4 Consequences for Agriculture and Rural Development Policy
Over the last forty years, a number of factors have caused
a. socioeconomic differentiation within agriculture. Agriculture
today takes place in a variety of different ways of life that
are only partly determined by agriculture. Depending on these
characteristics, each requires a different policy and a prerequisite
for an effective policy is the exact definition of target
groups. Some examples may illustrate this statement.
- Larger commercial farms are organized along economic
requirements for support by the public centre on plant breeding,
facilities, provision of import facilities for spare parts
and price policy to
their advantage. Otherwise, it is in their interest if government
its interference in the economy to a minimum.
- Medium farms are often intensively managed along modern
lines but fam
ily circumstances and subsistence requirements play a role
for labour econ
omy as well as cropping pattern. For their activities, support
by an ef
fective extension service is of great importance and they
are the main
beneficiaries of co-operatives if these exist because they
meet the urgent
requirements of this group. This includes easier access
to credit. The
same applies to a lesser degree to the small farmers.
- Marginal farms often live or at least try to live on
a combination of agricul
tural and non-agricultural income. The more the latter are
in the forefront, the more they influence the organization
of land cultivation. Income maximization is only one of
several possible goals of these households. Not the highest
yield or income from agriculture is the target but for instance
low labour requirement so that much time is left for the
non-agricultural job. Or one attempts a cropping pattern
with short peaks in labour requirements during which man
takes leave or during which all relatives are called for
help. Price policy is of limited importance because most
products are consumed at home. On the market, these households
sometimes act as producers, sometimes as consumers. Cooperatives
as well as extension service are not frequented much, and
credit is dangerous for this group. Provision of non-agricultural
jobs and training for non-agricultural jobs are of much
Households of the aged with land are hardly influenced by
measures of agricultural policy. In the absence of other means
to support them, they continue cultivation as long as they
can in an extensive way. With reducing ability to work, more,and
.more tilling is given on custom hire or more of the land
is rented out. Living in familiar surroundings together with
other aged people is part of their way of life. Measures of
social policy are called for to help these persons while agricultural
policy hardly meets their needs.
The examples - which could be extended and specified - show
that different parts of what is traditionally called 'agriculture'
require different policies. With agricultural policy alone,
one does not meet the whole variety of circumstances.
The primary goal of most people is to make the ends meet
by a sufficient income and increase this standard. Secondarily,
it may be the desire of persons to reach this goal by cultivating
land. But for the majority - and varying from location to
location -, agriculture today is one of several opportunities.
They select the occupation or the occupations which offer
the optimum total income possibilities.
The focus of public policy under such circumstances - widespread
multiple employment and many holdings of the aged - should
not be so much agricultural policy proper but rather regional
development policy, i.e. the promotion of agricultural and
non-agricultural activities and their basis. Naturally, even
within this framework, agricultural policy has its place,
but among other policies and often of different content than
that for commercial farmers.
Important parts of this regional development policy are
structural policy, price policy and social policy. The structural
policy has to further and strengthen those parts of the economy
which are vital but facilitate at the same time transitions.
Migration out of agriculture, sometimes even out of the rural
areas, is necessary to make an income comparable to that of
other regions possible. The price policy - especially if the
state interferes more strongly in the economy - has to offer
security for the producer and thus incentives to produce and
to invest. Naturally, the justified interest of consumers
are part of the decision process.
The social policy has to be extended to safeguard the rural
population against risks of sickness, invalidity and old a,ge
because for an increasing part of the rural population, the
farm and the family cannot absorb these risks any more. Public
measures should be subsidiary, in line with the paying possibilities
of the people and take into consideration the still strong
feeling of coherence among family members.
Since the beginning of efforts, the small farm, the peasant
has been the main target in development plans and in speeches
of politicians. The fact that agricultural development policy
hitherto did not take notice of the socio-economic differentiation
between households engaged only in agriculture, and those
which combine agricultural and non-agricultural activities,
has led to suboptimal results of policy measures. While the
target group -at least in declarations - usually has been
the small farmers, nearly always, the large farmers could
secure the lion's share of the support measures. This state
of affairs calls for a review of the theory of agriculture.