Tuesday, November 25, 2008

First Impressions

In response to Dean Chen's inquiry, I offer the following:

I still start with agraianism and its metamorphosis (or, perhaps, its decline). We don't read Kafka, but we do read Paarlberg, Soth, and Chandler (which are all 70s and 80s era pieces included in the original Thorson book). Those take us into economic regulation in the form of a tepid dip into the farm bill and we then move into popular media surrounding the 1996 bill, a 2000 article by Brian Halwell from Worldwatch Institute called "Hired Hands on Their Own Lands" and a piece by William Greider entitled "The Last Farm Crisis." I need something more here, but I've always found the students able to discuss the current state of affairs fairly well and I rely on class discussion to bring us to present views of the forces shaping agriculture and what may be good and bad. I'm contemplating the addition of Beyond Food and Evil.

Then we look at some data, USDA's "America's Diverse Family Farms" (2007). With these materials, I am taking a player based view of the agricultural industry. I tend to presume a common understanding of production agriculture, with the main lesson being one of complexity. Concentrated production, vast numbers of smaller farms and landowners, etc.

From there, we dig into the commodity title of the farm bill, concerning ourselves with the ever-changing structure of payments. Then, we do payment eligibility and limitations, with a final part of these units focused on international trade and its impact on the commodity title.

In the end, I'm not sure it is the best approach, but it works fairly well. A better beginning would be a series of articles from the panel discussing what agricultural law is . . .

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