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The adoption of dryland farming as the availability of water declines creates serious difficulties for local institutions and disturbs the community's relationships with its residents and the larger society. This chapter examines those local institutions-banks, services, and leadership-which respond to the spread of dryland farming in ways which increase pressures on residents to relocate elsewhere. The dwindling supply of credit and the closing of local businesses signify a reallocation of wealth from the rural to larger, more prosperous communities. Migration of farmers, business, and professional people weakens leadership and undermines the community's adaptive capacity at a time when problems become more serious.
This chapter also explores various adaptive measures available to rural communities. These include efforts to diversify the local economy, strengthen local organizations, and establish intercommunity and regional coalitions to gain assistance from the federal level in addressing the area's water problems. The outcome of these efforts over the next few decades may be indicative of how America will cope with a diminished resource base, either through reduction in scale of organization or improvements in the environment's carrying capacity.
The advance of industrialism has been marked by an enormous increase in productive capacity and in man's capacity to rearrange the natural environment. Sprawling cities have developed in strategic locations, linked by multi-modal transportation systems. Natural resources in huge quantities are removed daily from the earth. Changes in farming have been no less remarkable, as evident in the increasing use of machinery, in size of farms, and in declining farm population. Today only three out of a hundred workers are engaged in farming compared to almost four out of ten workers in 1900.
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One threat to agriculture, besides overproduction and falling income, is the depletion of water in the arid and semiarid West and in those areas of the High Plains dependent on the Ogallala Aquifer. Many areas of irrigated agriculture will shift to dryland farming in the next few decades, a change presently occurring in the southernmost area of the High Plains. The reduction in crop yields and farm income will have serious consequences for farm communities and their residents, changes which will spread to areas undergoing this agricultural transition. This chapter considers several dimensions of the process of community decline: first, the local structures which play a strategic role in the adaptive process; second, the social-psychological consequences of change, especially for those who sell their farms; and third, measures whereby stability may be achieved at an economic and population level higher than otherwise might be possible.
The community, especially that based on family farms, plays a vital role in the operation of American society by linking residents to basic values and social institutions. Residents participate in the larger society mainly through involvement in local institutions. The community can facilitate integration since it is part of and contributes to national patterns of interdependence. The market economy involves all regions and localities in a nationwide and global system of exchange and resource allocation. The community participates in this system mainly through export activities which, in the case of rural localities, consist of various farm products that provide capital for local producers by meeting needs of organizations throughout society. These features of the economy may have a large influence on the material well-being and status of local residents. Where the majority can achieve important goals through participation in the farm sustenance system, allegiance to core beliefs and values is likely to be strong. The legitimacy of the authority structure which sustains the capitalist economy, and such features as private property and the sanctity of contractual relationships, will be widely accepted.
Productive labor in the local economy which is well rewarded has important psychological consequences, due in part to the value system. Success is largely defined in materialistic terms, to be achieved through disciplined personal effort. Those who attain these ends usually enjoy respectable class and status positions, and receive the plaudits of colleagues, friends, and loved ones. These significant others become the foundation of the actor's esteem and self-confidence.
Adapting the community to water scarcity is not unique to the United States. One-third of the earth's land area is considered arid, an environment characterized by ten to fifteen inches of annual rainfall, and the frequent occurrence of drought, erosion, and famine. Seventeen western states in America experience varying degrees of aridity, in contrast to the more humid eastern states. The difference in rainfall and ecosystem has been so considerable that development would have been less traumatic and destructive had settlement taken place from the West. Water transfer projects and use of groundwater have made possible extensive urban and agricultural development similar to that in the more humid eastern states. The growth of cities, industry, agriculture, and population has decreased the supply of water while rising energy prices increased pumping costs. Apart from the six states in the High Plains, sections of Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, and Idaho also depend on groundwater.
In the future,
. . . . Areas showing rapid rates of decline and high pumping lifts will likely be the next regions to lose irrigated acreage. Higher energy prices, rather than dwindling water supplies, will likely trigger the decline. Energy price rises have affected population costs more than declining groundwater levels. States containing significant areas of high pumping lifts (more than 200 feet) and rapid rates of decline (more than 3 feet) include parts of Arizona, California, Idaho, Kansas, Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle.
