The community effects of industrialized farming: Social science research and challenges to corporate farming laws

Abstract

Social scientists have a long history of concern with the effects of industrialized farming on communities. Recently, the topic has taken on new importance as corporate farming laws in a number of states are challenged by agribusiness interests. Defense of these laws often requires evidence from social science research that industrialized farming poses risks to communities. A problem is that no recent journal articles or books systematically assess the extent to which research to date provides evidence of these risks. This article addresses the gap in the literature. We evaluate studies investigating the effects of industrialized farming on community well-being from the 1930s to the present. Using a pool of 51 studies, we document the research designs employed, evaluate results as to whether adverse consequences were found, and delineate the aspects of community life that may be affected by industrialized farming. Of these studies, 57% found largely detrimental impacts, 25% were mixed, finding some detrimental impacts, and 18% found no detrimental impacts. Adverse impacts were found across an array of indicators measuring socioeconomic conditions, community social fabric, and environmental conditions. Few positive effects of industrialized farming were found across studies. The results demonstrate that public concern about industrialized farms is warranted. Scholars often debate whether research should be oriented around disciplines’ accumulated body of knowledge or, conversely, provide critical knowledge in the public interest. Social scientists’ long-term engagement in building the body of research on industrialized farming allows for accomplishment of both objectives.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Barlett P., L. M. Lobao, K. Meyer. 1999. Regional differences among farm women and comparative marital models. Agriculture and Human Values 16: 343–354

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Barkema, A. and M. Drabenstott (1996). “Consolidation and change in heartland agriculture”. In Economic forces shaping the rural heartland (pp. 61–77). Kansas City, MO: Federal Reserve Bank

  3. Barnes D., A. Blevins. 1992. Farm structure and the economic well-being of nonmetropolitan counties. Rural Sociology 57: 333–346

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Boles D. E., G. L. Rupnow. 1979. Local governmental functions affected by the growth of corporate agricultural land ownership: A bibliographic review. Western Political Quarterly 32: 467–478

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Browne W.P., J. R. Skees, L. E. Swanson, P. B. Thompson, L. J. Unnevehr. 1992. Sacred cows and hot potatoes: Agrarian myths in agricultural policy. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  6. Burawoy M. 2005. For public sociology. American Sociological Review 70: 4–28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Buttel F. H., O. W. Larson III 1979. Farm size, structure, and energy intensity: An ecological analysis of U.S. agriculture. Rural Sociology 44: 471–488

    Google Scholar 

  8. Buttel F. H., M. Lancelle, D. R. Lee. 1988. Farm structure and rural communities in the Northeast. In L. E. Swanson (ed) Agriculture and community change in the U.S.: The congressional research reports 181–257. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  9. Community Legal Environmental Defense Fund (2007). Anti-corporate farming laws in the heartland. http://www.celdf.org/AntiCorporatefaFarmingLawsinHeartland/tabid/130/Default.aspx. Accessed 24 June 2007

  10. Constance D., R. Tuinstra. 2005. Corporate chickens and community conflict in east Texas: Growers’ and neighbors’ views on the impacts of industrial broiler production. Culture and Agriculture 27: 45–60

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Cooper H. M. 1989. Integrating research: A guide for literature reviews. Newbury Park, CA: Sage

    Google Scholar 

  12. Crowley M. L., V. J. Roscigno. 2004. Farm concentration, political economic process and stratification: The case of the North Central U.S. Journal of Political and Military Sociology 31: 133–155

    Google Scholar 

  13. DeLind L. B. 1998. Parma: A story of hog hotels and local resistance. In K. M. Thu, E. P. Durrenberger (eds) Pigs, profits, and rural communities 23–38. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

    Google Scholar 

  14. Deller S. C. 2003. Agriculture and rural economic growth. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 35: 517–527

    Google Scholar 

  15. Drabenstott, M. and T. R. Smith (1996). “The changing economy of the rural heartland”. In Economic forces shaping the rural heartland (pp. 1–11). Kansas City, KS: Federal Reserve Bank

  16. Durrenberger E. P., K. M. Thu. 1996. The expansion of large scale hog farming in Iowa: The applicability of Goldschmidt’s findings fifty years later. Human Organization 55: 409–415

    Google Scholar 

  17. Flora C. B., J. L. Flora. 1988. Public policy, farm size, and community well-being in farming dependent counties of the plains. In L. E. Swanson (ed) Agriculture and community change in the U.S.: The congressional research reports 76–129. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  18. Flora, J. L., I. Brown, and J. L. Conby (1977). “Impact of type of agriculture on class structure, social well-being, and inequalities.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Rural Sociological Society, Burlington, Vermont

