Job talk: ACCUMULATING THROUGH FOOD CRISIS? THE AGRICULTURAL ONE PERCENT, COMMODITY TRADERS AND THE DISTRIBUTIONAL DYNAMICS OF FINANCIALIZATION
Accumulating through Food Crisis? The Agricultural One Percent, Commodity Traders and the Distributional Dynamics of Financialization
Thursday, March 3, 11.30 am - 12.30 pm, Gellner Room
Adopting a mixed methods approach, this paper charts the distributional effects of agricultural commodity price instability and it outlines the conflicts around financialization in the US agri-food sector. With quantitative analysis, it finds that during the recent period of high and volatile prices, the average large-scale commercial farm ascended into the top income percentile of US households, while agricultural commodity traders markedly outperformed other major corporate groups. In contrast, small-scale family farmers, particularly in the livestock sector, have struggled to manage the uncertainty brought by price tumult. The paper discusses how these uneven distributional dynamics within the agri-food sector inform the lobbying of agricultural groups around commodity derivatives regulations designed to curb the price instability. With qualitative analysis, it shows that while a stratum of small farmer and rancher interests have actively pushed for far-reaching restrictions on financial speculation, the major commodity traders and a plurality of organizations representing large-scale grain producers have in recent years been at best, agnostic, and at worst, obstructionist, in the face of such regulatory measures. These findings indicate that financialization, and associated dynamics of price volatility, tend to reinforce existing inequalities in rural America while possibly contributing to social instability abroad via food riots.
Joseph Baines works at the London School of Economics as a Fellow in the Department of Government. In 2015 he graduated from the PhD program in Political Science at York University, Toronto, with specializations in political economy, comparative politics and statistics for the social sciences. His research focuses on the distributional dynamics of agri-food supply chain restructuring, and he has published widely in high ranking journals such as New Political Economy and the Journal of Peasant Studies.