Empty Fields, Empty Promises: A State-by-State Guide to Understanding and Transforming the Right To Farm

Univ. of North Carolina (Rural Studies Series). Sept. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781469674599. pap. $24.99. REF
The authors of this treatise, two sociologists and three legal experts, make an impressive argument regarding misguided farming laws in the United States. Analyzing “right to farm” statutes, enacted under the claim that they protect small family farms, the book demonstrates that large industrial farms are still winning. The first part of the book discusses the origin of the laws and shows how often big business wins by region. The laws’ primary use has been to block public-nuisance suits, though the intent may have been to protect farmers from encroaching development. Instead, large operators, especially in states such as Indiana, where industrial hog companies are top producers, influence legislators and courts to rule in their favor. The second part analyzes the statutes and cases in each state. The only area of the country in which right-to-farm law prevails is the Northeast, with its relatively small farms, versus the Southeast, where industrial farms dominate. The authors blast federal policy for driving consolidation and promoting inequality, and they call for a “democratic tapestry for agriculture.”
VERDICT An academic yet accessible book that rural advocates and foes of inequality will appreciate.
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