Government intervention has been an integral part of agricultural policy in most industrialized countries throughout the last half of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, many of the agricultural problems (e.g., market instability, low returns on capital, falling farm incomes, farm failures) that government interventions were intended to correct are still problems today. The combined effects of these policy failures of the past and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) are stimulating countries around the world to begin dismantling their agricultural intervention programs. Movement toward more market economies also frequently includes eliminating or reducing governmental educational and incentive programs including those designed to encourage the adoption of sustainable environmental practices by farmers. Our objectives, therefore, are to explore the potential environmental consequences of dismantling governmental agricultural intervention in extension by taking a close look at New Zealand's experiences. At the time New Zealand began restructuring its agricultural assistance programs, education and extension programs concerned with environmental management on farms, were few and in their infancy. Consequently, it is difficult to assess the effect, if any, that commercialization of New Zealand's extension service had on environmental programming, or for that matter the environment. More recently, environmental-educational programs are being conducted via new and alternative vehicles. These have included government contracts with private farm consultants. In addition, early indications were that environmentally unsustainable activities, e.g., development of environmentally sensitive land for pastoral farming, has declined due largely to the removal of subsidies which encouraged these practices. However, in some other cases, on-farm activities that have the potential to adversely affect the environment have begun to increase again. This time, however, it is in response to market rather than subsidies signals. Not all experiences from the New Zealand situation are applicable to other countries contemplating or initiating reductions in government intervention into agriculture. However, several experiences from the current privatization initiatives provide insight into making the transition with less threat to the environment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- Agronomy and Crop Science