Transforming the Rural: Volume 24

Cover of Transforming the Rural

Global Processes and Local Futures

Subject:

Table of contents

(18 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxv
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Part I Financialization

Abstract

This chapter examines the involvement of finance companies in the purchasing and leasing of Australian farmlands. This is a new global phenomenon as, in past decades, finance companies have lent money to farmers, but have rarely sought to purchase land themselves. We investigate and discuss the activities of the Hancock company – an asset management firm that invested in farmland in northern NSW. Material on the activities of Hancock and other investment firms were obtained from documents on the public record, including newspaper reports. Semi-structured interviews with community members were conducted in the region of NSW where Hancock operated. Australian agriculture is being targeted for investment by companies in the finance industry – as part of a growing ‘financialization’ of farming. While it is financially beneficial for companies to invest, they do not do so in ‘empty spaces’ but in locations where people desire to live in a healthy environment. The Hancock company was criticized by community residents for failing to recognize the concerns of local people in pursuing its farming activities. To date, there have been few studies on the financialization of farming in Australia. By investigating the operations of the Hancock company we identify a number of concerns emerging, at the community level, about an overseas company running Australian-based farms.

Abstract

After its adhesion to the EU in 1986 Portuguese agriculture benefitted from a continuous flow of European funds aimed at the modernization of the sector in order that it might face the shock of competition with more developed agricultures.

However, enough evidence exists to show that the crowding out of Portuguese capitals was counterproductive to the political objectives. In fact, despite the EU transfers, in only two of the years from 1980 to 2009 did agricultural investment attain identical levels to those prior to integration.

If one considers investment as being the best indicator to explain the poor results of Portuguese agriculture over the last three decades, my argument is that this evolution needs a retrospective analysis focusing on the concept of financialization of the economy induced by EU and national policies. Therefore, this chapter is an explanatory attempt to open a broad discussion on the role of financialization in agriculture and rural development issues.

Abstract

Up until recent years, all agricultural production in Norway was strictly regulated through spatial policy (location), production quotas and other price and market regulations. Prices and products were handled by the farmers’ cooperatives. International (e.g. WTO agreements) and domestic pressure has gradually loosened the governmental regulation of chicken and eggs. Economic (e.g. new ownerships), technological (innovations throughout the whole chain), political and institutional (liberalization) and cultural (e.g. in consumption and farming) changes have reconfigured the landscapes of chicken meat production, opening up new opportunities for the chicken industry. Chicken therefore makes a particularly good case for exploring recent major changes in the agri-food system. In this chapter, we investigate evolving rules, risks, challenges and opportunities in and around chicken meat value chains. Empirically, we build on interviews, document studies and statistics on the structural development of the chicken industry and we discuss how these changes are developing in other parts of the Norwegian agri-food system.

Abstract

The chapter will document the Canadian reaction, as reflected in the demand of New Zealand, that Canada fundamentally alters its dairy supply management system in order to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The Canadian government has resolutely refused to do so, supported wholeheartedly by dairy farmers throughout the country. This is in part because of the effect such an action would have on rural spaces and the debilitating result it would have on Canadian dairy production. As well, the chapter will address the issue of the cost of dairy products in New Zealand as compared with Canada. Part of this analysis will focus on the role of supermarkets in determining the price structure of milk in both Canada and New Zealand. Finally, the chapter will offer an examination of the New Zealand system as represented by Fonterra and the Canadian system as epitomized by dairy supply management.

Part II Standardization

Abstract

Effective standards are at once technical specifications for various people, processes, and products, as well as world-changing phenomena. Put simply, standards are one means by which we determine who we are and how we shall live. Alternatively, standards are more than technical specifications; effectively implemented standards are part of the social infrastructure that makes a given type of society possible. This, in turn, suggests that – if we are to collectively decide what kind of society and what kind of agri-food sector we want – the recent turn to standards (and away from government regulation) cannot be left in the hands of a few experts, but must be subjected to democratic deliberation. This is especially true if the scope of standards is to be expanded so as to include problems such as climate change and sustainability. These are “wicked problems” in that all the parameters cannot be specified, there is no single optimum to be attained and “…there is no criterion system nor rule which would tell you what is correct or false” (Rittel, 1972).

Abstract

Social and environmental standards-development organizations (SDOs) have been collaborating together to construct “meta-standards.” These exercises in standards-setting are part of a longer term process of transitioning innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture from diverse niches such as organic, fair trade, and environmental conservation into a regime of certified sustainability. Using participant observation during the development of an Assurance Code, we examine how actors construct the tools that enable them to influence the broader transition to sustainability. We do this by focusing on intermediation activities by “experts” during the development of a “meta-standard” for assurance. The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, we propose that in order to understand transitions in progress, we should be attentive to how these processes are accompanied by intermediation activities. Second, we argue that intermediate objects (or boundary objects) are important in these processes as they help actors to create actionable knowledge. These intermediation activities and the production of actionable knowledge contribute to the ability of actors to govern markets in the transition toward sustainable agriculture.

