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Master Matrix Scores Permit Applications

After months of debate, Iowa's most recent livestock regulation went into effect on March 1, 2003.

After months of debate, Iowa's most recent livestock regulation went into effect on March 1, 2003.

Known as the master matrix, the new scoring system allows local governments to have a say in proposed confinement sites in Iowa counties, while requiring more environmental- and community-friendly practices from producers.

The bill originated from a 12-member, ad-hoc committee composed of six members from the Iowa Senate and House in February 2002. Jeff Angelo, Republican senator from Creston, IA, served as floor manager of the bill. Angelo says the intent of Senate File 2293 was to prevent negative repercussions for the agricultural sector. “There was a huge social outcry that local residents felt they had no say in the siting of facilities,” he explains.

A committee of 10 organizations was formed to represent both sides of the issue. Members included Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA), Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa State Association of Counties and others, who developed the scoring criteria. Consensus recommendations were sent to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

What It Does and Doesn't Do

The master matrix will allow boards of supervisors and local citizens more information and input on projects before construction is approved, says committee member John Korslund, DVM, Eagle Grove, IA.

“A score will be given, however imperfect, to each project for comparison and/or analysis. The matrix will cause further analysis and modification of projects to minimize environmental and social concerns,” he adds.

“It is not going to stop livestock production, but will make applicants cognitively aware of what affect they have on their neighbors,” says Wayne Gieselman, DNR Division administrator for Environmental Services. In comments sent to DNR, IPPA pointed out that over the past eight years, livestock farmers have had to comply with six new livestock regulations with more than 200 pages of new legislation.

Because the matrix requires minimum scores in the three subcategories, it may have more impact on family farms. “I'm concerned for the producer who does not have the ability to pick different sites in different parts of the state or county,” Gieselman adds.

What the Future Holds

Korslund, also a pork producer, says environmentalists and legislators may see the matrix as ineffective because few applicants will fail the test. “We will be accused of creating a ‘no-teeth’ matrix, since nothing gets stopped by it. Nearly every site submitted will pass the matrix, or why submit?” he says.

Although both sides of the issue are unhappy with the final results, Angelo feels the legislation offers a true compromise.

Thirteen counties have already adopted the master matrix. Many states have expressed interest. “I'd like to think Iowa is a forerunner of environmental things to come,” Gieselman says.

For an in-depth review of the master matrix development, including a map of counties that have adopted it, visit

How the Matrix Will Work

Each site will be scored on three main subcategories — air quality, water quality and community impact.

The matrix offers a menu of regulations above and beyond the required state laws. Producers can pick from 44 criteria, choosing those they want to comply with, explains IPPA attorney Eldon McAfee. The list of scoring criteria can be found at

Criteria address issues related to distance separations, manure management practices and demonstrations of community support. An overall score is given for each criterion that is accomplished, as well as point distributions for subcategories. Partial credit cannot be received. The criterion is designed to be objective and quantifiable, so when different people score a site, the numbers would come out the same.

County boards of supervisors may use the master matrix to apply more stringent guidelines to applications. If the county decides to use the matrix, applicants proposing a new site to house 1,000 animal units (AU) or more must pass the tests; 1,000 AU is 2,500 head of hogs. Proposals to expand an existing site must comply at a level of 1,666 AU or more.

Consensus was not reached on several items so public comments were solicited. After reviewing comments, the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) proposed 50% of the total possible points be achieved for the minimum threshold, while 25% of the total available points in each subcategory must also be met.