PROMO 660 x 440 Animal - Sow Piglets - Wikimedia

Iowa CAFOs could cash in on California emissions credits

Mark Moran

Click play to listen to this article.

Audio file

(Iowa News Service) Iowa factory farms could cash in on new proposed carbon emissions tax-credit rules in California. 

The new emissions standards would allow California to buy tax credits from Iowa and other states, to offset diesel emissions in California. 

Though well known for polluting the state's groundwater, Iowa'a Commercial Animal Feeding Operations - or CAFOs - are considered less carbon intensive than wind and solar operations. 

PROMO Map - Iowa State Map - iStock - PeterHermesFurian

© iStock - PeterHermesFurian

That's because some CAFOs have installed anaerobic digesters, which remove methane from liquid manure. Operators sell that methane as "environmentally friendly" fuel. 

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member Brenda Brink said the rules would mean California could buy the tax credits from CAFOs instead of cleaner sources. 

"You see what's going to happen then?" said Brink. "Wind and solar is getting shafted, because they're taking off like gangbusters and there's basically no greenhouse gas emission from them."

Supporters of the new rules argue emission tax-credit plans like these are designed with the greater global good in mind, and claim the goal is to reduce emissions planet-wide. 

The public comment period just wrapped up. A decision is expected this spring.

Brink argued this emissions tax credit plan would encourage out-of-state and even international owners to build more CAFOs in Iowa - where, at more than 4,000, the state is already the nation's leader in large-scale ag operations by a factor of more than 3.5. 

"Because it's such a sweet deal, it's pushing more and more production through factory farms" said Brink. "State governments see the sweet deal it is - 'Well, look, it's clean energy.' And so, it's just this huge P.R. thing that is not true."

Based on an interactive map, California will likely purchase emission tax credits in other parts of the country as well, where CAFO operators have installed anaerobic digesters.