Lets discuss agriculture and it's role in modern society

It appears that governments giving subsidies to it's agricultural industries and even protecting it from foreign imports is every common throughout the world. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with the common policy of using subsidies to support agriculture and protectionism to protect it from outside agricultural products? Support your case whether its yes or no.

Really, NOBODY cares discussing the oldest profession man has invented and how it's relevent in modern society? Perhaps I should change the thread title so that it appeals to more people.

I'd imagine that agricultural policies are one of those issues that not many people know about in significant detail because
a) not many people are actively involved in farming
b) international trade agreements and tariffs are rather difficult to get one's head around at the best of times
c) subsidies are an incredibly boring way of throwing vast amounts of money around

I've heard the various arguments for and against the CAP, for and against protectionism, for and against agricultural globalisation, but honestly I'm really not familiar enough with the field to make a qualified judgement. So the next bit of rambling is basically unoriginal and based upon what I've heard or read.

Subsidies could in some ways be regarded as entrenching the existing economic order because it allows rich countries - the US, the West, increasingly China - to flood weaker markets with cheap alternatives. Haiti was a good example of this - rice supplanted domestic harvests which meant that the increasingly urban population were hit more heavily when the wholesale price unpredictably spiked (kind of the same way that an oil-reliant nation is hit harder by turmoil in oil rich countries).
I also seem to remember that the West has used it's position as a privileged exporter, aid-donator, and World Bank confidante to force certain African countries to act in a particular way.

In less disparate relations (say, between the EU and US because it's currently topical), I'd imagine that a major concern is with regard to GM. Rightly or wrongly, the EU has more of an aversion to GM than the US. Plus any common policy between the two would have to run the gauntlet of the farmer lobbies of both parties - a daunting task.

Also, not to be a pedantic prick, but hunting, building, and painting probably all significantly pre-date agriculture.

hakkarin:
Really, NOBODY cares discussing the oldest profession man has invented and how it's relevent in modern society?

I'm confused. If you wanted to discuss the oldest profession, why did you make a thread about agriculture?

OT: I'm not sure how much I can add since the vast majority of my understanding of farming comes from the manga Hyakushō Kizoku and Silver Spoon...

I'd like to see farmers be able to make a living, without losing everything because of a bad year.
I'm also concerned by how much farmland is being sold off to be turned into residential development.
I'm not against subsidizing crops, but I'd like to see more diversity, with priority to healthier products.

madwarper:

hakkarin:
Really, NOBODY cares discussing the oldest profession man has invented and how it's relevent in modern society?

I'm confused. If you wanted to discuss the oldest profession, why did you make a thread about agriculture?

OT: I'm not sure how much I can add since the vast majority of my understanding of farming comes from the manga Hyakushō Kizoku and Silver Spoon...

I'd like to see farmers be able to make a living, without losing everything because of a bad year.
I'm also concerned by how much farmland is being sold off to be turned into residential development.
I'm not against subsidizing crops, but I'd like to see more diversity, with priority to healthier products.

I don't know about Hyakusho Kizoku, but as someone who grew up on a ranch, I can say that Silver Spoon is both fairly accurate and insightful. Probably owning to the fact that the mangaka, Hiromu Arakawa, was raised on a dairy farm.

Don't really have much else to add to the topic though. It is kind of worrying that land that could be (or is) used for agriculture is being turned into residential areas, but that's just how it goes with population. I forget the name for it (Been a while since I took science..), but it's a balancing act between food production and population. Rapid resource consumption leads to shortages, the species suffers widespread deaths due to starvation, disease, what have you, then the cycle starts all over again.

It'll take humanity a while to get to that point because they're inventive little suckers, but the only development that could stave off the inevitable is space colonization really.

But that's not really an agriculture issue so much as 'People are having too many kids'.

Kopikatsu:
I don't know about Hyakusho Kizoku, but as someone who grew up on a ranch, I can say that Silver Spoon is both fairly accurate and insightful. Probably owning to the fact that the mangaka, Hiromu Arakawa, was raised on a dairy farm.

Hyakusho Kizoku is also by Hiromu Arakawa and is more informative and autobiographical of the two.

Kopikatsu:
It is kind of worrying that land that could be (or is) used for agriculture is being turned into residential areas, but that's just how it goes with population. I forget the name for it (Been a while since I took science..), but it's a balancing act between food production and population. Rapid resource consumption leads to shortages, the species suffers widespread deaths due to starvation, disease, what have you, then the cycle starts all over again.

Hydroponics is a thing. So is aeroponics. It's not strictly necessary to grow food outside where it's at the whim of fickle weather. It doesn't require any particularly special kind of land, doesn't need any particularly special resources, and it's scalable. Need more food? Build more food factories.

