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Small farms, big barriers: political implications of agricultural regulation in Wright County, Iowa

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Title: Small farms, big barriers: political implications of agricultural regulation in Wright County, Iowa
Author: Brindle, Stephanie F.
Abstract: Through this thesis, I explore the effects of government policy regarding agriculture and the opinions of those who are affected by agricultural policy in Wright County, Iowa. The exploration is in response to the movement toward industrialization and corporatization within United States agriculture that has altered the economic, environmental, and social interactions in rural communities. Prior research has more generally examined the complexities of industrial agriculture on a state or national scale; however, situating this research in a relatively small geographic region allows the researcher a more in-depth assessment of the state of agriculture in a particular area at a particular time. I seek to understand the implications of the changing dynamics of the agricultural industry and policy for rural community well-being. More specifically, I examine the barriers to small-scale farming and how agricultural regulation addresses these barriers. I gather local perspectives of agriculture in Wright County through participant observations and key-informant interviews with community leaders and area farmers. The results offer insight into the current and future state of Wright County agriculture. First, most respondents believe that small-scale agriculture is integral to rural community well-being. Second, several barriers hinder small-scale farmers’ ability to compete in the agricultural sector, including: the changing demographics of the local population, the polarization of farm sizes, the cost of technology, and access to and instability of agricultural markets. Third, participants hold conflicting opinions of agricultural regulation, with most feeling that the Farm Bill is largely ineffective at managing the agriculture sector. Last, the future of small-scale agriculture is bleak if agricultural policies remain the same. Given the strong emotional connection to agriculture within the study region, I recommend increased avenues of communication among all stakeholders of the agricultural industry. Suggested strategies include the sharing of information between farmers and allowing for dialogue among elected officials, community leaders, and consumers. Opening the lines of communication will offer more opportunities on the local, state, and federal level for small-scale farmers to participate in policy formation. Their involvement could help minimize the confusion surrounding the Farm Bill and allow for the creation of agricultural regulation that is more suited to the needs of small-scale farmers.
Description: Thesis (M.A.)--Humboldt State University, Social Science: Environment and Community, 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2148/730
Date: 2011-05

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  • Masters Theses [874]
    A collection of selected Masters Theses in electronic format.

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