Although irrigated agriculture in the High Plains has been possible only in the area overlying the Ogallala Aquifer, roughly 10 percent of the acreage in the six states, the gain in farm productivity has been remarkable. The area produces, for example, approximately 40 percent of the nation's sorghum, 25 percent of its cotton, and 17 percent of its wheat. Any major decline in water table combined with increased energy costs will have a sizable impact on both regional and national farm production. The impact is likely to be more severe in the southern tier of High Plains states-Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma-where annual water use may decline by 53 percent by the year 2020 due to aquifer depletion, while annual water use will increase 33 percent in the northern states, Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska.
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However, severe drought and rising energy prices may accelerate the shift to dryland farming throughout the six-state Ogallala area.
Roughly two and a quarter million people inhabited the Ogallala area of the High Plains in 1980, slightly less than 9 percent of the total population in the six states. While several of the High Plains states have large metropolitan centers boasting spectacular growth, e.g., Denver and Dallas, the Ogallala area itself reflects the characteristics of small town America. Of the approximately 166 cities in the United States with over 100,000 population, only three are located in the Ogallala area; all are between 100,000 and 300,000. Three states, Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska, have a total of twelve small cities with populations ranging from 10,000 to 100,000. The approximately 812 other communities found principally in Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas are below 10,000 population. Many of these communities will be adversely affected by the adoption of dryland farming as location and water scarcity reduce the likelihood of providing nonfarm employment by attracting industrial and commercial enterprises. Population and economic decline will be unavoidable in many of these communities.
Rural community decline is initiated by a weakening of the economic base which triggers an interactive cycle that spreads throughout the locality and extends its influence into nearby towns and cities. Weakness in farming spreads to other economic organizations and to various local institutions, which leads to population losses. The decline in these several sectors are mutually reinforcing, magnifying the impact otherwise occurring separately, and encouraging the continuation of the cycle of decline. A process of reallocating wealth, resources, and people is underway, from the declining areas to those rural centers elsewhere in the nation with the potential for expansion, and to urban communities. The deterioration in local conditions upon which various organizations depend, and the social-psychological perception of the situation as one of diminishing opportunities unlikely to be reversed, underlie the disinvestment process.
Banks in small towns and cities quickly feel the impact of declining farm income since many borrowers have difficulty repaying loans. A phenomenon similar to "red-lining" in urban
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neighborhoods may occur in rural areas if bankers consider farm loans too risky or incapable of earning an adequate return. Any major reduction in the availability of credit would cause some of the less efficient or more highly leveraged farms to cease operations. The high cost of capital also increases the pressure even for the most efficient and productive farmers to seek nonagricultural employment.
Decline in farm income and population weakens the market for local and small city businesses and professionals serving the farm areas. Once the numbers of customers and income level fall below a "critical mass" or threshold, financial rewards are too limited to permit continuation of the enterprise. Services and retail trade needing a large market would be most sensitive to community decline. Terminating operations effectively transfers functions to larger communities, forcing local residents to do without some important commodity for a period of time and to incur sizable expense from shopping trips to more distant communities. These factors further increase the cost of remaining in the farm community.
Professional services with high thresholds were first to leave declining villages in Wisconsin, losses which probably had adverse consequences for the health and well-being of local residents. Commercial establishments also felt the effects of reduced income as customers cut back on purchases. Establishments requiring a large trade area, such as dry goods stores and auto dealers, were the first to depart, followed soon thereafter by various personal services, such as beauty parlors and repair shops. Since the population could no longer support multiple stores in the same line, the number of establishments such as filling stations and grocery stores declined, leading to price increases. The decline in the rural community's resources imposes various costs and deprivations on inhabitants, causing the rural lifestyle to decline below that of most urban residents.
