Tricia Braid

Jan 30, 2017  |  Today's News |  Farm Policy

The Iowa Supreme Court sent down answers to the certified questions it was asked regarding Drainage District law in Iowa last Friday, a move that is widely considered as favorable for the defendants in the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit. As expected, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Defendants on each of the four legal questions. These four questions summarize the eight counts included in the lawsuit and uphold over 100 years of legal precedent established in Iowa. IL Corn is actively supporting the Iowa Corn Growers Association on this issue. Illinois Corn Growers Association President Justin Durdan was glad to hear the news.

“It’s good to hear that the drainage district law in Iowa is being upheld by the courts. We know this lawsuit has the potential to be a tipping point for water quality issues in Iowa, and here in Illinois, too. That’s why we’re committed to staying engaged and supporting our neighboring farmers at Iowa Corn as they continue to work through the lawsuit,” said ICGA President Justin Durdan. “Obviously we will continue to do the right thing on our farms in the meantime, and also when the lawsuit has been decided. That means voluntarily reducing our nutrient losses using the methods that make sense for each of us on our individual farms.”

Iowa Corn Growers Association President Kurt Hora says that it is good that Illinois corn farmers remain diligent. “We appreciate the support of the Illinois Corn Growers on that,” Hora said. “We want to keep reducing the nutrients that are going down the streams here in Iowa and in Illinois. It’s important that we keep (the nutrients) on our farms.”  

The Iowa Supreme Court answered the four legal questions posed by the Federal District Court in the Des Moines Waterworks Lawsuit. The opinion stated that Iowa law has provided immunity to drainage districts for over a century, especially as it relates to another public entity, the Des Moines Water Works. The lawsuit in question was brought against the drainage districts in Sac, Calhoun and Buena Vista counties in Northwest Iowa accusing them of contributing nitrates into the Raccoon River.

In its answers, the Iowa Supreme Court said that “drainage districts have a limited targeted role – to facilitate the drainage of farmland in order to make it more productive. Accordingly, Iowa law has immunized drainage districts from damage claims for over a century. The immunity was reaffirmed unanimously by the Iowa Supreme Court four years ago.”