Module 11: Hot Topics in Agriculture II


This is the second module covering current events in agriculture.  While there are many more topics we could discuss, the ones selected for this module all made the news in 2016 and some have been debated for years.  I will present a brief overview of each topic, and discuss how we might view the issues through an economic lens.  That means we will consider the effects to producers and consumers of government policies, how prices and quantities change as a result of supply and demand shocks, what happens when inputs to production become increasingly scarce, and the possibility of gains from trade in an industry that uses supply management.

As a reminder, we can evaluate each topic using arguments that pertain to sustainability and we can further expand arguments using the SPLEEEMR framework (social, political, legal, economic, environmental, ethical, military, and religious).  Decision making in the world is not always based on determining economically optimal outcomes, but ones that are socially or politically acceptable, for example.

Finally, I will again ask you to debate the topics online. The only difference will be that you argue on the opposite side as you did in Module 10.  For example, if you were selected to argue for a proposition in Module 10, you will now argue against a proposition.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this module, you will be able to inform the discussion among your colleagues on the following topics:

  1. The effects of an impending water crisis
  2. Subsidization of crops to produce fuel
  3. Whether to strengthen animal welfare and animal rights
  4. Free trade in a supply-managed sector (dairy)
  5. The benefits (or costs) of carbon mitigation strategies

Module Instructions

For this module you are required to:

  1. Watch “The other inconvenient truth,” by Jonathan Foley on TEDx:
  2. Read this module
  3. Watch videos embedded in the module
  4. Review former modules on economic theory pertinent to each topic
  5. Engage in an online debate

Required Readings

Cain, P., 2015. After California: what the state's water crisis means for Canada's food security. Global News, June 9, 2015. Retrieved from:

Canadian Press, 2015. TPP could harm Canada's dairy more than expected, expert says. CBC News, November 6, 2015. Retrieved from:

Economist, 2015. Farm subsidies: milking taxpayers. The Economist, Feb 14th, 2015  Retrieved from:

Government of Saskatchewan, 2016. Irrigation development process.  Retried from:

Harmon, R., 2010. How to keep rivers and streams flowing.  TEDxRainier. Filmed Nov 2010. Retrieved from:

Parker, L., 2016. What you need to know about the world's water wars. National Geographic. July 14, 2016. Retrieved from:

Pratt, S., 2016. Farmers wrestle with carbon tax fallout. The Western Producer, October 20, 2016. Retrieved from:

Russell, S., 2014. Everything you need to know about agricultural emissions. World Resources Institute. May 29, 2014. Retrieved from:

Taxpayers for Common Sense, 2015. Federal subsidies for corn ethanol and other corn-based biofuels. Fact Sheet.  June 15, 2015.  Retrieved from:

Urry, A., 2015. Our crazy farm subsidies, explained. grist. April 20, 2015. Retrieved from:

Key Terms and Concepts

  • Cap and trade
  • Carbon market
  • Carbon tax
  • Common property
  • Free riders
  • Fugacious
  • Fugacious resource
  • Greenhouse gases (GHGs)
  • Open access
  • Private property
  • Production possibility frontier
  • Property rights
  • Public property
  • Quota
  • Shortage
  • Subsidy
  • Supply management
  • Tenure