Family Farms Pulled Us Out of the Great Depression…

November 24, 2008 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

…maybe Barack Obama can shape some policy to help them do it again.

If agriculture is indeed the building blocks of modern civilization, a concept I first understood from reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, then Family Farms Pulled Us Out of the Great Depression by Jay Greathouse, definitely makes sense. Greathouse discusses parities for food prices which enable farmers to price their crops at or above the actual costs of the raw materials, a concept long gone during these days of globalized agri-business.

Our recovery started in 1942, the year the Steagall Amendment to the War Stabilization Act mandated farm parity, but the war got the credit. We then had ten years of economic stability until 1952 when the Steagall Amendment was allowed to expire.

In 1952 “export-oriented pricing” replaced the New Deal policy that had put farm prices in balance, or parity, with other prices. That New Deal policy worked effectively with farmer-approved “supply management” that cost far less than today’s subsidies to Agri-business.

Farm parity laws that created a fair price floor for all raw materials was the main agent for moving the United States out of the Great Depression of the 1930s. This support of prices allowed farmers to afford to stay on the farm and rebuild the United States economy literally from the ground up.

True democracy requires an agriculture of numerous family farms, owned by farmers rooted in their communities, not by corporate landlords. Agri-business is the work of corporate landlords.

Our exporting of grain at “globally competitive” prices injures Third World farmers and results from our failure to keep commodity prices at parity (balance) with other goods and services. The U.S. farm community has seen a 50% fall in the number of farmers during a 30-year period of “export-oriented” agriculture.

What do you think?

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Entry filed under: Food Politics. Tags: , , , .

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