The declining economic base has adverse effects on local schools and government, requiring cutbacks in various services, programs, and personnel. Laying off county clerks and school bus drivers, for example, seriously reduces the income of some farm families. Neglect of farm roads and bridges increases transportation costs, and necessitates more frequent auto repairs. The psychological consequences of decline are manifest in a malaise of defeatism which complicates if not defeats efforts to stabilize local institutions.
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The departure of farm owners, professionals, and businessmen, and the closing of banks, also depletes the ranks of leaders: people with a substantial stake and involvement in the community. This outflow of an indispensable community resource has numerous consequences. The community's resources for exercising power-wealth, information, skills in management, public relations, brokering conflicts, access to key influentials outside the community-also have been diminished. The examination of the diverse roles which usually must be performed to complete a project indicates the seriousness of the losses. These include, in addition to those mentioned above, initiating and formulating a specific plan and gaining support from decision makers. The exodus of leaders leaves few people capable of performing the tasks essential for success. Projects which depend on such specialized activities as communicating with a key legislator, or brokering disputes between local factions, may be crippled due to lack of external support and internal unity. These difficulties may befall both efforts at community development and the management of local institutions, e.g., schools and churches.
The community also will be weakened by the absence of leaders with vision, a capacity to see beyond the immediate disrepair of the locality and recognize conditions as assets for future development which others ignore or fail to appreciate. These abilities are extremely important for declining communities, as one strategy for halting or reversing decline requires the use of "old resources in wholly new ways, so that they are really new resources." Some western communities with environmental amenities have been able to shift their economies from extraction to culture, recreation, or both, and become a mecca for art lovers or ski enthusiasts. Vision, however important, does not suffice to assure success of new ventures. Willingness on the part of leaders to take risks, to invest resources-both money and skill-in enterprises whose outcomes are doubtful and which require a lengthy period of time before results can be determined, is as important as the plan of action. The reversal in the economic well-being of several Wisconsin villages was attributed mainly to leaders who were entrepreneurial in risk taking. The economic improvements required for halting decline are unlikely to occur in farm communities which have been losing many businessmen and farmers, since those who remain will be concentrated in the older age brackets, and less inclined to take risks required for supporting innovative programs. They are more likely to be fatalistic about the community's future.
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Coalitions may overcome weaknesses in some organizations. A civic, youth, or educational group could improve its program by cooperating with other interested associations to acquire the needed resources. These interorganizational coalitions enable key members to meet often for resolving differences, formulating plans for development, and allocating resources for a few crucial projects. A communitywide association may be established to present a "united front" in dealings with external agencies. A community's ability to cope effectively with decline may depend on degree of interorganizational linkages. Any success which these coalitions achieve that improves local institutions, both economic and social, will upgrade conditions of daily life and demonstrate the capacity of local groups to influence the community's future. As this view gains support, resources for future projects should be more readily available.
For those who cannot continue in farming, the move to nonagricultural employment involves numerous changes. These may be minimal in communities whose residents can commute to jobs in the city. For others the change involves disengagement from one locality and economic sector and establishment in different structures. Many will encounter considerable difficulty and some will not make a successful adjustment. Even for those who find new employment and build new lives in the city, the level of satisfaction may be less than had been customary, causing some alienation from society's core values.
An understanding of the factors involved in disengagement from agriculture and participation in the urban economy can be gained from comparing farming with a career in complex organizations. Various aspects of farming resemble a career, although the concept has been mainly applied to professional and administrative roles. A "career" signifies a stable and sequential pattern of employment in a similar line of work providing advancement over a lifetime in skills, earnings, and responsibility. A career signifies continuity of work experiences since job changes comprise a general pattern of development. A career becomes a central part of the person's life plan, which absorbs considerable energy and commitment, and usually becomes a crucial basis for self-evaluation.
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To the owner and operator of the family farm, especially one who has inherited the farm, farming represents lifetime employment as income is derived mainly from farm operations. Improving and expanding the farm are equivalent to career advances for the manager or the academician. Acquiring information and skills associated with innovations, e.g., use of the microcomputer for farm management, is similar to the surgeon's mastery of a new life-saving procedure. The former often are associated with gains in earnings and, among local associates, in prestige and possibly power. The more successful of the farmers may serve as directors of local organizations and of financial institutions. They often are in a position to influence decisions affecting the locality.
