> Does society somehow benefit from a few large farms?
James says: I have a hard time seeing if it makes any difference.
It sure does make a difference if you are one of the small to medium
sized farmers dispossessed of your land and livelihood in the
interests of promoting bigness, or perhaps, one of those
left behind in a rural community of diminished vitality, reduced
opportunities for your family, etc.....If it doesn't "make a
difference" in terms of yield, quality, or otherwise serving societal
demand for food, then why the governmental incentives favoring
> 2. What is the scale-dependence of environmental impact from
James says: In my own opinion, the main role size would play is the
ability to handle risk either in trying new crops or in self-
I'd be interested in any documentation that may be available on this
> 3. How has food security been impacted by this governmentally driven
> push to "bigness"?
> the upshot of this is that when combined with the high level of
> specialization in modern agriculture (which reduces the potential
> for on-farm buffering against the vagaries of whatever), the "risk"
> of agriculture really cannot be absorbed on the farm anymore, and
> has now been transferred to society, in the form of subsidy and
> insurance programs.
James says: When I was young, we raised chickens, sold eggs, milk,
cream, etc. as well as the main crops. You can still do this, but
it's labor and time intensive and you are much more exposed to market
risk. It's pretty hard to sell eggs as cheap as the big factories
do. Nevertheless, if you're willing to trade labor for equity, you
can do this.
And why is it that the big factories can do it so cheaply? To what
extent is their advantage "earned" by the inherent advantages of
bigness vs. "given" by scale-dependent policies? To what extent will
the advantages of concentration of power/resource become disadvantages
when held accountable for environmental impacts?
Regarding your final point on GATT and takeover by Australians etc. -
it was interesting to learn from a speaker in one of my classes that
the mining industry is currently in the process of upgrading the
ISO 9000 rules by which they operate. Apparently, in order to market
internationally, the players must comply with specific environmental
standards and regulations - which are being updated and made more
stringent at present. Is it too much of a stretch to envision the
same pertaining to global agricultural trading? In which case, the
preceeding paragraph may pertain - especially if full cost accounting
reveals long-distance transportation to be an effective countervail
to the biological advantages enjoyed by some distant producing
Seems to me your reasoning discounts environmental concerns - and
their possible scale-dependence - to an unrealistic degree. If I
can (gently) put words into your mouth, it seems that your reasoning
assumes straight profit is and will always be the driving force that
determines the winners. I would question that logic, in part because
"straight profit" seems to be an oxymoron, with apparent
profitability being so greatly influenced by fickle policymakers, and
because I see the costs of environmental compliance looming heavily
on the horizon.
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933