Right-to-Farm: Dispossession of Community in Rural America
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology
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Practices of industrialization are changing rural landscapes despite oppositional efforts of community members. This thesis explores the themes of power and loss in rural areas impacted by industrial agriculture and how policy is used as a gateway for industrial forms of agriculture in rural places. I bring together community and dispossession through a case-study of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) in Missouri and argue that dimensions of community could be better incorporated into the accumulation by dispossession literature. I use interviews and participant observations to analyze major themes of loss experienced by rural Missourians who live near proposed or existing CAFOs. The study pinpoints ties to ecological health, ties to animism, and ties to people as community dimensions of dispossession experienced by rural Missourians due to the presence of CAFOs. I also conduct a national analysis of nuisance case law in which Right-to-Farm laws were employed as a defense for agricultural operations. An original typology defining parties of plaintiff and defendant is offered to understand who prevails in court using a Right-to-Farm defense. I offer policy change suggestions that can enable Right-to-Farm laws to effectively protect small and medium sized farmers from nuisance suits while providing rural residents provisions to hold industrial operations accountable.