Plans and activities for improving farm operations provide direction, purpose, and commitment for the farmer and members of the family. Farming and related activities provide a continuity of experience over a lifetime, which could be passed on to the next generation should children choose to stay on the land. The continuity of experience which is a central feature of a career for the farmer also is associated with sustained contact with family and other community residents.
This life plan changes drastically when the farm is sold and one or both parents enter the urban labor force. Few older farmers will be able to establish a new career, for these are open mainly to younger persons with college degrees. Establishing a business and blue collar employment that offers the opportunity for skill development provide the best prospect of approximating a career. Continuity of work experience will be difficult to achieve as many ex-farmers have less seniority than younger people who joined the firm after leaving school. The modest skills required for many blue collar jobs do not permit period progression in know-how and responsibility characteristic of the typical career. The importance of these factors as personal goals will decline. Since work and advancement lose saliency and ability to motivate activity, personal energies may be directed to other, nonwork activities.
The satisfactions farming provides probably cannot be matched by factory employment as these depend largely on worker autonomy and ability to control work procedures. Few ex-farmers will have as much responsibility and autonomy as they had on the farm. Most will have a subordinate position in a bureaucratic structure, with much less opportunity to exercise discretion and judgment. Since nonfarm employment for many will involve
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lesser occupational responsibilities and rewards, there is far less likelihood of obtaining leadership positions in local organizations. For many of those who are forced to sell the farm and move to the city, especially those who do not receive substantial payments for their holdings, downward occupational and status mobility will be difficult to avoid.
Lack of work seldom is a problem for farmers. In bad years and in good years buildings and equipment must be maintained, plans formulated for next year's activities, arrangements made for obtaining seed, fertilizer, pesticides, breeding animals, manpower, and other inputs. While nonfarm employment may involve various benefits, such as higher wages, pensions, health plans, paid vacations, it also entails a higher risk of unemployment. Many former farmers and members of their families may be more subject to layoffs as they will have less seniority than persons of comparable age, as suggested above. People over forty may have considerable difficulty obtaining nonfarm employment.
Understanding unemployment requires consideration of the place of work in the lives of most Americans. Work provides a central focus for organizing activity, and planning one's life. Work provides "meaning" for life, even for those who hold menial positions, if the work is necessary and considered productive. These relationships are understandable since employment in an organization provides material and psychic rewards which link the person to society's core institutions and values.
The importance of work in America also is indicated by recent public opinion polls which found that a large majority of Americans value work, prefer to work hard, and consider its benefits as both moral and material. Work provides direction for most people, since daily activities are arranged to facilitate the performance of various work tasks. Family and organizational responsibilities have to be scheduled during leisure periods. Associations with colleagues in the office or plant help time to pass more quickly. Work provides a purpose for living, a basis for supporting a family and assisting children to achieve upward mobility. Prolonged unemployment deprives people of these goals. They become apathetic and withdrawn, consider themselves useless and superfluous and, when in public, often wander aimlessly.
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The consequences of unemployment do not disappear when the individual returns to work. The frustration, anxiety, and despair experienced during the layoff leave a painful residue. Employees who have been unemployed, even for a short time, tend to be more misanthropic and distrustful than those who have never lost their jobs. They also are more pessimistic about themselves and their children, since they view the organizations which determine their life chances as uncontrollable.
While these aspects of unemployment may not weigh heavily in any deliberations concerning measures to safeguard and enhance the water supply for arid or semiarid regions, they should not be overlooked or treated as inconsequential. For persons who suffer even occasional unemployment, the psychological, material, and social costs will be severe.
The decision or series of decisions which culminate in sale or retention of the farm connect the community changes resulting from adoption of dryland farming, the prospects for suitable nonfarm employment, and the locality's future. Despite the importance of decision making for countless farm families, the process has been largely neglected compared to studies of decision making in complex organizations. Some attention should be given this matter since it has a vital effect on the region, its communities, and inhabitants. The information could provide a basis for counseling families on the course of action most suitable for their circumstances.
