Saturday, September 02, 2006

Three thoughts on this morning's Register:

First, the shocking news: Iowa's twenty top employers did not announce plans to fail or cut jobs in a survey. This is a ridiculous concept. Like Wells Fargo et al would admit that they're planning for sales to drop and to cut workers?

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.



The Real Sporer said...

Two points of bipartisan agreement.

First, I totally agree about the solution to housing. W's urban agenda, that has been kind of lost in the war news, has numerous and pretty well funded programs to help inner city "fixer uppers" move into home ownership. The City needs to be tapping into those resources. We don't need more cookie cutter prefab houses, with the bad taste name of Katrina Cottage, we need to preserve the interesting and diverse architectural city we have. The money is there for it, believe me we Rs are tyring like crazy to give it away, so why not use it?

Second, I also agree that the confinement produced livestock is a disturbing trend that the market favors. My Chicago School free market soul is tortured by how really bad I think confinement based livestock production really is. Every fugging germ one animal breaths is picked up by another. How could that possibly not accelerate disease mutations in livestock and hence in the humans that consume it? Regulation of things like that is what seperates Republicans from libertarians.

Sorry about the rant but you really hit two of my pet issues, neither of which gets the air time it should.

RF said...

Bipartisan agreement on issues this close to an election. Are you fellows feeling ok?

A couple of observations on the CAFO issue. One of the major turning points with CAFO proliferation was the fact that in '95 Iowa legislature gave livestock producers protection from nuisance lawsuits - something other industries don't have. I guess prior to that many people felt it was a given that mega livestock facilities would be considered a nuisance.

I'm no livestock producer, but I believe it is also a fact that huge numbers of hogs could not be raised in confinements without "therapeutic" use of antibiotics. Without this constant feeding of antibiotics, diseases would run rampant and this model of hog production would not work. We could ban this kind of use of antibiotics, as at least some European countries have done.