If we showed the dedication necessary to properly modernize and secure our food supply, we wouldn't have to panic about climate change or what if a volcano blackened the sky or whatever. Our crops would be safely growing indoors where they belong and it wouldn't matter if there was a killing frost or a locust swarm.

On the even better side, any food can be grown at any time anywhere! No more bowing to the tyranny of seasons or climate.

hakkarin:
It appears that governments giving subsidies to it's agricultural industries and even protecting it from foreign imports is every common throughout the world. What are your thoughts on this? Do you agree with the common policy of using subsidies to support agriculture and protectionism to protect it from outside agricultural products? Support your case whether its yes or no.

Dude, you might not want to make your OP sound like you're ordering us around on an essay test if you want people to respond. I know that it's better to support one's case, but your OP just sounds like you're copying straight off your final exam.

As for answering your question, I don't think a simple "yes" or "no" is adequate. I'm strongly against deciding policy by ideology. Sometimes farming subsidies and protections are good. Sometimes they're not. It depends on a million little factors relevant to the country in question. The farming situation is very different between say, the US, France, and Japan, and so it would be absurd to answer with a sweeping position meant to cover all three cases.

As far as I can tell, subsidies are more about buying the votes of farmers than anything else. Nowadays, farmers sell their crop before they plant it, and economics has stabilized the market to the point where a bad year won't kill anyone. If you're trying to stabilize or lower food prices, subsidising local agriculture is a horrible way to do it. It means a bad year in one region can hike the price up, where normally grocers would just import from elsewhere.
Food shortages aren't going to happen anymore. China is horribly overpopulated, but the limiting factor is housing and employment, nobody is starving to death. In placing with serious food shortages, it's because of poverty or conflict; if they had the money they could just import food throughout any major drought.
No matter how big the world population gets, agriculturalists will always be better at meeting the demand for food than the housing industry is at meeting the demand for homes.
I've heard arguments that agricultural subsidies support impoverished farmers, who are vital to the country somehow. Though true, I don't think the government should be paying people to farm. At Least in first world countries, everyone living in the country chose to live there, and in doing so accepts they will have less money than an equivalent city-dweller, and be further from a hospital. When it comes to meeting food needs, industrialists will always be better at farming than small farming families. By protecting the rural farmer lifestyle, the government prevents the land from being used by agricultural corporations, and thus massively decrease the output. I'd much rather my food be grown by a profit driven company who make decisions to maximise efficiency than communities of farmers who are there because of the fresh air, rather than to produce as much food as possible. Not only does it mean my groceries are cheaper, but also that less land is needed to feed me, allowing more land for housing and meeting all the other needs of the modern world.

Its a complicated thing, one that doesn't much attention except from the players themselves. Farming is an inherently fickle business; Farmers are left to the vagaries of the weather. So I support some form of subsidies. Also, I think is important to maintain a domestic farming industry, so some import restrictions. Then there's the need to protect domestic consumers from foreign passagines. But here in the U.S. its gotten way out of control, a way to get votes and support big campaign donors. Farming is not really farming anymore in the U.S., not in the traditional sense anyway. Its mostly agribusiness and factory farming. Its extremely polluting, energy dependent, chemical dependent, and the food produced is bland and striped of many healthy emzymes and pumped full of chemical additives. Its crazy to see how screwed-up food production has gotten in this country, and government policy is a big part of the problem.

We need an agriculture policy that promotes traditional integrated family-style farming on a smaller scale to serve local markets. Things are changing, slowly. Perhaps there's hope still.

mathsisfun:

No matter how big the world population gets, agriculturalists will always be better at meeting the demand for food than the housing industry is at meeting the demand for homes.

So you believe that the earth can substain endless population growth and yet still allow for everybody to be fed?

Third-eye:
Farming is not really farming anymore in the U.S., not in the traditional sense anyway. Its mostly agribusiness and factory farming. Its extremely polluting, energy dependent, chemical dependent, and the food produced is bland and striped of many healthy emzymes and pumped full of chemical additives. Its crazy to see how screwed-up food production has gotten in this country, and government policy is a big part of the problem.

We need an agriculture policy that promotes traditional integrated family-style farming on a smaller scale to serve local markets. Things are changing, slowly. Perhaps there's hope still.

I guess I'm on the other end as far as solutions go. I'm for factory farming as in farming in a factory.

Those chemicals are to stave off pests - literal poison we spray on our food - and preservatives - again, poison to make the food unappetizing to microbes - both of which would be unnecessary or greatly reduced if where we grow was closer to where we live. There wouldn't be runoff, as any waste water could be piped directly into filtration, and less water overall would be used as evaporation could be collected and reused. The only water that necessarily leaves the factory is inside the food produced.