Many factors discussed above operate to dissuade the farm family from moving elsewhere. These include anxiety over the transition to urban residence and employment, the separation from friends and kinfolk, from previous generations of the family. For those whose families have farmed for generations, moving severs ties with a venerable past. Friends, relatives, associates may suggest that such a decision should be postponed in expectation of some turn for the better. Delay of the decision, however, may not be in the best interest of the family, given the difficulties of the transition to a new and different type of community and mode of life. Prices for land and farm commodities may fall and require the family to take a sizable loss when the decision to sell is made. In the interim, considerable psychic energy may have been expended in the effort to save the farm
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and the family's roots in the community, leaving members with meager emotional resources for coping with relocation when the farm is sold. In the interim, coping with uncertainty and ambivalence will be trying, as family members are on the verge of becoming marginal to the rural community while having no base in the community to which they will move. Even for those farm families which adapt to dryland farming and obtain an adequate income, the psychological strain may be considerable.
Since community decline has multiple facets, as indicated above, a variety of adaptive strategies are required, both short term and long term. Short term policies should aim at limiting the exodus of people, resources, and organizations, and seeking, wherever possible, to strengthen the local economy. Establishing programs and, where necessary, organizations to accomplish these goals will counteract the fatalism which afflicts many residents, and provide leadership experiences for younger people. These will instill the confidence required for understanding more ambitious projects. Long-term efforts should be directed at obtaining nonagricultural functions and, when feasible, to restoring the area's resource base through some type of interbasin water transfer project. Although the prospects for such costly projects are dim at present, unforeseen events can put a different light on these proposals.
Some insight into the policies which might stabilize the rural community can be gained from the efforts to cope with similar problems in industrial cities. While the measures discussed below will not accomplish miracles, implementation should improve conditions in the farm community and protect the markets for the cities serving as rural trade centers. The strategies emphasize conserving resources, careful selection of improvement programs, and strengthening the local economy.
A study of planned contraction in Cleveland recommends a number of policies. Since any development program is costly and resources in a declining community are scarce, the conservation of local assets should be the first priority. Any savings will yield resources which, however meager, may be needed for future development programs. Every plan, including those which have been customary in the past, should be examined carefully to determine both feasibility and the benefits to the community.
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This type of rigorous scrutiny will reduce the likelihood that scarce resources will be squandered on projects which have little prospect for success.
Second, savings may be achieved from reorganizing various government agencies. In some Texas counties, for example, commissioners are responsible for certain functions in their precincts, mainly road maintenance and, in some cases, fire protection. Centralization of these functions in one countywide office can lead to more efficient utilization of equipment and personnel, and savings for taxpayers. In some instances, various work rules may be archaic and costly. Plumbers in Pittsburgh's water department, for example, did not drive vehicles to various work assignments. Other municipal employees had to be used for this purpose. For some counties and municipalities significant savings might be achieved by computerizing tax, voting, and other records, especially property assessments.
Third, some local functions might be transferred to higher governmental bodies, such as counties, regional authorities, and possibly the state. Highway maintenance, water and sewage services, and sanitary landfills are some of the functions which could be performed more efficiently by governmental units serving a larger territory and population.
Fourth, local officials and planners should assist and work with community organizations seeking to strengthen local institutions. The leaders of schools, youth groups, neighborhoods, and minority groups should be encouraged to improve their homes, localities, and institutions. Although such assistance might be construed as politicizing groups, which could lead at times to challenges of government initiatives, the dialogue resulting from such exchanges might lead to better plans and stronger citizen commitment to the locality. This form of cooperation between elected officials and local organizations may reaffirm the faith of all residents in the vitality of the local community and forestall the spread of defeatism, which could paralyze efforts to stabilize the area. Equally important, these efforts at cooperation will facilitate development of leaders to replace any who have left the area, and thereby revitalize the "grass roots."
