Three points you made, all worthy of further notice and discussion --
1. "grateful for my wife's job in town"
2. "cheap food and revolution"
2. "nationalization or deregulation"
1. Perhaps inadvertently, you hit upon some truths about rural economies
today. Rural development does not depend on farm incomes; most farm
households draw the bulk of their disposable income from off-farm
employment. Small farms rely overwhelmingly on off-farm income; medium-
sized farms reflect an almost perfect balance between farm and off-farm
income. See Bruce Gardner, Demythologizing Farm Income, Choices, 1st Q.
1993, at 22, 23. Off-farm income, given the structure and traditional
dynamics of farm family relationships, is female income. Massive human
exodus and the attending sociological catastrophe have usually occurred in
response to the elimination of "female" labor opportunities rather than
"male" labor opportunities. Lowell, Mass., typified this phenomenon in the
years so poignantly depicted in Theodore Dreiser's novel, An American
Tragedy; Herman, Minn., with its recent and arguably humiliating plea for
women, any women, willing to move to the more distant corners of this state
shows how live the issue remains today. Female labor in rural America, as
it is in the rest of the economy, largely rests on the health of the "FIRE"
industries: *F*inance, *I*nsurance, *R*eal *E*state. As such, a rural
development strategy that focuses exclusively or even primarily on
agriculture is likely to fail. "Sustainable agriculture" as a sociological
exercise -- as opposed to its distinct ecological objectives -- doesn't
work, won't work, and (quite frankly) shouldn't work. (Please excuse the
sweeping generalizations: this is Internet, after all, not a peer-reviewed
professional journal, and I am thoroughly aware of the difference.)
2. Cheap food and revolution: Yup, food ought to be cheap, consistent with
the fully internalized social cost of production. I thought that was the
one constant that tied this newsgroup together. Geez -- who could be a
proponent of _un_sustainable agriculture? But maybe not, if cheap,
properly priced food means lower farm incomes, especially for operators of
small to medium multi-generational farms. It does seem awfully fashionable
to trash policies that reduce commodity prices -- precisely because too
many agriculturalists treat maximized farm incomes rather than social
welfare in its broadest sense as the economic norm we should be seeking.
3. Nationalization or deregulation? Well, in theory either system would
be preferable to a mangled regulatory agenda. Nationalization in practice,
however, has left the former republics of the Soviet Union in the grotesque
position of being simultaneously the world's largest producers of wheat and
the world's largest *importers*. That's right, Mother Russia can't even
feed herself, not after seventy-five years of collectivization and state
ownership. All other things being equal, I'd opt for complete repeal of
the 1949 Agriculture Act and the battery of statutes delivering water and
grazing subsidies to the farming West. Again, I realize that this is an
oversimplified portrayal of the legislative situation. I also admit that,
politics being what they are, I had better formulate some fallback
recommendations on the carnival that will be Farm Bill '95 under the
supervision of Speaker Newt and Leader Bob.
Time to go back to work on slamming the latest five-year plan for American
agriculture. See you all later on the 'net.
Associate Professor of Law
University of Minnesota Law School
229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
voice: (612) 625-4839
fax: (612) 625-2011