What’s happening in agriculture?

With supermarkets, big box stores, fast food outlets, convenience stores, farmers’ markets and Wal Mart all overflowing with food, some of us (especially those of us with access to the internet) tend to take food for granted and ignore what is happening on the farm.  But how would we fare if the North American food factory were to break down?  Famine is something that happens in far away places.

We like to think our’s is mostly a service and information economy.  However, we can put time and effort into these things only  because of efficiencies in agriculture.   When I studied European economic history, the prof  placed a lot of emphasisi on improvements in farming techniqes.  (He then went on to write an excellent book on the Industrial Revolution:  The British industrial revolution in global perspective by Robert C. Allen.  Cambridge University Press, 2009)

There are a number  of  potential problems in agriculture: monoculture,  topsoil depletion, soil erosion, climate change, short-term extreme weather, the use of chemicals and subsidies.  It may be that farmers, like the rest of us, act in their own short-term interests as opposed to the long-term interests of everyone.

It could be that these problems are a greater threat to us than other concerns such as nuclear war, environmental degradation or global warming.   We should be probably be paying more attention to what is happening on our farms and if necessary be prepared to put pressure on farmers to ensure the food supply does not come to a halt.

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