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Yet the story has its dark side, from the plight of the Okies in the s to the farm crisis of the s to today's concerns about low crop prices and the impact of biotechnology. Looking at U. Gardner documents both the economic difficulties that have confronted farmers and the technological and economic transformations that have lifted them from relative poverty to economic parity with the nonfarm population. He provides a detailed analysis of the causes of these trends, with emphasis on the role of government action. He reviews how commodity support programs, driven by interest-group politics, have spent hundreds of billions of dollars to little purpose.

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Nonetheless, Gardner concludes that by reconciling competing economic interests while fostering productivity growth and economic integration of the farm and nonfarm economies, the overall twentieth-century role of government in American agriculture is fairly viewed as a triumph of democracy. Bruce L. Convert currency. Add to Basket.

Book Description Harvard University Press, Condition: New. Brand New!. Seller Inventory VIB At the turn of the twentieth century most Americans were farmers or came from farm families, and almost half of the U. The number of farms was almost six million, and still growing, and the amount of land in agriculture was still growing too, mainly through expansion in the west. The expansion of agricultural land and farm numbers continued well into the s, but by mid-century both trends had been reversed. The s saw the beginnings of large progressive changes in the farm economy; and by , the picture was very different from one hundred years earlier.


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The total number of farms had shrunk to fewer than two million, only a very small share — less than two percent — of the total population lived on farms or worked in agriculture, and agriculture contributed a much smaller share to the total economy than in Yet with only one-third as much total labor as in , at the end of the twentieth century U.

These and other dramatic changes in the nature and structure of U. Much has been written about the causes and consequences of the transformation of American agriculture in the twentieth century, but mostly the literature relates to particular elements of the history — particular sub-periods, regions, industries, or issues. A coherent, complete, comprehensive, quantitative assessment has been lacking.

He is the leading agricultural economist of the age, has a longstanding interest in economic history, and has spent a lifetime — beginning on a dairy farm in Illinois — studying and thinking about the economics of agriculture and the role of government policy in it. The book is targeted at a general audience, though it is not short on numbers and details, so that is has plenty to offer professional economists and even specialists in agricultural economics.

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Much of these changes in farms and farming were fueled by changes in agricultural technology and productivity, as well as changes in the non-farm economy that drew labor away from farming. To conclude the chapter, Gardner compares income over time between farm and non-farm households and reports that, during the past fifty years in particular, farm incomes improved to achieve parity with non-farm incomes, and to achieve a more equal distribution among farm households. Later chapters demonstrate that these changes reflect, in part, a closer integration of the farm and non-farm economies such that farm and rural household incomes are determined for the most part by events outside agriculture.

Gardner discusses the related issues of changing demographic characteristics of the rural population, out-migration and hired farm workers, rural poverty, schooling of farm people, quality of life and technological change, natural resources and the environment, and large farms and the rural community. He provides evidence on the declining incidence of rural poverty and income inequality, as well as documenting what many have perceived as a set of undesirable trends in rural America.

The next three chapters are devoted to the roles of changes in markets and government policy in the evolution of agriculture. Along with improvements in market efficiency for other reasons, technological change in food processing and marketing has contributed further productivity growth to the food industry, but at a slower rate than in the farming sector.

Information is presented on the net social costs of some of these interventions as well as on the net social benefits of public investments in agricultural research and development.

American Agriculture in the Twentieth Century: How It Flourished and What It Cost

The chapter provides a very useful descriptive history of the farm commodity programs, which began in the s, including trade policy as an essential element since most farm commodities are at least potentially traded goods. If you want NextDay, we can save the other items for later.

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