Thursday, May 05, 2005

If agricultural economists yelled,...

... badgered, issued bold press releases, or even just spoke a little more loudly, the public would learn a bunch of neat stuff.

In the latest issue of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Richard Ready and Charles Abdalla have an interesting article about the value of rural space. It turns out that farmland makes the countryside more appealing, and this appeal is reflected in higher property prices. Meanwhile, intensive animal agriculture stinks, and this fact is reflected in lower nearby property prices. Ironically, intensive animal agriculture is often found associated with farmland, so it is especially important for researchers not to focus on one issue and ignore the other. If I were to yell the conclusion that the authors state only quietly, there is a strong economically sound argument for preserving open rural space free from factory farms.

In the preceding issue of the same journal, Bénédicte Coestier, Estelle Gozlan, and Stéphan Marette study food company liability for obesity. For the authors, the centerpiece of the article is a theoretical discussion of conditions under which it is optimal for society to allow lawsuits against food companies, or to have government regulation, or to do nothing (which is the preferred option if the damage from unhealthy food is not too bad). But the article also stands out for its interesting and timely review of recent economic research on obesity and obesity-related litigation.

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