Energy use overall could be reduced - depending how much electricity it takes to make light - as there's much less refrigeration and transportation. Food for cities can be grown right there in those cities instead of shipping it half-way around the world.

hakkarin:

mathsisfun:

No matter how big the world population gets, agriculturalists will always be better at meeting the demand for food than the housing industry is at meeting the demand for homes.

So you believe that the earth can substain endless population growth and yet still allow for everybody to be fed?

Endlessly? No. There's still an awful lot of fallow land and the calories/acre trends ever upward as well as there being a simply enormous amount of waste. Population growth is reaching it's peak overall and has already passed it in many First World countries. Gross food production won't be an issue; figuring out what to do with an overabundance of durable goods and developing a paradigm to deal with a shrinking population are the current long-term issues. Expect the discussion to be one of underpopulation.

hakkarin:
[quote="mathsisfun" post="528.844974.20820274"]
So you believe that the earth can sustain endless population growth and yet still allow for everybody to be fed?

Yes, that is precisely what i'm saying. Did you read my post at all?


according to these here graphs, from 1900 to 2000, the American population multiplied by 3.75. The calories per acre produced, however, multiplied by 4.6. Even though the population increased by a factor of 275%, only 82% of the farming land used in 1900 is needed to feed everyone. In much of the world, farmland is being turned back into wilderness, simply because the market doesn't need it.
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/may/02/ruralaffairs.paulbrown
http://reason.com/archives/2013/05/27/peak-farmland
There will be many issues if the world population continues at this rate indefinitely, but food isn't one of them. Do you see mass starvation in india and china, with populations of over a billion? Even the US could feed a billion citizens if it wanted to. It would be a bad idea, with serious housing and unemployment problems, but not a food crisis.

mathsisfun:
Do you see mass starvation in india and china, with populations of over a billion?

Erm, yes?

I started googling "Malnutrition in In..." and Google already knew which page I wanted. They have their own Wikipedia page. Google does the same thing with malnutrition in China, though they are apparently without a specific Wikipedia page.

Now, do we see people dying of starvation? We don't, because we live in Western countries and our news doesn't care about that when there's Kardashians to cover. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. What we know for a fact is that in many countries people don't get enough to eat. Even if they have strictly speaking enough calories to maintain being alive, they don't get the nutrition they need. This is particularly true of people in rural areas of developing countries.

Technology and infrastructure may help alleviate starvation, but you're way overstating your case. We haven't got it beaten yet.

mathsisfun:

hakkarin:
[quote="mathsisfun" post="528.844974.20820274"]
So you believe that the earth can sustain endless population growth and yet still allow for everybody to be fed?

Yes, that is precisely what i'm saying. Did you read my post at all?


according to these here graphs, from 1900 to 2000, the American population multiplied by 3.75. The calories per acre produced, however, multiplied by 4.6. Even though the population increased by a factor of 275%, only 82% of the farming land used in 1900 is needed to feed everyone. In much of the world, farmland is being turned back into wilderness, simply because the market doesn't need it.
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2000/may/02/ruralaffairs.paulbrown
http://reason.com/archives/2013/05/27/peak-farmland
There will be many issues if the world population continues at this rate indefinitely, but food isn't one of them. Do you see mass starvation in india and china, with populations of over a billion? Even the US could feed a billion citizens if it wanted to. It would be a bad idea, with serious housing and unemployment problems, but not a food crisis.

That graph shows global population, not US, which you'd have noticed if you'd read your own y-axis. So I think accusing Hakkarin of being undiligent is a bit rich! Projected US growth rates are significantly lower which actually aids your point.

I disagree though. Crop yields have indeed increased, but that's also in significant part due to the increase mechanisation of agriculture. So if nothing else energy production would place a natural limit on population with respect to agriculture as well as with respect to things like transport, electricity, etc.

Danger has already covered famines in developing countries.

In the West, food is probably a more trivial expenditure than at any other time in history, but it's also more fragile and vulnerable to disruption (particularly urban centres and high population density areas) - not just because of the raw quantities of food but because we're socially accustomed to being able to buy and eat whatever and whenever the fuck we want.

Here in the UK, 300 years ago an interruption in national food imports wouldn't affect anyone because the vast majority of food was domestic (admittedly famines were devastating because of this).
100 years ago a partial disruption caused significant discomfort during WWI.
70 years ago the same caused a more major disruption in WWII, and that's after efforts to become more sufficient in the interwar years and having an entire empire's (and the US) worth of food to call upon.
Now? There'd be murder in the streets if the shops started running low for a few days. People get hyped up over cheap DVD players, how do you think they'd react if they couldn't buy food for their kids?

 

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