Discuss, with the use of examples, how any TWO of the following factors have influenced agriculture and land use.
– Relief and climate
– Government policies
– Size of holdings
– Availability of cheap land and transport
Agriculture is the study and practice of cultivating land for the growing of crops and the rearing of livestock and for industrial raw materials. Agriculture can be divided in a number of ways: intensive or extensive, arable or pastoral, commercial or subsistence and nomadic or sedentary. Increasing demands for food production in recent times have seen much development in agricultural technology and practices, which have greatly increased crop and livestock production. Many factors have strongly influenced the location of agricultural activities, including human activities and government policies, also physical factors such as climate and relief. These factors have shaped the development and success of agriculture in recent times.
One such factor is that of government policies. Government holds on agriculture is strongest in the socialist countries such as China, Cuba and Tanzania. Governments have noticed the importance of agriculture in their countries and have recently implemented some policies to improve agricultural development in their country. Generally policies such as reduced costs for farm machinery to the farmers, rental of farm equipment at nominal costs, financial aids given out, some governments even go as far as providing educational programs in agriculture for giving advice on new methods. Another policy which some governments put out are price support schemes, where there is a guaranteed price for the produce no matter what happens to the market price, there is always a minimum which the price can be.
This encourages farmers to maintain and even expand on their output. One example of governments trying to aid in agricultural development in their country is how they have fought to maintain hill farming in marginal areas such as the Welsh Uplands and the Lake District. Under a free market economy, this type of farming would most likely have not been very economic. This type of farming mostly is kept alive for the same of personal preference of many subsistence cultivators. Because of this, and not because it is of any great economic value, UK government has sought out to keep it, by implementing some of the previously mentioned policies. In the USA, governmental influences are historically strong.
For example, ownership and farm size depend on the Homestead Act of 1862, which emphasises the quarter section of 106 acres is the basic unit. The government there provides approximately 12 billion pounds in support to agriculture through three main methods: The Commodity Programme which aids in the conservation and prevents over production and gives support prices to crops and livestock in return for land taken out of production. Because this programme tends to deal with established crops, it tends to work no matter if the market demand changes and thus is a form of preservation of that crop. Another method the government aids agriculture is through the Disaster Programme, which was formulated to relieve excess flooding and drought. Finally, the government has control on export subsidies, such as on wheat, soya bean and meat. One problem with government help in agriculture is that mainly the larger farmers are assisted more so than the smaller subsistence farmers which would need it more.
Another factor influencing agriculture and land use is that of available cheap land and transport is that of farm size. It is fact that the larger the farm size, the more productive the farm. Farms, which are mainly commercial farms, usually have far more output than they do input when compared to small subsistence farming. Inheritance laws in places such as Africa have posed a problem in terms of farm sizes of individual farmers. Inheritance laws state that upon the death of a farmer, his land is split up among his entire family, this leads to the land being divided up in small parts. These small portions of land are unable to be of any use to the person who inherited it and usually remains barren after a while.
The inheritance laws often mean that the person to whom the land now belongs can only operate at a subsistence level or below, which is not very profitable. What Europe and North America are attempting to do to remedy tis situation, is that tget are trying to increase farm sizes in order to make them more efficient and profitable. It is when they have the potential to be profitable that they will usually be eyed when government is looking to offer aid to farmers. With the small farm sizes, machinery is unnecessary at such small farms, and crop types are limited, and the farm ends up only being for the family (subsistence farming).
Along with the two above factors discussed, other factors such as relief and climate, transport costs and land costs, soil and do on all have an influence on agriculture and land use all around the world.