A Revolution Down on the Farm: The Transformation of American Agriculture since 1929

A Revolution Down on the Farm: The Transformation of American Agriculture since 1929

by Paul K. Conkin
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0813192420

ISBN-13: 9780813192420

Pub. Date: 07/28/2009

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

At a time when food is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world and food prices are skyrocketing, no industry is more important than agriculture. Humans have been farming for thousands of years, and yet agriculture has undergone more fundamental changes in the past 80 years than in the previous several centuries. In 1900, 30 million American farmers

Overview

At a time when food is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world and food prices are skyrocketing, no industry is more important than agriculture. Humans have been farming for thousands of years, and yet agriculture has undergone more fundamental changes in the past 80 years than in the previous several centuries. In 1900, 30 million American farmers tilled the soil or tended livestock; today there are fewer than 4.5 million farmers who feed a population four times larger than it was at the beginning of the century. Fifty years ago, the planet could not have sustained a population of 6.5 billion; now, commercial and industrial agriculture ensure that millions will not die from starvation. Farmers are able to feed an exponentially growing planet because the greatest industrial revolution in history has occurred in agriculture since 1929, with U.S. farmers leading the way. Productivity on American farms has increased tenfold, even as most small farmers and tenants have been forced to find other work. Today, only 300,000 farms produce approximately ninety percent of the total output, and overproduction, largely subsidized by government programs and policies, has become the hallmark of modern agriculture. A Revolution Down on the Farm: The Transformation of American Agriculture since 1929 charts the profound changes in farming that have occurred during author Paul K. Conkin's lifetime. His personal experiences growing up on a small Tennessee farm complement compelling statistical data as he explores America's vast agricultural transformation and considers its social, political, and economic consequences. He examines the history of American agriculture, showing how New Deal innovations evolved into convoluted commodity programs following World War II. Conkin assesses the skills, new technologies, and government policies that helped transform farming in America and suggests how new legislation might affect farming in decades to come. Although the increased production and mechanization of farming has been an economic success story for Americans, the costs are becoming increasingly apparent. Small farmers are put out of business when they cannot compete with giant, non-diversified corporate farms. Caged chickens and hogs in factory-like facilities or confined dairy cattle require massive amounts of chemicals and hormones ultimately ingested by consumers. Fertilizers, new organic chemicals, manure disposal, and genetically modified seeds have introduced environmental problems that are still being discovered. A Revolution Down on the Farm concludes with an evaluation of farming in the twenty-first century and a distinctive meditation on alternatives to our present large scale, mechanized, subsidized, and fossil fuel and chemically dependent system.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813192420
Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
Publication date:
07/28/2009
Edition description:
1
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
398,671
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations     vii
Preface     ix
Acknowledgments     xiii
American Agriculture before 1930     1
Commercial Origins     1
Tilling and Preparing the Soil     5
Tools for Planting and Cultivating     6
Tools of Harvest     8
The Tractor     15
Research, Education, and Extension     19
Credit and Marketing     25
The Traditional Family Farm: A Personal Account     31
Profile of a Farming Village     32
Home Provenance     37
Household Patterns     42
A New Deal for Agriculture, 1930-1938     51
First Fruits: Hoover's Farm Board     52
Maturing a New Farm Program     59
The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933     63
Other New Deal Farm Programs     68
Soil Conservation and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938     72
World War II and Its Aftermath: A Family Report     77
Wartime Changes in My Village     77
Postwar Transformations     80
Successful Farming in Pennsylvania     91
Dimensions of an Agricultural Revolution     97
The Great NewMachines     99
Electrification     107
Chemical Inputs     108
Plant and Animal Breeding     119
Surpluses and Payments: Federal Agricultural Policy, 1954-2008     123
Production Controls and Price Supports     123
Farm Policy in the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations     126
Managing Surpluses during a Productivity Revolution     130
The Farm Crisis of the 1980s     132
International Agreements and the Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act     134
The 2002 Farm Bill and Beyond     138
Noncommodity Programs     141
Farming in the Twenty-first Century: Status and Challenges     147
Profile of Contemporary Farms     147
Farm Labor     154
Farm Income     157
Critics and Criticisms     164
Agriculture and the Environment     168
Alternatives     175
Lonely Farmers     175
Alternatives in Land Tenure     177
Agrarian Reform     180
Alternative or Sustainable Agriculture     183
Federal Support of Sustainable Agriculture     192
Certified Organic Farming     194
Afterword      201
Notes     207
Index     215

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