A researcher says states with laws tightly controlling corporate farming have more prosperous county economies in the rural areas. Dr. Thomas Lyson says in counties that were strongly rural, those laws clearly made a difference.In ag-dependent counties with corporate farming laws, joblessness was lower, poverty less, economies more vital than states lacking such laws. Counties judged agriculture-dependent have 75-percent of their land in farms, and ag sales make up half or more of their gross sales. Diversity seems to be the key to a strong rural economy, says Lyson.He says when you look back 50 years or more, whenever a big corporation or two comes to dominate a county, over time it dampens the economy. Lyson says in general he doesn’t think so-called “factory farmers” are finding ways around the corporate farming laws.He thinks they’re enforceable, and has found differences between states that do and don’t have such laws, in terms of the quality of life in their rural communities. Professor Lyson says diversity in a local economy is important.In the long run, counties that specialize in one thing — be that chickens, or automobiles, will fall victim when the economy trends down, but diverse counties aren’t likely to suffer when one sector does poorly. Lyson analyzed economic variables in 433 rural counties across the country. He says there are now anti-corporate-farming laws in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. The study was done for “Friends of the Constitution,” A Nebraska coalition of farm groups. Lyson is a professor at Cornell University in New York.
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