The debate between urban and rural interests in Iowa could be poised to deepen, experts say, if hog farms expand to keep up with strong demand for pork and manure.
The Des Moines Register reported Saturday that hog producers may expand herds to replace animals lost to a deadly disease and to take advantage of grower prices that are nearly 40 percent higher than a year ago.
At the same time, activist groups such as Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will continue protesting hog farm expansions because of concerns about the environment and impact on neighbors.
"Factory farming is one of the most pressing social issues in Iowa," said David Goodner, an organizer at the citizens group that has protested and stopped 11 hog farm projects in the past 18 months.
In rural Dallas County, Rob Manning is building a barn to hold 2,500 hogs that will expand his family's operation to handle roughly 20,000 hogs.
Manning said the manure, which he can use to help fertilize his family's 7,000 acres of corn and soybeans, is a big part of why they are expanding the operation.
"We're building the barns here, because this is where we farm. This is where we need it," he told the newspaper.
Manning's neighbor Eric Wessels worries about what the new hog barn and its odor will mean for his family's quality of life.
Wessels said he's upset that his neighbor was allowed to start building his new hog barn without ever receiving notice about the project.
"They can put these operations up every half mile," said Wessels, an architect. "It's an industry and needs to be regulated like one."
Hog farmers like Manning defend their industry, and they say growth in the suburbs is making it harder for farmers to expand their businesses.
"Hog buildings aren't bad," Manning said. "We're meeting a need. Everyone loves bacon, and there's only one way to get it."