Beef Webinar here.

Filed a lawsuit in Polk County that asked the judge to void the nutrient management plan

Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited successfully convinced the judge to void the nutrient management plan approved by the Department of Natural Resources.  

And another flawed nutrient management plan

As a result of the Sierra Club's successful lawsuit, Supreme Beef filed a revised nutrient management plan.  That plan was riddled with errors, miscalculations, and missing information.  The net result is that the permit will allow more manure to be applied to the farm fields than the farm fields and crops can handle.  That extra manure will run off the fields and into the creek and sink holes which feed into Bloody Run Creek.  Manure in water is a pollutant that destroys water quality and fish habitat.

In September, 2023, the owners of Supreme Beef submitted a new plan.  After a public hearing where problems with the revised plan were identified and after numerous corrections, the DNR approved the revised plan in November, 2023.

Sierra Club will continue to follow this.


What’s next?

Supreme Beef highlights so many things that are wrong with the factory farm industry in Iowa. Iowa’s water protections are lackluster at best. The DNR refuses to use its authority or even follow its own rules that are already in place to protect our water from factory farm pollution. On top of that, Supreme Beef exposed the political collusion that happens behind closed doors to allow the never-ending expansion of the factory farm industry no matter what the cost.

Art Cullen sums this up as: “It just gets bigger.  The huge dairies in California, under threat of fire and running out of water, are moving back to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.  So are the beef cattle as the Great Plains run dry.  One cowboy wants to lay in 11,000 steers next to one of Iowa’s rare trout streams.  Go right ahead, the state said.  Mark it up as progress.”  See Art Cullen, “Auctioning Off Rural America”, The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2021

These problems have left Iowa in a dire condition. When our state leaders and the industrial agriculture community refuse to do the right thing, we’re forced to take every step possible to stop factory farms like Supreme Beef.

How can you get involved?

Sign up for Sierra Club emails for updates and when it’s time to take action.

Visit to donate to the Save Bloody Run Legal Fund.

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