For whose benefit?: A second look at fund raisers and other charitable responses to the U.S. farm crisis

Research paper by Laura B. DeLind

Indexed on: 01 Mar '87Published on: 01 Mar '87Published in: Agriculture and human values


The deepening U.S. farm crisis has been accompanied by numerous benefit fund raisers, individual donations and volunteer programs—all an expression of cooperation and concern on the part of U.S. citizens, farmer and non-farmer alike. These responses have received wide media attention and much public praise. A sense of patriotism and self-reliance underlies their popularity. Nevertheless, such efforts work to undermine their own ultimate objective—that of improving the economic circumstances of the family farm and farm family.This irony, it is argued, arises from the fact that these charitable responses typically depoliticize the nature of the U.S. farm crisis. First, they deflect public attention away from the larger economic context and the structural inequities within it. Second they revitalize agrarian-based myths which serve to rationalize and to reproduce the ‘independent’ behavior of small, commercial farmers. Finally, it is argued that the depoliticization of the farm crisis is itself a political strategy, one which supports and legitimizes ‘business as usual’ and is compatible with the interests of corporate agriculture.

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