The continued transformation of farmland in Iowa is intimately linked to the state—a collection of policies, bureaucracies, and procedures—which has offered concessions and subsidies to those that farm the land. These initiatives are designed to encourage farmers to alter their farming methods and the landscape to develop better conservation ethics, prevent soil erosion, and improve water quality. Local-level nominally elected politicians, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) commissioners, are the primary point of contact farmers have with the state. While SWCD commissioners are charged with evaluating farmers' eligibility for government assistance, they have become more than implementers of social policy. Through the establishment of funding priorities, SWCD commissioners are also de facto policy creators. In this research, we find that instead of challenging and shaping the way farmers work their land, SWCD commissioners often implicitly support intensive agricultural production, reaffirming methods of production that exacerbate soil loss and degrade water conditions. As local representatives of federal government, SWCD commissioners play a critical role in whether the agricultural status quo is maintained or challenged. Listening sessions with SWCD commissioners reveal that instead of linking farmers' production methods to environmental degradation, many SWCD commissioners support intensive agriculture's anti-conservationist behaviors by giving priority to increased crop yields without regard for soil and water impacts.
The State's Role in Water Quality: Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners and the Agricultural Status Quo
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Jacqueline Comito, Jon Wolseth, Lois Morton; The State's Role in Water Quality: Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioners and the Agricultural Status Quo. Human Organization 1 January 2013; 72 (1): 44–54. doi: https://doi.org/10.17730/humo.72.1.e5h845348306411h
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