Great article (and sub-links) which demonstrates how export 'commodity farming' effectively economically bankrupts rural production areas, while by contrast, 'relocalisation' and shifting even just part of the area's production towards growing for local markets, would assist in balancing the ledger back in their favour.
Obviously there is only so much land and resources available for production - and other factors need to be taken into account, but the raw data is compelling reading...especially when we factor in better practice leading to reduced inputs etc:
Meter's work shows that commodity farming, rather than building wealth, extracts money from rural communities. In a seven-county region of southeastern Minnesota in 1997, farmers brought in an impressive $866 million selling their wares. However, amazingly, they incurred $947 million in costs to do so -- a loss of a cool $80 million. Federal subsidies covered just half of that loss; the rest had to be made up by non-farming activities.
Moreover, nearly half of the $947 million in incurred expenses left the area, as payments to distant suppliers of seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides, or to banks in the form of interest.
Meanwhile, though, the seven-county region's 120,000 households were busily buying food and eating it. Meter reckons that southeastern Minnesotans were spending $500 million on food annually -- and only $2 million of it on fare grown within the region. Yet if they could manage to buy just 20 percent of their food from nearby growers, that would amount to $100 million in additional sales for the region's farms, more than wiping out their $80 million loss in 1997.
In case study after case study (click to view) -- not only in the Midwest, but also in farming-intensive areas in California, Arizona, and the Southeast -- Meter teases out similar scenarios. Farming for distant commodity markets sucks resources out of communities, and residents of those communities spend heavily on food from outside. He doesn't suggest that such regions turn insular and stop supplying or buying from outside markets; just that they consume a much higher portion of their food output locally.
Full article available here (click to view)