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Agricultural Ethics

AG 401
Objectives

 Overview on the history of agriculture


 Discussion of agricultural ethics
History of Agriculture

 Neolithic Revolution,
transition from
hunter/gather societies to
settled life
 Domestication of livestock &
plants, 95o0 BC
 Fertile Crescent; later Asia and
Americas
 Sheep, goats, cows, pigs
 Wheat, barley, peas, beans,
squash
How did Agriculture Change the World?

 Subsistence-living (growing enough to feed self &


family) to more intensive farming
 Food abundance kept for storage, trade
 Changes in Social Structure
 Continued growth in population

 Villages, towns became trading centers

 Birth of governments, military

 Elite class (non-farming)


What Enabled Agrarian-Based Settlement?

 Cultivation of grain lead to


the development of the
plow
 One of the world’s most
important tool in agriculture
 Basic instrument in agriculture
for most of recorded history
 Earliest plow used in
Mesopotamia ~ 6000 BC
 Plow increased ag production,
expanded amt of land
cultivated
Mechanization of Harvesting

 Inventions to mechanize
planting and harvesting
appeared in US and Europe
early 1700s-1800s
 Continued advancements
in technology  increased
productivity in agriculture
 increased capital
expenditure
Development of Agriculture in the US

 Early 1900s – emergency of modern America


 Total Population - 120 million

 Farmers - 25% of labor force

 Number of farms – over 6 million

 Average acres – 150+ acres

 Mechanization, use of draft animals in farming


Agricultural Depression

 WWI (1914-1918) led to increased demand for US


agricultural products  increased production
 1920, Post WWI: Agriculture prices collapse
 Due to surplus (over production) of crops
 WWI market demand disappeared
 Lead to >1,000,000 farmers seek employment in cities
Agricultural Depression

 1929: Stock Market


Crashes, beg. of
Great Depression
 Price for almost all
agricultural products
plummeted (i.e. corn
$0.76/bushel in 1929
$0.29/bushel in 1932)
 Agricultural exports
reduced $1 billion/yr in
early 30s
Agricultural Depression

 Agriculture Depression + Great Depression =


 Surplus in farm products, but no markets to buy

 Net income of farmers <1/3 of what it had been in 1929

 Homes, farms, livestock, farm equipment taken via


foreclosure
Federal Govt Influence in Ag

 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Act


 Signed by President Roosevelt

 Reduce crop surplus for higher prices

 Act provided for crop reduction through plow ups (paying


farmers NOT to plant); slaughtering millions of pigs
1930-1949: F.D. Roosevelt's
Ag Depression Policies
 1938 Agriculture Adjustment Act
 Crop reduction through plow up  reduction in crop surpluses &
higher prices for agricultural products
 USDA creates Food Stamp & School Lunch Programs
 Provided surplus food to poor families & children
 USDA built new research labs across nation
 Find new uses for agricultural products, development of new
markets for surplus
POST WWII

 1948 Marshall Plan enacted by Congress


 Secretary of State Henry Wallace states the U.S. has a “moral
responsibility to feed the hungry people of the world.”
 Help restore European economy
 US sent millions of tons of food abroad
to prevent mass famine (widespread
food scarcity)
 Livestock, seed, fertilizer, farm
machinery sent overseas to help rebuild
Europe’s agricultural systems

October 1948: A shipment of flour on its way to Austria from New York; tags read 'For European
Recovery supplied by the U.S.A', as part of the Marshall Plan. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty
Images)
1960s

 Expansion of Food Stamp Program as result of surplus


farm production
 Significant research from USDA and industry
 Development of automated irrigation systems
 Identification of numerous livestock & plant diseases
 Better breeds of animal & plant varieties
 Synthetic fertilizers & chemicals to eliminate pests/diseases
 Infrastructure advancements: transportation, storage,
livestock marketing, plant breeds, supermarkets
 Set pattern for future of American agriculture
1960s

 Environmental concerns
 Book Silent Springs by Dr.
Rachael Carson (biologist &
conservationist) condemned
widespread use of chemicals
 Ground water pollution
 Soil erosion & degradation
 Other environmental stresses
 Led to environmental movement
in late 60s
 Conservation & protection of
environment in public mindset
Green Revolution in 1960s

 Led by US Agronomist Norman


Borlaug, Father of the Green
Revolution
 Introduced high-yielding wheat
varieties to Mexico, Pakistan,
India
 Improved food security, saved
billions of people world wide from
starvation
 Won Nobel Peace Prize in 1970

"When the Nobel Peace Prize Committee designated me the recipient of the 1970 award for my
contribution to the 'green revolution', they were in effect, I believe, selecting an individual to symbolize
the vital role of agriculture and food production in a world that is hungry, both for
bread and for peace". Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dec 10, 1970
Shift in US Policy

 U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz


 Grew up farming in Indiana

 Appointed by Richard Nixon in 1971

 Revolutionized federal agricultural policy

 Abolished program that paid corn farmers to not plant all their
land
 Urged farmers to plant, “get big or get out”

 Provided subsidies for large commodity crop production


Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
FAO STAT 2012
Top Production United State of America, 2012

Production Production
Rank Commodity (Int $1000) Flag (MT)
1 Maize 22233636 * 273820066
2 Milk, whole fresh cow 28219676 * 90865000
3 Soybeans 21230301 * 82054800
4 Wheat 8666591 * 61677387
5 Sugar beet 1374967 * 31954713
6 Sugar cane 861971 * 29235877
7 Potatoes 2987383 * 20990738

8 Meat indigenous, chicken 24269046 * 17038000

9 Tomatoes 4880813 * 13206950

10 Meat indigenous, cattle 30182474 * 11173000

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO STAT 2012
US Water Use in 2010

12%

45%

32%

Livestock and Aquaculture


combined 3%
Source: US Geological Survey 2010
U.S. Land Use in 2009

Land Use

33% Forest Cover


49%
Arable & Permanent Crops

Other Land
18%
American Agriculture’s Share of World Production

About 17% of all U.S. agricultural products are exported yearly, including:
• 99 million tons of grains and feed
• 2.4 million tons of poultry meats
• 2 million tons of fresh vegetables
What We Sell to
the World…

What We Buy
from Other
Nations

Is the U.S. a net


importer or net
exporter of
agricultural
products?
Production Agriculture

Benefits Drawbacks

 Efficient productivity  Significant dependence on


 Low commodity prices  inputs (fertilizers,
pesticides, herbicides,
cheap food in US and farm machinery)
global marketplace
 Capital intensive
 Safeguards export markets  Some practices
 Food security in developed detrimental to the
countries environmental, not
 Social – development of sustainable
rural communities  Impact on global market
place
Group Assignment

In small groups, discuss


Should production agriculture be eliminated?

Possible issues to consider:


 Impact on domestic market and consumer wealth
 Impact on the global market place
 Impact on the environment
 The health of rural communities in developed countries
 Other

Take a position on this question. Identify why you chose that


position. May bullet or write in sentences. Then identify 1 – 2
ethical theories to support your position. Be ready to present to
class.