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The Future Role of Pesticides in US Agriculture
increasingly privatized. In many cases, the clients of land-grant university extension services are now the consultants rather than farmers. In California, for example, extension offices work extensively with consultants and provide training for pesticide applicators and advisers.
The privatization of knowledge provision has changed how pesticide-use decisions are made and has introduced new ways to enforce and regulate chemical use. The professional conduct and responsibility of consultants might become more codified and scrutinized, and they will be liable for misuse of pest-control substances. The proliferation and expansion of consultants in pest control are closely related to the growing use of consultants for other agricultural activities, including irrigation and soil-fertility management. With the emergence of precision farming, consultants compile field data and analyze chemical-use information to develop more precise and productive chemical-input recommendations for their clients (NRC 1997b). This knowledge base could be very valuable in pesticide-use decisions and pest-management options. Effective training and continued education of these consultants will affect pesticide-application practices and the future of pest control in the United States and around the world.
Phaseout of Commodity Programs
A wide array of agricultural support programs that originated in the 1930s are gradually being phased out. The phaseout is consistent with the globalization process mentioned earlier and aims to improve efficiency and competition in the economy. The main reason that the commodity support programs were introduced was the tendency of agriculture to attain excess supplies and thus low prices and low income for farmers (Gardner 1978). However, in many cases, the commodity programs have backfired and actually provided an incentive to increase supply. Structural changes in agriculture are increasing the economic viability of agricultural businesses, and congressional mandates that provide price supports to farmers are expected to expire by the year 2002. Of course, reappearance of low commodity prices could lead to reenactment of some support programs. Farmers are increasingly encouraged to rely on insurance instruments provided by private firms and public-private partnerships to manage their production and revenue risks. Future markets and contracts are expected to play an increasing role in reduction of price risks. Insurance has been suggested as a tool to address productivity losses due to pests and to provide farmers some economic incentive to switch from chemical-pesticide use to alternatives. If such insurance instruments were instituted, farmers might forego the use of economically