Abstract

Multi-stakeholder initiatives have proliferated as a leading form of standard-development, as they are understood to be more legitimate than other forms of non-state governance. The legitimacy of multi-stakeholder initiatives is a result of their perceived congruence with normative democratic principles. Using a case study of a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop a National Sustainable Agriculture Standard (LEO-4000) for the United States, this chapter examines the practices and politics of legitimation in non-state governance. The analysis of LEO-4000 indicates that, first, the simultaneous construction of legitimacy and standards affects the kinds of standards developed. Second, understandings of legitimacy are influenced by the standpoint of actors. Third, legitimacy has become a strategic dimension of standard-development, which actors use to further their interests. Based on these findings, we contend that non-state governance that relies on normative democratic principles for legitimation is constrained in its ability to develop stringent standards. Thus, there may be limits to non-state governance as a regulatory tool, and to achieve non-economic objectives such as increased sustainability. For rural areas, the implication is that they are becoming enmeshed in an emerging system of non-state governance that continues to be highly contested, particularly regarding who has the right to govern such areas. The findings in this chapter are based on qualitative data, including 34 interviews and participant-observation.

Abstract

Today, governance of food safety and quality as well as environmental aspects of food chains increasingly operates through public and private standards. This governance, as led by retail power, is often interpreted to undermine farmer’s agrarian independence by dictating detailed agricultural practices on the farm, thereby conditioning access into the food chain. Focusing on farmers’ discursive resources, agrarian writing implies an alternative social force, constructed here as farmer’s freedom. By analysing qualitative data from Finland along the theoretical axes of farmers’ interest in socio-economic achievement and willingness to comply with standards, a more nuanced understanding of farmers’ occupational freedom emerges. Freedom in economic interests and organic farming represents farmers as standard takers as standards supported values most important for them. Realizing freedom in economic creativity can be antagonistic to (public) standards and lead to contestations and negotiations for feasibility. Finally, freedom in self-sufficiency is antithetical to the commercial food chain; however, dissenting from standards displays a strong capacity to close the metabolic rift, along with organic farming. The evidence from the study suggests that farmers’ freedom has the character of a social force to modify food chains and to increase their socio-economic and environmental sustainability and to call for consumers’ freedom to join farmers’ efforts.

Part III Commodification and Consumption

Abstract

In recent years, Portugal has witnessed the siting of 250 wind farms, particularly in mountainous and rural areas. Even though, unlike other European countries, general public consensus seemed at first to prevail, protests by local population and ENGOs have been increasing of late (many broadcast by the media) – the outcomes of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) provide a good example. This chapter has two main objectives. On one hand, it examines how rural landscapes are discursively framed in the press when the Portuguese media picks up wind energy issues. On the other hand, by analysing EIA reports, it aims at identifying the social actors involved in the decision process of the siting of wind farms in rural or peri-urban areas, the arguments for and against the location of these facilities and how the (rural) landscape is framed and represented. The empirical material is drawn on three different sources: media analysis of the public discourse on landscape issues related to wind farms; an analysis of EIA reports regarding wind farms in Portugal and an analysis of official positions on this issue assessed through the Environmental Impact Declarations (EID) of EIA processes. It is concluded that despite the lack of media attention to landscape impacts’ of wind farms, the existing discursive frames are often attached to dichotomized cultural meanings: it either deems wind farms as technological tools for landscape progressive transformation or as a risk to its pristine image. As to the EIA reports, landscape matters are more visible and important and at times sufficient to reject approval or change of the siting of a wind farm.

Abstract

Over the last years, the olive oil produced in the Mediterranean countries has obtained growing success in international markets. Olive oil has benefited from the growing appetite of European and World consumers for products that are part of the so-called Mediterranean diet. For centuries, the olive crops were vital for communities that have occupied the territories bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Despite this long historical drive, this chapter analyses changes that took place since the Second World War. It is recognized that in the decades that followed the end of the war the transformation of western agriculture and rural societies together with commercial and cultural transnational connections have accelerated. Even in peripheral areas, such as Portugal, different processes of globalization have developed, making it necessary to identify the mechanisms that have established the connections to distant territories. Focused on the Portuguese case, this chapter examines how olive oil has contributed to inserting this peripheral territory in the global trade network. A path analysis of this crop is used as a lens to observe how various factors (political, ecological, technical, commercial, social and institutional) have been combined to inhibit or stimulate the inclusion of these rural territories in the dynamics of globalization.

