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How a Massive New Cattle Feedlot Threatens One of Iowa's Last Pristine Waterways

Years of controversy, environmental violations, and a whole lot of poop

In northern Iowa, nestled among limestone bluffs, is Bloody Run Creek, a six-and-a-half mile, clear-water stream revered for its trout fishing. The creek is a popular tourist spot and  one of just 34 bodies of water in the entire state labeled as an “Outstanding Iowa Water” for its near-pristine condition. Earlier this month, however, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources granted final approval for a massive new concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, roughly two miles from the banks of Bloody Run. 

The facility, owned by Supreme Beef LLC and located in Clayton County, will be one of Iowa’s largest CAFOs ever, housing 11,600 heads of cattle and producing an estimated 35.4 million gallons of manure annually. The approval on April 2 of the facility’s nutrient management plan — essentially how the company will store and dispose of manure — comes after years of opposition from citizen and environmental groups.