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Why have agricultural surpluses become a feature of many countries in the developed world in recent years?

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Why have agricultural surpluses become a feature of many countries in the developed world in recent years? (10 marks) A surplus is the agricultural produce, which remains over, what is not required for the purpose in hand. These surpluses, which recently are frequently occurring in the developed world, are due to intensification of farming, government support and the EU's CAP. The CAP was set out in the Treaty of Rome at a time when high agricultural productivity was considered essential to securing plentiful food supplies. CAP has five basic aims which are to increase agricultural productivity and improve self-sufficiency, to maintain jobs on land, improve the standard of living of farmers and farm workers, to stabilise markets and to keep consumer food prices stable and reasonable. One of the prime beliefs underpinning agricultural policy was that Europe should become as self-sufficient as possible in food, almost at any cost. Crops that saved on imports, such as sugar beet for tropical sugar cane and oil-seed rape for tropical oil palms, were given financial support. A complicated set of mechanisms were put in place to encourage farmers to farm more. As farming in the EU became more efficient, output increased. Farmers were paid subsidies or a guaranteed minimum price for their produce. This meant that farmers were encouraged to grow more and tended therefore to over produce. ...read more.


A classic example is when BSE occurred in the UK. Here, the EU Commission banned all beef exports from the UK and beef consumption within Britain fell sharply. This meant that vast amounts of beef were unable to be sold. BSE is a classic example of the dangers of industrialised farming, showing the impact it has on land use, farmers and food consumption. For centuries British agriculture was dominated by mixed farming with crops grown and livestock kept on every farm. Now farmers specialise; the eastern half of the UK is more predominantly arable than it has ever been. On many farms a maximum of four or five crops are grown. This specialisation means that farmers can focus on their certain crop and produce vast amounts of this. This again may lead to surpluses being left. Agro-scientists developed new varieties of seed suited to British conditions, which has aided the intensification of farming. Today much of the wheat and barley grown in England is winter wheat, which is ready to be harvested earlier and gives a higher yield per hectare than many of the old summer varieties. Friesian cows give higher milk yields per animal than any other breed. Aided by selective breeding from the best stock, they are the only breeds kept by the great majority of dairy farmers in the UK. ...read more.


Hedges are 'wildlife reservoirs', providing food and shelter for many small animals and birds. There numbers have plummeted over the last 30 years. Using inorganic fertilisers also increasing the food output from land already being farmed but these to have serious repercussions. The greatly increased use of inorganic fertilisers was encouraged by a combination of their relative cheapness and the need to increase yields of the new varieties of cereals and the need to increase yields of the new varieties of cereals and new crops such as oil seed rape and linseed. Serious increases in nitrate levels in surface streams and groundwater stores from run off and leaching have occurred. Enrichment of nitrogen in rivers, lakes and reservoirs leads to eutrophication, which causes rapid plant and weed growth and surface algae blooms. Light penetration and oxygen levels in the water are reduced, adversely affecting fish stocks and other forms of aquatic life. Farmers are taking more water out of streams in summer for watering crops such as potatoes to increase yield per hectare, thereby increasing nitrate concentrations. Therefore, some people believe the many problems caused by intensifying agriculture to allow for maximum outputs outweigh the costs. Recently, some of the disastrous consequences of CAP have become obvious so agri-environmental schemes have been produced, aimed to encourage environmentally beneficial farming and public enjoyment of the countryside. This means that farming can still produce vast outputs but environmental considerations are also brought into play so the problems are overcome. ...read more.

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