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Monday, June 18, 2012

If Local Agriculture Is Constrained to Work Like Global Agriculture...

then it won't work very well! Steve Sexton estimates the inefficiency of local agriculture by modeling a "pseudo-locavore" economy "in which each state that presently produces a crop commercially must grow a share proportional to its population relative to all producers of the crop."

"My conservative estimates are that under the pseudo-locavore system, corn acreage increases 27 percent or 22 million acres, and soybean acres increase 18 percent or 14 million acres. Fertilizer use would increase at least 35 percent for corn, and 54 percent for soybeans, while fuel use would climb 23 percent and 34 percent, for corn and soybeans, respectively. Chemical demand would grow 23 percent and 20 percent for the two crops, respectively."

So, if you turn to local agriculture but resolutely ignore local growing conditions and demand that everyone still eat just what they do today, it will be wasteful.

Steve, just exactly who is recommending this alternate economy you have modeled?

4 comments:

  1. "It is difficult to estimate the impact of a truly locavore farming system because crop production data don’t exist for crops that have not historically been grown in various regions. However, we can imagine what a 'pseudo-locavore' farming system would look like—one in which each state that presently produces a crop commercially must grow a share proportional to its population relative to all producers of the crop. I have estimated the costs of such a system in terms of land and chemical demand."

    People demand cost estimates, and that's not the worst set of assumptions I've seen to make such estimates...

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    1. I'm getting so good at this! As I put up posts, I say to myself, "Self, this one will really bug Kuehn," or "Ro. Murphy will complain about this."

      And this post, I said, "OK, Ry. Murphy is responding to this one." It's the advantage of having few readers.

      In any case, Ryan, most local-food-production advocates would NOT recommend growing soybeans everywhere for local consumption. They would say that we should eat -- mostly? entirely? depends on how "hard-core" they are -- foods that are grown locally because the local environment is well-adapted for producing those foods. If you ignore that part, then obviously local food production loses out!

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  2. Steve, just exactly who is recommending this alternate economy you have modeled?

    I don't know that anyone is recommending is explicitly. A lot of locavores seem to be implicitly assuming something like it.

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    Replies
    1. Edward, see my reply to Ryan. The locavores I've read seem to advocate changing one's diet to eat more of what grows well locally, rather than eating the same global diet and just demanding your oranges be grown in New York.

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