Agriculture was practiced for THOUSANDS of years on Earth before becoming industrialized oh-so-much oh-so-much in the last century (especially in developed countries, like the United States). Agricultural policies (basically rules which the big guys use to regulate agriculture) in the 1970’s set the stage for present day, when they stared encouraging the overproduction of commodity crops, especially corn and soy. Gradually, producers became more reliant on subsidies provided by the government for producing commodity crops. Overall— these policies created a problem that many farmers grapple with today. With prices set artificially low (via policy), producers had and have trouble making market profit on crops— forcing many to rely on government-subsidized commodity crops.
The Farmer’s Paradox?!
In the agricultural space, subsidies are given by an indicator of output.
Here’s the gist:
Output = (land + seeds + labor + other capital invested) = $$$
- Output: Harvest brought to market
- (land + seeds + labor + other capital invested): These are also sometimes subsidized
- $$$: From market sales; From government subsidies (crop insurance, direct subsidies, etc.)
SO… Farmer guys, gals, and everyone in between have to ask, “How can we keep growing subsidized crops with increasing yields required with each passing farm bill?!” Under current legislation, raw output is super-duper subsidized (Although it’s more debated in recent years). Even more discouraging is how, legislatively— sustainable farm practices tend to receive MUCH less benefits than unsustainable ones.
In the United States, agricultural policies encourage unsustainable crop production— including overproduction and chemical fertilizer use. The overarching problem is exemplified in corn crop production in Iowa, and its impact on the water quality of the Mississippi Water Basin.
A widespread result is concern involving the absence of adequate legislation protecting long term environmental quality and health impacts on people!
WHO Cares? (Literally…)
- Generally in favor of system-wide approaches
- Often use biocentric lens, as opposed to economic
- Cite responsibility to protect future generations
- Often use economic lens, as opposed to biocentric
- Believers in human innovation and ingenuity to solve environmental problems
- Cite responsibility to current generation
It’s important to note that spectrum of Environmentalism/Cornocopian-ism exists on a huge scale. For most, it’s hard to define clearly as either one or the other in all actions and thoughts. Niches certainly exist among the two groups (as you’ll see through this Agriculture Policy Series), but they certainly all have quite an interest in Iowa’s cornfields.
Be sure to go read and Part 2—What do Iowan Environmentalists Say about Corn Policy?, and Part 3— What & Who are Cornucopian Stakeholders in Iowa’s Cornfields?! Part 4— Iowa’s Corn Policy-so-Far, and Part 5— Summary & Policy Recommendations for Corn in Iowa.
Find the whole series compiled in the Agriculture Policy Series tab!