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Government always has unintended consequences

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February 23, 2010 – Comments (4)

Like China, India is striving to become independent by increasing agricultural yields. Not only is this an important security for these countries' large populations, but it would have the beneficial side-effect of increasing incomes for some of their poorest citizens (which in turn might allow a more consumer-oriented culture to develop and lead potentially to decoupling...though that's admittedly a long way off).

But as China's pollution census showed (farmer abuse of chemical fertilizer has effed their groundwater) and as India's urea subsidy is making farmland less productive, these moves can often have unintended side effects:

India has been providing farmers with heavily subsidized fertilizer for more than three decades. The overuse of one type—urea—is so degrading the soil that yields on some crops are falling and import levels are rising. So are food prices, which jumped 19% last year. The country now produces less rice per hectare than its far poorer neighbors: Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

It's incredible sometimes how badly countries around the world have messed up agricultural policy.

4 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On February 23, 2010 at 6:18 PM, ElCid16 (98.17) wrote:

Good post, man...in addition to decreasing farm yields, overdosing agricultural land with nitrogen causes loads of other problems as well.

Nonpoint source pollution, such as excess nutrient run-off from agriculture land, is incredibly hard to regulate.  As an effort to counter the problem, government organizations require point-source polluters to meet incredibly strict limits, costing those particular entities/companies thousands of dollars per day.  Many point source polluters have to meet part per million effluent limits on nitrogen while nearby farmers waste hundreds-thousands of pounds of urea per year by overdosing their farmland.  Farmers don't give a damn when the fertilizer is so cheap.

Here's a good article from NYT that highlights China's latest water pollution problems:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/world/asia/10pollute.html?ref=global-home

In addition to incredibly high nitrogen levels in their water, they're experiencing abnormally high amounts of chemicals that deplete their waters of oxygen.

Heavily subsidized fertilizer is a bad idea...

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#2) On February 23, 2010 at 6:22 PM, FleaBagger (29.47) wrote:

"Farm policy" inherently means that something is being messed up. Like how we're draining some of the resources away from most of our country and bankrupting third world farmers to subsidize inefficient farming practices here (the U.S.).

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#3) On February 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM, farmnut1985 (47.11) wrote:

Ugh, government subsidies, I'll leave it as that...... for now.

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#4) On February 24, 2010 at 2:34 AM, tonylogan1 (28.27) wrote:

well said FB.

if only people understood how difficult it is for a farmer in Africa to compete with a Virginian farmer that gets sugar subsidies (via fiat printed currency)

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