By: Matthew Fisher-Post, MPA, Cornell University ’14
In Mexico, an estimated sixty percent of the 31 million hectares of agricultural land is affected by erosion. Thirty-one percent of that potential agricultural land has entirely fallen out of productive use. This policy dilemma involves the question of whether the effects of soil degradation on land productivity represent a failure of markets to account for the full future costs of present-day resource degradation. If the free market cannot solve this problem, the government must act. Two current soil conservation policies in Mexico seek to alter land-use practices. However, weaknesses of the “volunteerism” approach to soil conservation present an opportunity for different policy options. A range of policy options along with probable enforcement and compliance costs, and overall effectiveness illustrate ways to confront the problem of agricultural soil degradation. In the end, an official policy of crosscompliance that ties soil conservation best practices such as conservation agriculture to the receipt of direct payments from the government, could effectively address the problem of soil degradation.
About the Author
Matthew Fisher-Post received his Master of Public Administration from Cornell University in January 2014. This article is an excerpt from his thesis, supervised by Professor David Lee. While at Cornell, he studied food policy, economics, management, and infrastructure for international agriculture and rural development. He has been a consultant and research analyst for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). Matthew currently resides in Chicago with his fiancé and their globetrotting golden retriever.