Ag notes from the boomtown

Holy cow, Quasecarioca is a good writer. And for those many of you obsessed with Venezuela, please note that today’s post does in fact touch on the Bolivarian Republic. It’s all about land reform. It’s pretty amazing that while gringos have increasingly taken Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan to heart and are either buying little plots or converting their urban land into chicken coops and herb gardens, here in Latin America you really do hear ever fewer cries for land redistribution — at least of the old fashioned sort that would move city dwellers out to the country. As Quasecarioca says:

Latin American governments have for fifty years tried and largely failed to carry out land reform that relieve rural poverty. Brazil, which has more land to distribute than any other Latin American nation, is no longer trying…

…the underlying assumption of an Arbenz style land reform — that subsistence farming is appealing to a broad segment of the population – is much less true now than in 1954. It’s hard to assume that rural residents today would be willing to live the way their grandparents did, and hard to begrudge them for expecting running water, electricity, cell phones and internet.

That said, it doesn’t answer what to do in places like Brazil or Chile where there are many rural peasants who know nothing but farming, and who could really do with a plot of land to call their own. Maybe we don’t need baby greens in Mato Grosso, but there wouldn’t be any harm in government seeding some new industries in easily shipped organic goods like carrots, apples and wool. (Or up there in the tropics, fruit concentrates and cocoa.) A bit of help with land rights, organic certification and training could indeed create some sustainable industries.

Anyway, go read Quasecarioca’s latest article and get yourself some learning.