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Jour~zal of Agriculturnl and Applied Econornic.~, 33,2(August 2001):341-347 0 3001 Southern Agricultural Econonlics Association Casting Bread Upon the Water: Comments on Technology, Globalization, and Agriculture

By Patricia A. Duffy, Patricia A. Duffy Is Professor and Department Of Agricul


The issues raised in this paper session-con-cerning technical change. globalization, and chronic low returns in agriculture-are of long-standing importance in our profession. The papers, like many policy discussions in our discipline, have focussed largely on the U.S. agricultural sector. In this comment I will make some remarks relative to the domestic situation, but would also like to branch out a bit to address the worldwide impact of chang-ing technology and increasingly open markets. The "Farm Problem " in the United States From the 1930s through the 1960s, the "farm problem " was recognized as being that of con-stant excess capacity caused by technical change, a situation known to agricultural econ-omists as Willard Cochrane's famous "tread-mill. " In the 1970s, swings in international de-mand introduced a new problem, increased price risk caused by a shifting demand curve. Many people attending this conference or reading this paper may be too young to have a clear recollection of the agricultural situation in the early 1970s. From the summer of 1972 to the fall of 1974, the average price of corn tripled and the price of wheat increased four-fold (Destler). Net farm income soared and acreage expanded, to the apocryphal "fence row to fence row " level. U.S. consumers, of course, were upset by the rising food prices

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