GEOG_130 (6/6)

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Department
Geography
Course
GEOG 130
Professor
Nicole C.List
Semester
Summer

Description
GEOG 130 (6/6) Big Ag.: Rise of the Food Giants Review Dust Bowl ● Where ○ “No Man’s Land” (storms) but expanded out to the E ○ Political-economic results expanded beyond the immediate agricultural area ● What caused? ○ Sod-busting w/o anticipation of droughts, rapid expansion of large area ○ Faulty expectation of climate uniformity ○ Underlying patterns of land ownership (land rushes, laws, credit relationships) ○ Availability of new tech (tractors, railroads) that imposed certain spatial scales of production ● Natural disaster? ○ Social processes interact w/ ecological ○ Human action produced environmental disaster ○ Could not switch our crop due to ability to produce by farmers vs. other farm- goods ○ Because price dropped, made more to make up difference ○ Advertisement as “breadbasket” of the US ● How did gov respond? ○ Didn’t do anything until dust got to the East ○ Subsidies to kill cattle, “holding soil in place” using cars, concrete ○ Agricultural Welfare State ■ Employment: ● CCC (Commodities Capital Corporation): loans for production (seeds, etc. for next round) ● WPA (Work Progress Administration): work for rural families ■ Income: ● Social Security ● Price supports: purchase of farm animals for certain price b/c no market for it = can/give away to poor ■ Production: ● AAA ● Repurchase of marginal lands ■ Soil: ● SCS ● Contour plowing ● Shelterbelts ■ Ecology dictate a return to grazing-based economy, but 1) lower returns/acre, 2) support fewer people, 3) still subject to drought cycles ● Specific policies? (Rotting surpluses and empty stomachs) ○ New Deal Farm Policies ■ Food destroyed to save market ■ 80% of hogs liquefied/churned into inedible products (soap, fertilizer) ■ “Not enough drought to go around”: 1930 Farm Board bought up 65 mill bushels of wheat to protect prices ■ WWII rescued some: farms grew bigger as farmers go to cities for jobs/ lose land ■ Amer farming = rely on huge gov food purchases/storage to balance production supply/demand ○ Post WWII Policies ■ Economic context: mid 1950s, many industries consumed by corporate conglomerates (consolidation) ■ 1973, 2.5 mill farmers left = 2% accounted for ⅓ of all sales ■ 2.1% farmers = 37% growers’ sales w/ 14% farmland ■ Big farms = 600x more income than small farmers ■ Markets open abroad The Corn Belt ● Northern Central US ● Changes in corn production (falling organic composition of capital) ○ 1980: diversified family farm gone, corn as king ○ Tractors displaced subsistence food crops ○ Cash crops > subsistence crops ○ Dramatic decline in labour needs ○ Farm could now be managed on industrial principles (factory) - Pollan ○ Change in farm inputs (Cook) ■ Increase in purchased inputs, machinery, agrichemicals, farm productivity ■ Decrease in non-purchased inputs, farm labour ■ Technological treadmill ● Purchase of technology cut into profits ○ Value added ■ Post-farm processing/transportation/distribution > commercial inputs > on farm ● Role that gov played in creation of the corn belt (USDA-Economic Research Service) ○ Corn as 90% produced grain ○ Main energy ingredient in livestock feed ○ Processed into a multitude of food/industrial products (starch, sweeteners, corn oil, beverage, industrial oil, ethanol) ○ US as major player in world corn trade market w/ approx 20% of the corn crop exported to other countries ○ Ecological Irrationality ■ > 50% synthetic nitrogen produced applied to corn ● Metabolic rift: separation of animals from field ■ 1 bushel req. .25-.33 gallons of oil ■ > 1 calorie of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 calorie of food energy ○ Ecological & Economic Irrationality ■ Price per bushel beneath cost of growing it (Welfare farmers) ● But kept up because used as substitute for many other things, subsidies, ○ Political Rationality ■ 1972 Grain Deal w/ Russia ● Rus suffered series of disastrous harvests → Ag. Secretary brokers deal for 30 mill tons of American grain ● Privatization of gov grain supply - private corporations bought grain from government & negotiated sales agreements w/ Soviets (private brokered deal) ● Inc. grain shipments = price increases = vote of farmers ● Economic relations w/ Russian during cold war ■ Grain deal cost A
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