3. What Is Agriculture?

The elaborations have shown that the `prototype' of agriculture, a holding using all family labour and providing all the family living, does not always apply. In a few cases, it depicts the situation, but in many others, not. Agricultural policy usually is directed to this form of agriculture and bypasses more or less the numerous other forms.

method in the past and today still is that father and son work on the same farm, and the son takes over after his marriage or later, when the father becomes too old. In this case, no change in farm size is necessary, perhaps only in intensity or in the number of animals in order to adjust to the changing work capacity. Problems may arise if more children expect a share of the land.
In reality, we have a wide variety of farms with widely differing goals and support requirements. Other farms of numerically lesser importance(commercial farms, plantations, landlords' farms, etc.) being left out of consideration, the main types differing from each other are

Economic Holdings

For this group, the notion of the farm absorbing all the labour of the cultivating family and providing their living applies. This group is the target of agricultural policy, justified as long as only production considerations play a role. It benefits from price and market policy, from subsidies, extension service, credit programmes, cooperatives, etc. However, in many societies, only 15 or 20% of all holdings counted in the statistics belong to this group.

Households with Multiple Employment

It has been explained already that agricultural policy hardly meets their needs, and, in view of the insecure future of this group, these measures may not be advisable at all. Regional development(including some aspects of agricultural policy) comprising training for non-agricultural activites, development of small scale industries, commerce, handicrafts is more in the interest of this group. Its share in the total number of holdings varies between countries and regions, but often exceeds one third.

'Holdings of the Aged'

They are on the fringe of the agricultural sector. Land, in this case, is a kind of social security, often the only means of avoiding poverty in old age. Agricultural policy has no place, here. With the upcoming social policy, their instruments will improve the lot of the people concerned. Their mere existence is of a transitional character :in traditional agricultural societies, they hardly play a role, then come up with beginning industrializtion and migration, while later on an established social security system makes them superfluous. In the meantime, they can be widespread. In some regions of Turkey, more than 30% of all holdings belong to this group.

Marginal Farms

Their marginality results usually from a too small farm size without possibilities of increasing their income by means of off-farm employment. Many of them are tenant farms. The low acreage provides a meagre subsistence only, while there is little to sell and little money to buy inputs. Therefore, neither market and price policy nor subsidies reach this group. It would be necessary for marginal farmers to take up non agricultural jobs or be trained to a greater extent Their number varies; it is usually smaller when multiple employment is widespread, but larger, if it is difficult to find work.

No policy is optimal for all these cases, and agricultural policy has no meaningful place in some of the cases. Looking at it from the opposite angle, while all types are more or less engaged in land cultivation, not all of them can be perceived as `agriculture' understood in terms of farms employing the labour of the cultivating family and providing the living for these people.

It is perhaps necessary to come to a different paradigm to explain the different types of households cultivating land.

Instead of farms, it might be better to speak of households, which use all the resources available to them(land, labour and perhaps some capital) to secure survival and to raise the standard of living.
Depending on the resource endowment, this may take place in different ways.

If land is sufficient, the household might concentrate on farming, and agriculture is the sole activity. In this case, agricultural policy is the proper means to assist these people.

But if there is a shortage of land, people have to make other arrangements for their living. Either they try to find non-farm additional jobs and thus increaset their total income, or they engage in household production and aviod expenditures in order to survive, or only an old couple instead of a family lives on the land. In each of these cases, it is not so much agricultural policy as other policies that can help these people who are often the most needy.

Dividing the land cultivating population according to these groups and designing policies according to the different target groups is the way to improve the effectiveness of policy efforts and help those for whom the support is intended.

What is Agriculture? The development in the course of the last 40 years has led to the emergence or spread of existence patterns which, in former times, hardly played a role. Development policy has to take note of this differentiation. Agriculture in the 90s is not the eame as in the 50s. Especially the underlying theoretical assumptions have to be reconsidered.