U.S. Agriculture & Third World Development: The Critical Linkage

U.S. Agriculture & Third World Development: The Critical Linkage

U.S. Agriculture & Third World Development: The Critical Linkage

U.S. Agriculture & Third World Development: The Critical Linkage

Excerpt

For the second or third time in fifty years, food problems and questions about food—how much of it there is and who has it—have become part of the global Zeitgeist. The last time food was as visible an issue was in the 1960s when famine struck the Indian subcontinent and, later, ravaged Africa's Sahel. Then, the Malthusians at the Club of Rome warned that it was only a matter of time before the world's population outstripped its ability to feed itself. Now, for the first time in history, people are asking whether there will be a perennial surplus of food.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, world agricultural output increased 27 percent between 1974 and 1984 and reached an all-time high. In the last decade, developed country agricultural production increased 15 percent, and farm output in the developing world rose an astounding 38 percent. Most importantly, per capita food production has been rising steadily.

Such performance can be attributed to the use of vastly improved technology and greater incentives for farmers to produce. The Green Revolution took hold in Asia to make India nearly self-sufficient and, occasionally now, an exporter of wheat. China, under an incentives policy established by its new leadership, has increased its food production by 40 percent in five years. Bangladesh, once the world's basket case, is now self-sufficient in grains. While such gains are reflected in a 10 percent rise in food production during the last decade in Asia, the intensive use of existing land and the clearing of millions of new acres in Brazil and Argentina have contributed to a 16 percent rise in Latin America's food output during the same period.

Meanwhile, in the developed world, price policies enacted after the war by a half-starved European Economic Community, along with more recent improvements in crop yields, have made it an important exporter of food. Canada and Australia, always big food producers, also have had major output increases. And U.S. farmers have brought idle land back into production, have spent heavily on output-increasing investments, and have responded to government price and reserve policies to produce more food than ever.

Although increased food production has provided more people with more and better food, it has led to market surpluses that have greatly intensified competition among agricultural exporters. It also has contributed to a . . .

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