  19. Foltz J., D. Jackson-Smith, L. Chen. 2002. Do purchasing patterns differ between large and small dairy farms? Economic evidence from three Wisconsin communities. Agricultural and Resource Economics 31: 28–32

    Google Scholar 

  20. Foltz J., K. Zueli. 2005. The role of community and farm characteristics in farm input purchasing patterns. Review of Agricultural Economics 27, 508–525

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Freudenburg W., E. Jones. 1991. Criminal behavior and rapid community growth. Rural Sociology 56: 619–645

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Fujimoto, I. (1977). “The communities of the San Joaquin Valley: The relation between scale of farming, water use, and quality of life.” In U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Obstacles to Strengthening the Family Farm System. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Family Farms, Rural Development, and Special Studies of the Committee on Agriculture, 95 th Congress, first session (pp. 480–500). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office

  23. Gilles J. L., M. Dalecki. 1988. Rural well-being and agricultural change in two farming regions. Rural Sociology 53: 40–55

    Google Scholar 

  24. Goldschmidt, W. (1968). “Small business and the community: A study in the central valley of California on effects of scale of farm operations.” In U.S. Congress, Senate, Corporation Farming, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Monopoly of the Select Committee on Small Business, U.S. Senate, 90th Congress, 2nd session, May and July 1968 (pp. 303–433). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office

  25. Goldschmidt, W. (1978a[1944]). As you sow: Three studies in the social consequences of agribusiness. Montclair, NJ: Allanheld, Osmun and Company

  26. Goldschmidt W. 1978b. Large-scale farming and the rural social structure. Rural Sociology 43: 362–366

    Google Scholar 

  27. Gomez, M. I. and L. Zhang (2000). “Impacts of concentration in hog production on economic growth in rural Illinois: An econometric analysis.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Agricultural Economics Association, Tampa, FL. http://www.factoryfarm.org/docs/Gomez.pdf. Accessed 22 January 2007

  28. Gough D., D. Elbourne. 2002. Systematic research synthesis to inform policy, practice, and democratic debate. Social Policy and Society 1: 225–236

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Green G. P. 1985. Large-scale farming and the quality of life in rural communities: Further specification of the Goldschmidt hypothesis. Rural Sociology 50: 262–273

    Google Scholar 

  30. Guess-Murphy, S., D. R. Keeney, W. F. Lazarus, R. Levins, G.␣W. Morse, C. V. Phillips, and J. G. Schimmel (2001). Generic environmental impact statement on animal agriculture in Minnesota: Final technical working paper on economic structures, profitability and external costs. State of Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, St Paul, MN. http://www.eqb.state.mn.us/geis/TWP_Economic.pdf. Accessed 26 December 2006

  31. Harris C., J. Gilbert. 1982. Large-scale farming, rural income, and Goldschmidt’s agrarian thesis. Rural Sociology 47: 449–458

    Google Scholar 

  32. Hayes M. N., A. L. Olmstead. 1984. Farm size and community income, and consumer welfare. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 66: 430–436

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Heady E. O., S. T. Sonka. 1974. Farm size, rural community income, and consumer welfare. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 56: 534–542

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Heaton T. B., D. L. Brown. 1982. Farm structure and energy intensity: Another look. Rural Sociology 47: 17–31

    Google Scholar 

  35. Heffernan W. D. 1972. Sociological dimensions of agricultural structures in the United States. Sociologia Ruralis 12: 481–499

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Heffernan W. D., P. Lasley. 1978. Agricultural structure and interaction in the local community: A case study. Rural Sociology 43: 348–361

    Google Scholar 

  37. Irwin M. C. Tolbert, T. Lyson. 1999. There’s no place like home: Non-migration and civic engagement. Environment and Planning A 31: 2223–2238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Jackson G. B. 1980. Methods for integrative reviews. Review of Educational Research 50: 438–460

    Google Scholar 

  39. Jackson-Smith D., G. W. Gillespie Jr. 2005. Impacts of farm structural change on farmers’ social ties. Society and Natural Resources 18: 215–240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Lobao L. M. 1990. Locality and inequality: Farm and industry structure and socioeconomic Conditions. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

    Google Scholar 

  41. Lobao L. M. 2000. Industrialized farming and its relationship to community well-being: Report prepared for the state of South Dakota. Pierre, SD: Office of the Attorney General

