craig k harris
department of sociology
michigan state university
429b berkey hall
east lansing michigan 48824-1111
> From: Hal Hamilton[SMTP:email@example.com]
> Sent: Tuesday 26 October 1999 12:22 PM
> To: Bluestem Associates; firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: RE: Ag Subsidies (was French farmers)
> Bart wrote:
> "My core belief, however, is that subsidies distort the agri-food
> economy to the degree that sustainability becomes vastly more elusive."
> Hal asks: Although you can demonstrate that subsidies provide incentives
> decisions by producers that may be different from incentives provided
> by the market, what is your evidence that market incentives yield
> sustainability? My assumption is that market incentives lead to
> externalizing costs whenever possible. If I can produce more corn by
> the fencerows, I'll do it, and let the birds nest somewhere else.
> Hal Hamilton wrote:
> >I hate to acknowledge it, but the Swiss and French Jura, where some of
> >best cheese in the world is made, would be depopulated without subsidies.
> Bart wrote: If the demand for such local high quality food is *real*, it
> will be
> reflected in prices. If it is sustainable, subsidies will be
> Hal answers: I'm talking about Swiss Gruyere and French Compte. The
> is real. The prices are relatively high. Industry is pressuring the
> farmers to increase production to meet increasing demand. The farmer
> are resisting this pressure because their mental model of success is
> something like "adequacy" instead of "continual growth." Quite
> extraordinary, really. And that's why the Jura mountains are such a
> wonderful region for tourists, hikers, bicyclists, etc.. It's beautiful.
> But, unfortunately, the market return to the farmers, even with a premium
> product, does not support a middle class lifestyle with modest scale
> production. So there are subsidies for young farmers (something like
> $50,000 grant to get started or buy out the parents), subsidies for
> producing in the mountains, so the landscape is protected, and so forth.
> rough estimate is that something like 30-40 percent of net farm income
> from subsidies. Is this wrong? Our society subsidizes education, highway
> construction, health care, military defense, rural development, recreation
> in parks, and so on. Why not farming in regions that would otherwise be
> depopulated? I wish it didn't appear to be necessary, and I agree that
> contract should be clear--internalize costs, no dumping, protect
> biodiversity, water quality, etc..
> Hal Hamilton
> Center for Sustainable Systems
> 433 Chestnut St., Berea KY 40403 USA
> Phone: (606) 986-5336; Fax: (606) 986-1299
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