Fifth, the possibility of using resources and facilities for purposes different from those in the past should be studied closely both for diversifying the economy and for conserving investment. One Ohio community, for example, converted a closed school building to a recreation center. The prospect of attracting or developing nonagricultural functions should be seriously
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examined. While this strategy might not be suitable for many farm communities, those near cities and major transportation facilities, especially highways, railroads, and airports, might attract some manufacturing or office establishments. Efforts to restructure the economic base may require some type of development group, a competent director, and cooperative relations with the state development organization. Local leaders must be willing to invest time, energy, and money in recruitment activities, which will encounter considerable competition from many other communities.
Finally, local groups should join with area organizations concerned with or having some responsibility for water resources. Since the problem of diminished water supply is regional, programs for long-term improvement must be applicable throughout the area and are likely to require collective action by the respective state governments. The transfer of water between some or all of the states in a region also will require a long-term, unified effort to gain the support of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. A strong consensus on both the efficacy and political acceptability of a particular plan for interbasin transfer will aid such an effort. Since the outcome is highly uncertain, equal if not more emphasis should be given to improving the conservation and management of the region's water resources. Uniformity of governmental arrangements among the states for accomplishing this end might be beneficial. At present,
. . . laws concerning ground water vary from no statewide regulatory controls in Texas to full authority of the State Engineer to control ground water extractions in New Mexico.
Two types of regional coalitions may be useful, one consisting of government officials, the other of water resource associations in the respective states. Since these organizations have diverse interests, achieving consensus may require protracted periods of study and negotiation, and a broad program which includes urban and rural interests. Prospects for interbasin transfer may improve considerably if the project can ease shortages in both urban and rural areas.
The community, both rural and urban, is a vital link between society and its members. Involvement in institutions and the development of core values take place in the groups and organizations of the neighborhood and locality. It is through situations at work, and among kinfolk, neighbors, and parishioners that commitments to society's values, norms, and roles are maintained and affirmed. These forms of social involvement, by providing respect and prestige, reinforce the individual's self concept and confidence in ability to cope with the everyday tasks required for supporting a family and community.
Serious disturbances to relationships between levels of social organization and within the community occur often in industrial society, in this instance from depletion of a nonrenewable resource. Since the causes of such changes are indigenous to the industrialized, urbanized society, many solutions also must involve the larger system. This set of circumstances poses a dilemma for the rural community. Solutions often must be sought through coalitions with those in similar circumstances in other regions of the nation. Can communities which have lost assets to expanding communities muster the resources to shape policy decisions on the national level? The answer is particularly difficult when it is recognized that national and regional involvement can absorb resources and energies needed to adapt local institutions to conditions created by dryland farming.
This chapter has focused on processes of community decline and of community adjustment. The former takes place mainly through changes in the economy, polity, and population; the latter through use of political agencies, both local and extra-local, to stabilize the area and provide resources needed by both economic and social organizations. The chapter also has emphasized the social-psychological difficulties that those who have been displaced from the rural community will experience.
While adoption of dryland farming represents a realistic adjustment to the depletion of water resources in the semiarid West, the increased dependence on rainfall makes the rural community more vulnerable to drought and declining farm prices. If a drought should persist for several years, many farm communities will cease to exist.
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Whether these circumstances constitute a national problem depends on conditions elsewhere in the country. Whatever the pain and suffering which befall those who are forced to leave their farms and communities, the impact nationally may be minimal if the economy, both rural and urban, is sound, if unemployment is low and farm prices high. The difficulties in the West may be no more serious than a bad cold for an otherwise healthy person. If, on the other hand, the patient has been seriously ill for some time, occurrence of another problem may suffice to cause permanent damage.
