Industrial Agriculture

Reference: JSource original

In a Nutshell…

The effects of Globalization are especially evident in the current global economy food system. The traditional notion of the small local farmer is on the decline everywhere, displaced by industrial-scale agribusiness, leaving local economies barren and sending farmers into poverty. The essentials that sustenance farming once provided have been replaced by luxury commodities that thrive on the global market. Where a few small farmers once stood, giant agribusinesses have rooted, bringing forth a new age of agriculture: The Green Revolution.

The Green Revolution is often attributed to Norman Borlaug, an American scientist who began developing new disease resistant varieties of wheat in Mexico during the 1940’s. Following WWII, scientific advancements originally devised for the war effort, translated to the production of chemically enhanced fertilizer, rich in nitrates. The Green Revolution took flight in the 1950’s and 1960’s after combining biochemical technologies with new agricultural machines. This proved highly efficient, allowing for more yield than ever before. Entrepreneurs have accomplished what was only a dream years ago: growing money. Farming, no longer a profession dominated by farmers is now ruled by big business. Sustenance farming has given way to monocropping and cash cropping. It seems the battle against Walmart has taken to the fields and Walmart has proclaimed victory, bringing with it a new meaning of green in this Green Revolution.

The Globalization of the world’s food industry is often portrayed as beneficial in media. Many proclaim it is the key to ending world hunger in a growing population. Others uphold that Industrialized Agriculture is the only logical means to an end. These and various other common misconceptions flood public ears and seed the population with the agribusiness line of thinking. In truth, there are many drawbacks that go along with Industrialized Agriculture. The overproduction of luxury items on the global market has ignored basic necessities of the local market, forcing many items that were once grown at home to be imported and therefore more expensive. World hunger is not caused by lack of food; rather, the lack of financial resources prevents people from access to such food. Hence, Industrial Agriculture can be viewed as counterproductive to combatting hunger. In fact, the price of competing with agribusinesses has led many small farmers into bankruptcy due to expensive agricultural machines and biochemically enhanced fertilizer and pesticides. Furthermore, these biochemical renditions have exacerbated our pollution problems, leaving fields and potential water sources ridden with poisons. In a world where farmers are now dependent on large corporations, who in turn receive a higher percentage of income per bushel than the farmers who grow them, local farmers across the globe must either jump or jump the bandwagon.

One major factor that has fueled both the Green Revolution and Industrial Agriculture alike is the implementation of governmental farm subsidies in countries such as the U.S. Some farm subsidies existed in the 19th century, however in the 1930’s subsidies skyrocketed under President Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression, including the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. The goal was to bail out the farming industry and stabilize the agricultural economy. Today in the U.S., farm subsidies continue. Presently, The U.S. Department of Agriculture dispenses between $15 and $35 billion annually to farmers and owners of farmland. Chris Edwards of Cato Institute advocates ending farm subsidies, stating that “subsidies are welfare for the well-to-do”. Although it seems like farm subsidies will help the plight of the small farmer, these subsidies are mainly distributed amongst the largest agribusinesses. In fact, 72% of farm subsidies go to the top 10% of farm businesses, causing more and more small farmers to hit the hay. Additionally, the majority of subsidies are allotted only to a select few cash crops, rather than crops that are in need or are necessarily healthy. Farmers of select crops get more money from the government. This causes an overproduction of select crops, making them cheaper for consumers. Unfortunately, these crops are not all healthy and many, such as corn, are used in the production of many unhealthy, high calorie food items. In essence, the U.S. government makes it cheaper to be fat by making unhealthy choices more affordable.

Table of Contents

Globalization of Industrial Agriculture

Cash Crops

The Green Revolution

False Myths of Industrial Agriculture

“The Seven Deadly Myths of Industrial Agriculture,” a series of excerpts from “Fatal Harvest”

On Farm Subsidies

Farm Subsidies and Poor Health

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