    Google Scholar 

  42. Lobao L., D. Kraybill. 2005. The emerging roles of county governments in metropolitan and nometropolitan areas. Economic Development Quarterly 19: 245–259

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lobao L., K. Meyer. 2001. The great agricultural transition: Crisis, change, and social consequences of twentieth century farming. The Annual Review of Sociology 27: 103–124

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Lobao L. M., M. Schulman. 1991. Farming patterns, rural restructuring, and poverty: A comparative regional analysis. Rural Sociology 56: 565–602

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Lyson T. A. 2004. Civic agriculture: Reconnecting farm, food, and community. Medford, MA: Tufts University Press

    Google Scholar 

  46. Lyson T. A., R. J. Torres, R. Welsh. 2001. Scale of agricultural production, civic engagement, and community welfare. Social Forces 80: 311–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Lyson T. A., R. Welsh. 2005. Agricultural industrialization, anticorporate farming laws, and rural community welfare. Environment and Planning A 37: 1479–1491

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. MacCannell D. 1988. Industrial agriculture and rural community degradation. In L. E. Swanson (ed) Agriculture and community change in the U.S.: The congressional research reports 15–75. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  49. Marousek G. 1979. Farm size and rural communities: Some economic relationships. Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics 11: 57–61

    Google Scholar 

  50. Martinson O. B., E. A. Wilkening, R. D. Rodefeld. 1976. Feelings of powerlessness and social isolation among “large-scale” farm personnel. Rural Sociology 41: 452–472

    Google Scholar 

  51. McEowen, R. and N. Harl (2006). Federal court strikes down Nebraska corporate farming law. AgDM Whole Farm Legal and Taxes Current Issues: January. http://www.extension.iastae.edu/AgDM/articles/mceownen. Accessed 11 November 2006

  52. McMillan M., M. D. Schulman. 2003. Hogs and citizens: A report from the North Carolina front. In W. W. Falk, M. D. Schulman, A. R. Tickamyer (eds) Communities of work 219–239. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press

    Google Scholar 

  53. Murdock S. H., L. B. Potter, R. R. Hamm, K. Backman, D. E. Albrecht, F. L. Leistritz. 1988. The implications of the current farm crisis for rural America. In S. H. Murdock, F. L. Leistritz (eds) The farm financial crisis: Socioeconomic dimensions and implications for rural areas 141–168. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  54. National Agricultural Law Center 2006. Corporate farming laws: An overview. http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/overviews/corpfarming.html. Accessed 11 November 2006

  55. National Agricultural Statistics Service (2006). 2002 Census of Agriculture. http://www.nass.usda.gov/Census_of_Agriculture/index.asp. Accessed 20 December 2006

  56. National Association of Counties (1999). Animal feeding operations: The role of counties. http://www.factoryfarm.org/docs/cafo.pdf. Accessed 24 June 2007

  57. NCRCRD (North Central Regional Center for Rural Development) (1999). The impact of recruiting vertically integrated hog production in agriculturally based counties of Oklahoma. Report to the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Iowa State University, Ames, IA

  58. Peters, D. J. (2002). Revisiting the Goldschmidt hypothesis: The effect of economic structure on socioeconomic conditions in the rural Midwest. Technical Paper P-0702-1, Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Jefferson City, MO. http://www.missourifarmersunion.org/conf03/goldschmidt03.pdf Accessed 22 January 2007

  59. Pittman, H. M. (2004). The constitutionality of corporate farming laws in the Eighth Circuit. An agricultural law research article. http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org. Accessed 11 November 2006

  60. Poole D. L. 1981. Farm scale, family life, and community participation. Rural Sociology 46: 112–127

    Google Scholar 

  61. Reisner, A., D. Coppin, and Pig in Print Group (2004). But what do the neighbors think? Community considerations and legal issues paper. Swine Odor Management Papers #5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. http://www.livestocktrail.uiuc.edu/sowm/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=6505. Accessed 22 January 2007

  62. Rodefeld, R. D. (1974). The changing organization and occupational structure of farming and the implications for farm work force individuals, families, and communities. PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison

  63. Schiffman S. 1998. Livestock odors: implications for human health and well-being. Journal of Animal Science 76: 1343–1355

    Google Scholar 

  64. Schiffman S., E. A. Slatterly-Miller, M. S. Suggs, B. G. Graham. 1998. Mood changes experienced by persons living near commercial swine operations. In K. M. Thu, E. P. Durrenberger (eds) Pigs, profits, and rural communities 84–102. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

    Google Scholar 

  65. Schlosser E. 2001. Fast food nation: The dark side of the all-American meal. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin

