promulgated to address a wide variety of other national problems may have the unintended consequence of reducing resilience. Furthermore, in some cases, failure to enact a policy that would increase resilience results in a deterioration of resilience. In other words, the absence of a specific beneficial policy is, in itself, a policy. We present here a few examples of policies where unintended consequences have effectively reduced community resilience.

Agricultural policies provide one example of unintended consequences that reduce resilience. In this example, shifts in agricultural practice in the United States in response to farm policies designed to improve field drainage and productivity have unintentionally but significantly exacerbated flooding in the Midwest. Westward expansion of farming during the 19th century motivated farmers to improve the drainage in flat or low-lying farm fields to make them more productive. Improvement in field drainage was accomplished by the installation of drain tiles or perforated pipes just under the surface of the field to remove excess water. The effect of this accelerated drainage during the spring months of each year was to move water quickly from the fields to the streams and rivers, which exacerbated——and still exacerbates—flooding along many stream and rivers in the Midwest.

The contribution of field drainage to flooding was made even worse after the implementation of new agricultural policies following the Great Depression. As part of his suite of New Deal policies, President Franklin D. Roosevelt believed that true prosperity would not return to the nation until farming was prosperous. Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938 made federal price support mandatory for corn, cotton, and wheat and established permissible supports for many other crops and farm products.19 The result of this policy was a fundamental shift in farming practice to row crops (mainly corn and soybeans) replacing traditional sod farming (perennial vegetation such as hay and densely sown small grains including oats, wheat, barley, triticale, and rye undersown with pasture grasses and legumes) as demonstrated for Iowa in Figure 6.1 (Jackson, 2002; see also Mutel, 2010).


19Agricultural Adjustment Act, P.L. 75-430, United States Code, Title 7, Chapter 35,

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