Agricultural Policies and Change

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Agricultural Policies and Change

In both MEDC's and LEDC's new ideas and regulations have been brought in to try to safe-guard farmers livelihoods and make farm production more efficient.Some of the methods used for this are outlined in this section:

The European Union is made up of 15 member countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Irish Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.). It began as a group of only 6 countries in 1957 and has expanded ever since. Border controls between the countries are virtually non-existent now, and trade is almost exclusively between the 15 countries.

The EU has brought in many rules and regulations to try and help farmers in all of its member countries. Not all of these have been as eagerly welcomed as they might have been.

The Common Agricultural Policy: This was a policy brought in by the EU in 1962 with a number of aims:

It aimed to increase agricultural production in member countries.

It aimed to improve the standard of living experienced by farmers.

It aimed to maintain prices and supplies of food at a reasonable cost to the consumers.

Some of the methods that it used included subsidies and minimum pricing. Farmers were encouraged to produce as much as they could, and the EU guaranteed that it would buy it all. This led to huge surpluses in butter, milk, cereals and even wine.

In 1992 the policy was reformed with far less subsidies and more concern for the natural environment. Some important aspects of the CAP are outlined below:

Minimum Pricing / Price Guarantees: The Common Agricultural Policy established minimum prices for agricultural produce that the farmer was guaranteed to receive. They also set prices lower than those of imports from outside the EU and bought up any products that were falling in price in an attempt to boost prices again. The idea was to allow the farmers to always get a reasonable price for their product.

Quotas: In 1992 the Common Agricultural Policy was reformed and one of the main things that was brought in was quotas. These set a limit on how much one farmer could produce of a single product, thus protecting the livelihoods of many farmers by continuing to guarantee their crops would be bought, whilst not building up the huge surpluses that occurred before.

Subsidies: Subsidies were given to farmers to allow them to produce more crops. However the intensive farming methods that most farmers employed led to many environmental problems such as hedgerow removal and increased use of pesticides and fertilisers.

The 1992 changes to the policy removed much of the subsidies and price support that the original policy had, as the EU realised that the intensive farming was harming the environment.

Surpluses: The original CAP didn't limit how much each farmer could produce, it just bought all that they had.This rapidly led to the establishment of huge surpluses in many agricultural products, such as beef, butter, cereals, milk and wine. However in the 1992 reform of the policy they realised that this idea was not working and so introduced quotas.

The Common Agricultural Policy, whilst guaranteeing to farmers that there would be someone to buy their produce also produced some serious environmental problems. Farmers knew they could produce as much as they possibly could and it would definitely be bought so they tried to use every inch of their land, and often changed from pastoral farming to arable farming. This caused serious environmental problems.

Hedgerow removal: Between the end of the war in 1945 and 1995 over 60% of hedgerows in England and Wales were removed. Hedgerows are important wildlife habitats but they limit the amount of land a farmer can use, and many wanted to merge small pastoral fields into huge arable fields due to the increased money they could make from that form of farming.

The loss of hedgerows also increased the chance of soil erosion occurring as they sheltered the land from wind, helping the soil to bind together.

Pollution: The increased use of pesticides and fertilisers has led to air and water pollution. Chemicals used on the fields, are easily washed into rivers by rainwater and can seriously affect the fish, birds and plants of the river. They can also leach through the ground and into rivers. Fertilisers in water can cause rapid algae growth. This then can lead to the water being starved of oxygen so there is not enough for other plants, and especially fish. This process is called eutrophication.

Soil Erosion: The removal of hedgerows and the change from pasture to arable farming has led to many cases of increased soil erosion. The hedges protected the soil from wind erosion, and their removal created huge fields across which the wind could race. Arable crops do not bind the soil together as well as grass and so more soil was eroded by rainwater run-off.

Also the crops did not cover the ground all year round and when the fields were ploughed they were even more susceptible to rapid erosion, and flooding.

Food production is one of the most important industries in most LEDC's and agriculture is often still their main source of employment.

has increased, and with the environmental difficulties that many of these countries face, a number of strategies have been introduced. These have been aimed at helping the farmers become firstly self-sufficient and then beginto allow them to make a profit.

However it has not just been a case of the developed countries of the world throwing money at the problem, the solutions have had to be appropriate to the countries concerned.

Appropriate Technology: This involves small-scale projects that will help a community or maybe even individual subsistence farmers.

Ideas include digging wells to provide water for irrigation, setting up projects that can be easily maintained and sustained by the local people. They have not included bringing in large machines and expensive technology, as this can rarely be repaired when it goes wrong. The use of renewable energy sources,such as wind power and biogas has been encouraged rather than huge HEP schemes.

All these things are aimed at being as well suited to a particular area of community as possible, whilst giving them as much help as possible.

The Green Revolution: This involved developing new high yield crops, initially in Mexico, which were then used in countries such as India. Their effect was to increase yields dramatically, and sometimes allow an extra crop each year to grown.

The farmers quickly produced greater amounts of crops and there fore produced larger profit, from which they could buy improved machinery. There were some disadvantages of the scheme however. The new seeds were very expensive to buy and required a lot of expensive fertilisers and pesticides to ensure that they grew properly. This meant that many of the poor farmers just couldn't afford the new crops. Some farmers fell heavily into debt trying to finance buying the new crops.

Irrigation: The Green Revolution meant the need of massive irrigation schemes. Long series of canals took water to the fields. The canals were fairly cheap to set up but did cause problems of waterlogging and salinisation.

Some communities used deep wells instead of irrigation canals to water their crops, however this method could only really cater for a couple of hectares of land. With the Green Revolution came electric water pumps, which allowed one well to irrigate much larger areas of land.

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