    Google Scholar 

  66. Seipel, M., M. Hamed, J. S. Rikoon, and A. M. Kleiner (1998). “The impact of large-scale hog confinement facility sitings on rural property values.” Proceedings of the conference on agricultural systems and the environment: An international conference on odor, water quality, nutrient management, and socioeconomic issues (pp. 415–418). Ames, IA

  67. Skees J. R., L. E. Swanson. 1988. Farm structure and rural well-being in the South. In L. E. Swanson (ed) Agriculture and community change in the U.S.: The congressional research reports 238–321. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  68. Small Farm Viability Project (1977). The family farm in California: Report of the Small Farm Viability Project. Employment Development, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, Department of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Community Development, Sacramento, CA

  69. Smithers J., P. Johnson, A. Joseph. 2004. The dynamics of family farming in North Huron County, Ontario. Part II: Farm-community interactions. The Canadian Geographer 48: 209–224

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Stofferahn C. W. (2006). Industrialized farming and its relationship to community well-being: An update of a 2000 report by Linda Lobao. Prepared for the State of North Dakota, Office of the Attorney General, Bismarck, ND

  71. Summers G. F., S. D. Evans, F. Clemente, E. M. Beck, J. Minkoff. 1976. Industrialization of non-metropolitan America. New York, NY: Praeger

    Google Scholar 

  72. Swanson, L. (1980). A study in socioeconomic development: Changing farm structure and rural community decline in the context of the technological transformation of American agriculture. PhD dissertation, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

  73. Swanson, L. E. (1982). Farm and trade center transition in an␣industrial society: Pennsylvania, 1930–1960. PhD dissertation, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

  74. Swanson L. E. (eds) 1988. Agriculture and community change in the U.S.: The congressional research reports. Boulder, CO: Westview

    Google Scholar 

  75. Tetreau E. D. 1938. The people of Arizona’s irrigated areas. Rural Sociology 3: 177–187

    Google Scholar 

  76. Tetreau E. D. 1940. Social organization in Arizona’s irrigated areas. Rural Sociology 5: 192–205

    Google Scholar 

  77. van Es J. C., D. L. Chicoine, M. A. Flotow. 1988. Agricultural technologies, farm structure and rural communities in the corn belt: Policies, implications for 2000. In L. E. Swanson (ed) Agriculture and community change in the U.S.: The congressional research reports 130–180. Boulder, CO: Westview Press

    Google Scholar 

  78. Wheelock, G. C. (1979). “Farm size, community structure and growth: Specification of a structural equation model.” Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Rural Sociological Society, Burlington, Vermont

  79. Whittington, M. S. and K. J. Warner (2006). “Large scale dairies and their neighbors: A case study of perceived risk in two counties”. Journal of Extension 44: Article 1FEA4. http://www.joe.org/joe/2006february/a4.shtml. Accessed 30 October 2007

  80. Wilson S. M., F. Howell, S. Wing, M. Sobsey. 2002. Environmental injustice and the Mississippi hog industry. Environmental Health Perspectives 110(2): 195–201

    Google Scholar 

  81. Wimberley, R. C. (1987). “Dimensions of U.S. agriculture: 1969–1982”. Rural Sociology 52(4): 445–461

    Google Scholar 

  82. Wing, S. and S. Wolf (1999). Intensive livestock operations, health, and quality of the life among eastern North Carolina residents. Report to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. University of North Carolina, Chapel␣Hill, NC

  83. Wing S., S. Wolf. 2000. Intensive livestock operations, health and quality of life among eastern North Carolina residents. Environmental Health Perspectives 108(3): 233–238

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Wright, W., C. Flora, K. Kremer, W. Goudy, C. Hinrichs, P. Lasley, A. Maney, M. Kronma, H. Brown, K. Pigg, B. Duncan, J. Coleman, and D. Morse (2001). Technical work paper on social and community impacts. Prepared for the Generic Environmental Impact Statement on Animal Agriculture and the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. State of Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, St Paul, MN. http://www.eqb.state.mn.us/geis/TWP_Social.pdf. Accessed 28 December 2006

  85. Young K., D. Ashby, A. Boaz, L. Grayson. 2002. Social science and the evidence-based policy movement. Social Policy and Society 1: 215–224

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Linda Lobao.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lobao, L., Stofferahn, C.W. The community effects of industrialized farming: Social science research and challenges to corporate farming laws. Agric Hum Values 25, 219–240 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-007-9107-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Corporate farming
  • Corporate farm laws
  • Community well-being
  • Industrialized farming
  • Communities