Abstract

The unglamorous leek is an everyday foodstuff in a British supermarket, but its meaning is constructed through the interplay of a range of non-human materialities including the plant, its packaging and its information dense labels. This chapter examines the variations in the ways in which leeks are marketed in different supermarkets, with a particular focus on how they can be traced back to their roots in British fields. We examine the ways in which non-human and virtual entities ‘bring to life’ the human producers of the leeks in a bid to mimic the reconnection that is sought through local food systems. We use the example of the leeks to explore what is happening to food supply chains, urban-rural connections and rural representations as farmers and retailers build new modes of working and as social media tools open up virtual access to the people growing our food.

Abstract

Greater attention to and anxiety about farm animal welfare emerged at the end of the 20th century, as worries over food safety and food quality (connected to the BSE, FMD, avian influenza and other epidemics) pushed farm animal welfare into public discourse and political debate. This chapter looks at one of the ways in which consumers’ concerns and anxieties about animal welfare are addressed by the Soil Association (the United Kingdom), whose standard is based on a scheme of production that endorses animals’ natural life in the case of certification of organic eggs in the United Kingdom. Drawing on STS approaches it addresses the processes of producing ‘naturalness’ as food ‘attribute’ (to borrow from economics) and how ‘the natural life of hens’ is achieved in the context of eggs’ production.

Abstract

This chapter will explore processes of decommodification of specific local foods in South Italy. The aim is to offer both conceptual and empirical reflections on the topic. On the one side, the attempt will be to show the centrality of the notion of ‘labour’ in theoretically understanding the perspective of decommodification. On the other side, empirical support will be given through the presentation of a case study in South Italy. It clearly emerges that these processes are induced, among other elements, by a return to the land after having had different social and working experiences in urban contexts.

Abstract

In this chapter the aim is to analyse the way the relationship between health and food has been changing at the same time as Spanish society itself. From the beginnings of the consumer society until the present day the modernization process has made its imprint on the guidelines public bodies have issued to the public on caring for their health and diet. Beginning in the 1960s with a welfare idea of a healthy diet, very typical of the decade, and meant for a population with nutritional problems, today we have guidelines for an overfed population. The social trends dominant in each historical moment are shown throughout this transformation process and the dietary recommendations have been part of the social change. However, the perceptions of the administration itself on what constitutes a healthy diet have also made their mark on the criteria. The modernizing nature of the paternalistic administration of the 1960s can be easily seen in contrast with the public bodies of the 1980s competing with the messages from the food and agricultural businesses. As the 20th century drew to a close, dietary advice was in keeping with a background dominated by considerations on the nature of social change and in which both public bodies and citizens trusted in the truths of science as a reference point for correct action. At the beginning of the 21st century, reflexivity and questioning of scientific power appear and also an increase in public preoccupation with food risks. Each stage is analysed relating historical background and dietary recommendations.

Abstract

Like many other countries, a reform of school meals policies has been implemented in Portugal, wherein nutritional and health criteria are considered in the design of the public plate. Given that a large literature on school meals focus on cities seen as sites for promising transformation regarding health, resilience and sustainability, it is pertinent to examine how these policies are being received in rural areas. Similar to other vulnerable regions in southern Europe, rural areas in Portugal have been affected by depopulation, the re-localisation of public services (e.g. schools, health centres and courts of justice) to larger conurbations, a drastic reduction of farming areas and its reconversion from sites of production to sites of consumption that thrive on tourism. While research on children’s attitudes, experiences and practices in rural areas had picked up the attention of social scientists, research on children’s relations and engagements with school meals in these areas does not abound. This chapter addresses three issues: first, how the catering staff and health professionals experience children’s engagements with school meals after the policy reform; second, how the discourses of the school staff and parents around the rural and gastro-idylls contrast with the reported food practices and experiences of everyday life, and third, how the multiple engagements of children with animals, plants and other nature conflict with or are juxtaposed to the images of the rural idyll. Drawing from focus groups material with children aged between 7 and 9 years old living in the rural hinterland of an inland medium-size city in Portugal, focus groups with parents and interviews with stakeholders (e.g. school and kitchen staff, local authorities, nutritionists and catering firms) the chapter aims at contributing to a broader understanding of children lived experiences with food consumption in rural contexts.

Cover of Transforming the Rural
DOI
10.1108/S1057-1922201724
Publication date
2017-06-30
Book series
Research in Rural Sociology and Development
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78714-824-6
eISBN
978-1-78714-823-9
Book series ISSN
1057-1922