The Register editorial board also wants us to build more low-income housing:
It can be done: Construction quality of modern manufactured housing - built on vehicle-like chassis or delivered in sections and assembled on site - has improved to the point that it's become popular with wealthy buyers. For the other end of the market, architects created a model home in response to the Gulf Coast hurricane, dubbed the "Katrina Cottage," that can be build for a fraction of the cost of a traditional house.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but Des Moines doesn't exactly have a ton of wide open spaces to fill with "Katrina Cottages." That's a terrible thing to call low income housing, by the way.
Huge blocks of small single-family dwellings aren't being built in Des Moines because there's not room for them, and the combination of property values and NIMBY mentality will keep it from happening in the suburbs. The solution isn't building more houses. The solution is making it feasible for more people to repair, renovate and improve the vacant, boarded up houses that litter the landscape. The people who don't want to or can't take responsibility for maintaining their own living space will probably always have to rent.
Lastly, Mark Imerman, an economist at ISU, blames the CAFO situation on economic factors:
One thing is certain. As long as the consumer shops for the best prices on meat, more and more livestock will be produced in confinement. The question, from this perspective, is not whether to allow or ban confinement production. The more pertinent questions are: Where will production take place and how will it be owned?
I'm going to argue with his premise. It's true that economic factors have made it economically appealing to build massive hog confinements. It's also true that if we ban hog confinements the price of meat will rise and, presumably, less people will eat meat. That doesn't change the fact that it's the right thing to do.
CAFOs are an environmental disaster. They're tremendous polluters of both water and air, they drive down property values and give our rural areas a negative image. Perhaps more importantly, the decrease in prices caused by massive hog production has eliminated the profit margins of small-scale farmers across the state and the nation.
If we ban or limit CAFO construction, the price of meat will rise, and for the consumer that will be unfortunate. But for an entire generation of new farmers, it's an opportunity they otherwise would never see. And for our air and water, it's the best possible outcome.