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THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN AGRICULTURE SINCE 1929 $29.95 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 farmed for thousands of years, yet agriculture has undergone more fundamental changes in the past eighty years than in the last few centuries. In 1900, 30 million American farmers tilled the soil or tended livestock ; today fewer than 4.5 million farmers feed a population that is 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 agriculture ensures the survival of millions. Farmers can sustain an exponentially growing world population 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, a mere 300,000 farms produce approximately 90 percent of the total output, and overproduction, 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, explaining how New Deal innovations evolved into convoluted commodity programs after 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, nondiversified corporate farms. Caged chickens and hogs in factorylike facilities and dairy cattle in close confinement require the use of chemicals and hormones, which are ultimately ingested by consumers. Fertilizers, new organic chemicals, manure disposal, and genetically modified seeds have introduced environmental problems with long-term implications. A Revolution Down on the Farm concludes with an evaluation of farming in the twenty-first century and a perceptive survey of possible alternatives to our present large-scale, mechanized, subsidized, fossil fuel and chemically dependent system. PAUL K. CONKIN is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of numerous books, including The State of the Earth: Environmental Challenges on the Road to 2100, The Southern Agrarians, and When All the Gods Trembled: Darwinism, Scopes, and American Intellectuals. Cover photography © Sam Wirzba Jacket design by Jen Huppert Design (CONTINUED ON BACK FLAP) (CONTINUED FROM FRONT F LAP) kentucky CONKIN THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN AGRICULTURE SINCE 1929 PAUL K. CONKIN A REVOLUTION DOWN ON THE FARM A REVOLUTION DOWN ON THE FARM PAUL K. CONKIN A REVOLUTION DOWN ON THE FARM HISTORY/AGRICULTURE “This important book explores a recent revolution in American history that substituted technology for people and animals in farming and greatly increased output. Paul Conkin tells this tale in his own way, drawing upon his personal involvement in the story, as well as the relevant scholarship and the basic documents.” —RICHARD S. KIRKENDALL, author of Uncle Henry: A Documentary Profile of the First Henry Wallace “An accurate and straightforward account of agriculture in America down through the years, spiced with the experiences of the author himself. All the important farm issues and views about them are discussed in a format that is handy and easy to read. Perfect for the new student of agriculture who needs a quick but detailed introduction to farming history in the United States.” —GENE LOGSDON, author of The Mother of All Arts: Agrarianism and the Creative Impulse $29.95 THE UNIVERSITY PRESS OF KENTUCKY connkin_dj 6/24/08 10:26 AM Page 1 ...


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