The decline of agricultural productivity in the semiarid West combined with dislocation in industrial communities can aggravate the employment problem and weaken confidence in democratic institutions. Technological changes are eliminating many blue and white collar jobs. People displaced from rural communities, especially those who are older, will become part of an "underclass," along with those blue and white collar workers whose jobs were eliminated by technological changes and by the relocation of manufacturing overseas. A serious drought also will expand the numbers of people at the bottom of the social pyramid. Not only will the ranks of jobseekers in the city grow, but the nation's food producing capacity may be seriously impaired. The decline of the water supply and food producing capacity in a once fertile region should cause great concern in a nation which, for many years, has supplied food for people at home and abroad. The power of the United States in the world depends as much on the ability to produce food as on the ability to produce weapons.
The pressing problems and social impacts that farmers face in upcoming decades due to the decreasing availability of water are clearly and succinctly discussed by the Schaffers. No doubt, in
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the near future, a decrease in the number of small farms will continue with rural communities battling for survival in the face of decreased capital and human resources. The authors provide a rational and appealing strategy which rural communities and families might adopt in order to preserve the small farm as an institution. I will discuss a few salient issues brought out by the authors and present a brief account of an aspect omitted in the chapter, namely, the impact on migrant farm workers.
Primary responsibility for the reduction of the number of small farms in the U.S. has been placed on the corporate multinationals which have squeezed the small farmer out through competition in price, technological innovations, and other methods. The number of small farms has been markedly reduced during the last half century. The consequences of this reduction on the small farmer, when viewed in the context of water's declining availability, is discussed by the authors. Reduced opportunities and standards of living will befall the small farmer and family unit forced to remain in a declining agricultural community.
The authors argue that mobilization of resources along either ethnic or other organizational foci (e.g., religious) must take place if the endangered community is to survive. Alternatively, a community may seek to establish novel kinds of economic production previously not considered.
Small farmers will inevitably face the prospect of migrating to urban centers when their income declines beyond a certain point and no alternatives appear in sight. In this respect they will resemble Mexican-American/Chicano farm workers who have "settled out" of the migrant stream. An analysis of the adaptive measures both utilized by and provided for this ethnic group would be instructive for migrating white ethnics.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, a number of Department of Labor programs were initiated to assist underemployed or unemployed persons. Migrant farm workers who decided to settle in an urban community availed themselves of such programs as Job Corps, where they could acquire the labor skills needed to survive in a nonrural setting. For example, courses in carpentry and plumbing were offered. These programs were often successful in placing their graduates, though sometimes they were not, for a variety of reasons. The point is that some form of government involvement in the urban settlement of rural migrants (small farmers) might be necessary.
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One might speculate that under the Reagan Administration, which emphasizes government austerity, assistance of the type cited above might receive low priority, if considered at all. However, there remains governmental financial support for various domestic corporate groups (e.g., Lockheed and Chrysler), not to mention foreign governments (e.g., El Salvador and Brazil). One might suggest to communities which face decline and the prospects of migration that government assistance in both the place of origin and destination be provided. Methods of structuring such organizations are outlined by the authors.
The process of community decline is clearly and thoughtfully outlined. The loss of both human and monetary capital-but especially the loss of leadership-spells doom for a community. Where decline is evident and likely, consideration should be given to providing nonfarm occupational alternatives to the existing community and its organizations. Such foresight and the attendant program implementation would be costly, particularly in that recognition of the inevitability of the decline has psychic (individual) as well as social and economic effects.
An alternative to rural community decline is the creation of "federal relief zones" patterned after existing "disaster areas." Communities suffering from climatic and resource changes are as much in need of assistance as those suffering from "act of God," e.g., a severe flood. But does our society (i.e., government), especially now, value the institution of the small farm sufficiently that it would accord it relief? Possibly-but probably not. However, the federal government has entertained the idea of creating "business enterprise zones" in blighted central cities in order to help the climate of business in these areas. Should the federal government not extend assistance to industries other than big business?
In terms of the migration destination points of the small farmer, urban areas might also receive assistance from the federal government where sufficient numbers warrant such a program. This is a measurement problem. How many small farmers and their households are to be considered? In addition, what happens to migrant farm workers who also depend on the small farmer for seasonal employment?
Thousands of farm workers would be thrown out of jobs upon which they have relied. What alternatives will be provided for these workers?
