Monday, December 14, 2009

Extension Service and Health Care Reform

The New Yorker's Atul Gawande has an article on health care reform that includes praise for a USDA bureaucrat, Seaman Knapp, the father of the Extension Service. And praise for the hodge-podge of USDA programs to help farmers (in the 1890-1930 era):
"What seemed like a hodgepodge eventually cohered into a whole. The government never took over agriculture, but the government didn’t leave it alone, either. It shaped a feedback loop of experiment and learning and encouragement for farmers across the country. The results were beyond what anyone could have imagined. Productivity went way up, outpacing that of other Western countries. Prices fell by half. By 1930, food absorbed just twenty-four per cent of family spending and twenty per cent of the workforce. Today, food accounts for just eight per cent of household income and two per cent of the labor force. It is produced on no more land than was devoted to it a century ago, and with far greater variety and abundance than ever before in history."

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