Industrialization Of Agriculture

Current controversies at the rural urban interface are a result of ongoing changes in the U.S. food and agricultural system brought about by industrialization.1-4-6-1 Industrialization is driven by firms seeking profits available through lowering their costs by adoption of new technologies for farm production and through marketing and greater specialization. At the farm level, these changing technological and economic factors are telling farmers to either ''get big or get out.''[6] The industrialization of U.S. agriculture is bringing about much change and giving rise to new concerns. In animal agriculture, the concentration of animals on fewer, larger farms and new marketing arrangements are changing the scale and location of farming.[5] Larger animal production units are increasingly leading to conflicts between producers and neighbors, and communities are faced with many possible environmental or nuisance (e.g., noise, odors) threats.[7]

In addition to the potential costs from industrialization, there are benefits of agriculture to local communities. The substitution of off-farm for on-farm inputs (e.g., feed, labor) may mean that agriculture in some areas provides less benefit to the local economy in terms of employment and farm-related purchases. Also, some amenities, such as open space valued by neighbors, may be lost as production intensifies. Industrialization may raise a host of other social issues, such as conditions or earnings of workers and concerns stemming from changes in farm ownership and stewardship.

While the costs of industrialized agriculture tend to be focused on the local neighborhood and community, the benefits (lower prices to consumers from use of new technologies) are spread more diffusely. This uneven benefit-cost distribution is one explanation of why Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) groups have formed to oppose the siting of large-scale animal facilities.[6] Public concerns over environmental issues may be only a pretext for underlying concerns related to other issues. Given the range of economic, environmental, and social concerns that are inherent in these conflicts, holistic, multidisci-plinary approaches to addressing them are appropriate. In addition, proactive approaches are likely to be preferable due to the high costs of conflict.[8]

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