In arguing for assistance to impacted rural areas, one could use the example of the federal government's aid to areas
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impacted by military facilities. Already there has been a four-year debate in Congress over the government's role in assisting southern border school districts with a sizable number of legal resident alien children. Should Congress pass such a bill, it could be argued that urban areas impacted by rural migrants should also receive assistance. The analogy is applicable.
The general strategy outlined by the Schaffers for community survival is rational and plausible. To accomplish these goals in the face of resource depletion, however, may be impossible. Resettlement assistance may be a better alternative. But will government come to the aid of the rural community (small farmers and farm workers) as it has for the business community? This question will be answered if and when the federal government responds to the political mobilization of communities in need.
My intention here is to comment on the Schaffers' chapter, and then to extend their analysis of the High Plains area to the entire West.
A major point concerns the generality of the phenomenon which the Schaffers discuss. The authors have described the anticipated social consequences for a specific declining aquifer. However, the outcomes they envision for the western High Plains can be utilized to describe American agriculture and rural society generally since the 1880s. In that time, U.S. agriculture and rural communities have undergone a massive transformation: the former has shifted to large-scale, commercial, chemically-based, energy- and capital-intensive; the latter (shading the social reality with only moderate exaggeration) has effectively vanished. Thus, what the Schaffers analyze as the possible product of a declining water resource turns out to be a near-universal phenomenon, occurring in other circumstances where water has not been the causal agent of rural community decline.
The specifics of this universal phenomenon vary from place to place, region to region, and in different historical periods of U.S. agriculture. We need only note the decline in the percentage of the labor force dedicated to agriculture, forestry, and fisheries from over 50 percent in the 1880s to 3.6 percent at the present to understand the universality of the phenomenon. A similar process has also occurred in other rural occupations such as fishing, lumbering, and mining and mineral extraction.
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In the midst of this decline, the West has found a "solution" to the water problem, although the social outcome remains very much the same as in the Ogallala area. The resolution of the water problem through developing community organization and alliances has been undertaken in the West through powerful political organization. This has produced a rich and complex network of physical transformation to dam and carry water over distances previously unknown in human history: the western water developments that have taken place since the adoption of the 1902 Reclamation Act.
These developments, however, have not produced rich and varied community life. Rather, as documented by social scientists such as Goldschmidt, they have produced a wealthy agriculture accompanied by limited human communities.
One could conceive, of course, of a programmatic solution to the declining Ogallala aquifer, but it is unlikely, in the present or projected political and economic climate, that works of such magnitude would be feasible.
The Schaffers pose several problems that should be briefly mentioned.
First, there is an implicit contradiction between the authors' discussion of the value system of the United States with its emphasis on success, material acquisition, and "free market" orientation, and the exigency to plan for the kind of social change they envision with the depletion of the aquifer. I can only wonder why, for example, planning seems impossible for the management of the Ogallala resource so that its depletion will end and that community life, perhaps with reduced "success," can continue.
Second, an even more fundamental question cries to be asked: what is-or should be-the policy of the U.S. in agricultural production when the U.S. is exporting crops in such volume abroad? Should we be seriously worried about the maintenance of a production system that has created such abundance that its disposal has constituted a major problem for the nation for over 50 years? In other words, why worry about maintaining or expanding production levels? Why not worry about social policies to form a different economic base for human communities in the Ogallala area and elsewhere?
And finally, any "solutions" for the problems of community decline suggest one additional question that should be asked: who benefits? Investments in social infrastructure such as occurred under the Reclamation Act have benefited varying
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segments of the U.S. population differentially; not everyone has benefited equally as a result of the Reclamation Act. In the Westlands Water District in California, for example, the benefits to large landholders of federally subsidized water are different from those to farm workers, to mention but one social category. The justification for such water projects has been that they benefit all of us, i.e., the "public." It is unclear that the public benefits anywhere near as much as some tiny and privileged segments of U.S. society. In other words, to put the matter bluntly, wealthy and powerful interests benefit more from such projects than poor people. Should this be the way in which federal policy operates with respect to water development?