The Storm Lake Times, a tiny newspaper in rural Iowa, became the topic of headlines around the world this week after it won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the local political power of agricultural interests.
In this piece by Art Cullen, for example, the paper explored how the Farm Bureau funded the county-level legal defense against accusations that excessive fertilizer use had polluted local water supplies. The Farm Bureau's "generosity" came with a catch.
Buena Vista County officially is a Farm Bureau county. The Farm Bureau and Iowa Corn Growers have pledged to cover the legal bills of Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac counties as they defend themselves against a lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Water Works over pollution of the Raccoon River. The supervisors are expected to happily agree. The BV supervisors looked like the cat that just swallowed the canary upon announcing the deal.
They are happy that Farm Bureau is setting the terms of the legal defense and not the elected officials of our county. We have given up our franchise.
The supervisors believe they have no choice but to allow Farm Bureau to pay the bills and thus call the shots. They already called one shot: In the Farm Bureau engagement letter proposed to the counties, it states that the counties shall not claim that farmers are liable for pollution claims in the lawsuit in order to hold drainage districts or the county itself harmless.Let us pause for a moment of appreciation for everybody whose work requires them, on occasion, to speak a hard truth.