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Fighting for the Farm

Rural America Transformed

Edited by Jane Adams

Publication Year: 2011

In North America industrial agriculture has now virtually displaced diversified family farming. The prevailing system depends heavily on labor supplied by migrants and immigrants, and its reliance on monoculture raises environmental concerns. In this book Jane Adams and contributors—anthropologists and political scientists among them—analyze the political dynamics that have transformed agriculture in the United States and Canada since the 1920s. The contributors demonstrate that people become politically active in arenas that range from the state to public discourse to relations between growers and their contractors or laborers, and that politics is a process that is intimately local as well as global.

The farm financial crisis of the 1980s precipitated rapid consolidation of farms and a sharp decline in rural populations. It brought new actors into the political process, including organic farmers and environmentalists. Fighting for the Farm: Rural America Transformed considers the politics of farm policy and the consequences of the increasing alignment of agricultural interests with the global economy. The first section of the book places North American agriculture in the context of the world system; the second, a series of case studies, examines the foundations of current U.S. policy; subsequent sections deal with the political implications for daily life and the politics of the environment.

Recognizing the influence of an array of political constituencies and arenas, Fighting for the Farm charts a decisive shift since the early part of the twentieth century from a discursive regime rooted in economics to one that now incorporates a variety of environmental and quality-of-life concerns.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-21

At the beginning of the twentieth century, North American agriculture prospered. A century ago, one could imagine that agriculture and industry were, or could be, balanced and complementary. The countryside was densely populated with ...

I. North American Agriculture in the World System: Overview and Case Studies

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2. The Social Economy of Development: The State of/and the Imperial Valley

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pp. 25-46

This chapter argues that the state is both an agent and a product of rural and agricultural development through an analysis of the development of California's Imperial Valley. The actions of state agencies, ...

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3. From the National Policy to Continentalism and Globalization: The Shifting Context of Canadian Agricultural Policies

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pp. 47-74

Rural Saskatchewan is experiencing a continuing process of social,economic, and political transformation. The fact that the transformation involves declining numbers of farms, increasing farm size, struggling and disappearing communities, the loss ...

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4. The Contested Terrain of Swine Production: Deregulation and Reregulation of Corporate Farming Laws in Missouri

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pp. 75-95

The U.S. hog industry is being transformed from an agricultural to an industrial model (Ikerd 1998; Rhodes 1995; Welsh 1996; Zering 1998), while at the same time becoming integrated into the global economy ...

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5. The Contingent Creation of Rural Interest Groups

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pp. 96-110

Late twentieth century changes in u.s. agriculture have reconfigured the interests of rural people. The intensity of public debate and the range of policy claims surrounding them are unparalleled. Concerns range from ...

II. Foundations of Twentieth Century U.S. Policy

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6. The Origin of the Federal Farm Loan Act: Issue Emergence and Agenda-Setting in the Progressive Era Print Press

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pp. 113-128

The passage of the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 (FFLA) opened a new era of federal regulation of agriculture in the United States. It was the first extension of federal responsibility for farm credit and laid a foundation ...

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7. Low Modernism and the Agrarian New Deal: A Different Kind of State

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pp. 129-146

In Seeing Like a State, agrarian scholar James C. Scott explains "how certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed" (the subtitle). "High modernism" is his term for the ideology behind such human ...

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8. The New Deal Farm Programs: Looking for Reconstruction in American Agriculture

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pp. 147-159

For the last several decades conservative and liberal scholars alike have promoted a view of the New Deal Department of Agriculture as having set the precedents and developed the constituencies for farm programs ...

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9. The U.S. Farm Financial Crisis of the 1980s

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pp. 160-171

The years 1981 through 1986 were a defining period for agriculture in the United States. During this time the farm sector experienced its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The ...

III. The Political Implications of Daily Life

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10. The Entrepreneurial Self: Identity and Morality in a Midwestern Farming Community

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pp. 175-191

Something has gone awry in America. From the deserted shops of Main Street to the abandoned farms of the countryside, a puzzling state of affairs looms large in the heartland. For here in the midwest, one of the ...

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11. Considerably More Than Vegetables, a Lot Less Than Community: The Dilemma of Community Supported Agriculture

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pp. 192-205

Over the last thirty years, the many hidden, or externalized, costs of an industrially modeled and corporately controlled agri-food system have grown increasingly apparent (Krebs 1992; Kneen 1993; ...

IV. The Politics of the Environment

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12. Canadian Agricultural Policy: Liberal, Global, and Sustainable

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pp. 209-228

Since the early 1990s, the concept of sustainable agriculture has become a prominent feature of agricultural state policy and discourse in Canada and elsewhere (Agriculture and Food Sectoral Task Force 1991; ...

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13. Constructing Genetic Engineering in the Food and Fiber System as a Problem: Urban Social Movement Organizations as Players in Agricultural Discourse

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pp. 229-251

Even using the three previous centuries of agricultural industrialization as a standard, genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture could potentially increase the penetration of capital into food production to an unprecedented ...

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14. Eating in the Gardens of Gaia: Envisioning Polycultural Communities

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pp. 252-273

Like most principles, they are easy to state but difficult to achieve. They are radically different from the principles that organize industrial monocultures and mass-produced edible commodities. They reflect a conclusion opposite ...


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pp. 275-286


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pp. 287-324

List of Contributors

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pp. 325-328


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pp. 329-338

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pp. 339-339

Inspiration for this volume came from a panel, "The Ideological Matrix of Exploitation Within the American Agricultural System," organized by Laura DeLind in 1991 for the American Anthropological ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201031
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812218305

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 654820587
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fighting for the Farm

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Subject Headings

  • Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- North America.
  • Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- United States.
  • Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- Canada.
  • Agriculture and state -- United States.
  • Agriculture and state -- Canada.
  • Agricultural credit -- United States.
  • Agricultural credit -- Canada.
  • Farms, Small -- United States.
  • Farms, Small -- Canada.
  • United States -- Rural conditions.
  • Canada -- Rural conditions.
  • Agricultural innovations -- Environmental aspects.
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