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Corn production - Essay Example

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Case Study Part I. Feagin, Orum and Sjoberg defined the case study method as “in-depth, multi-faceted investigation, using qualitative research methods, of a single social phenomenon. The study is conducted in great detail and often relies on the use of several data sources…
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Corn production
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Download file to see previous pages (ibid.)” The five criteria for case selection according to Smelser (1976: 4) is as follows: “(1) appropriate to the kind of theoretical posed by the investigator… (2) relevant to the phenomenon being studied… (3) empirically invariant with respect to their classificatory criterion… (4) reflect the degree of availability of data referring to this unit… and (5) decisions to select and classify units of analysis should be based on standardised and repeatable procedures. The social issue that I have chosen is the issue of bio-ethanol production and agro-fuels – a contentious issue debated upon in an age of energy vulnerability and land shortages. The proponents of agro-fuels laud initiatives by the US government to embark on massive corn ethanol production, chiefly to decrease reliance on fossil fuels. On the other hand, its opponents argue that there are risks to small-farmers in rural places of production and can deepen inequality. The research that I have chosen was written by Gillon (2010). In the said paper, Gillon (2010, p. 723) looked at corn ethanol production in the state of Iowa, United States and looked at the dynamics and relationships between big business – i.e., the ethanol corporations – and the small farmers. He also examined the policies and politics that surround ethanol production. He began by looking at the related literature from a more global perspective, arguing that “each agrofuels controversy implies a renegotiation of social and ecological relations, whether the issue is food crises, land use change, market relationships, or struggles over industry participation and ownership. (page 726).” His premise is that the ethanol frenzy is emblematic of the tendency of capitalism to rely on “environmental fixes” (ibid.) – whereby bioethanol is promoted to supposedly reduce greenhouse gases, but “consumption levels and accumulation based on extracting cheap corn from the Midwestern landscape. (page 727)”. One of the cental conclusions that Gillon derives from his research is that contrary to the assertions of the proponents of bio-ethanol, small farmers do not stand to gain from the bioethanol boom. This is because, in his words, “despite simplistic assertions that rural benefits will arrive on the heels of an ethanol industry, the risks, costs, and opportunities associated with biofuels industry development fall unevenly. (page 733)” Interviews with the Iowa farmers demonstrated that the rising input prices and land rents made any profits that came their way from corn production negligible. Another conclusion that the research makes is that the depressed rural economies from which the ethanol are sourced are the ones paying the price for the desires of consumers in urban communities. Whilst the urban consumers benefit from the reduced costs of fuel and the so-called environmental friendliness of renewable energy, the rural areas are paying environmental costs that are invisible in the bio-ethanol discourse. The author gave the example of Cargill, a biodiesel plant in Iowa Falls, Iowa that disposed 135,000 gallons of liquid oil and grease into a stream, thus compromising water quality in the area. Another point is that the increase of corn production on the land to feed into the ethanol project puts tremendous pressures on the land and on the environment – more than any other crop, corn production emits the highest levels of green house gases (page 739.) It is also prejudicial to the Conservation Reserve ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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