Financialization of Commodity Production

Financialization of business enterprises worldwide, clearly including agribusiness and agricultural commodities, has intensified tendencies to commoditize the goals of production and to emphasize wealth maximization and short-term gains at the exclusion of working for the common good.

In recent decades, macro-economic conditions have made farmland and primary food production more attractive to investors and corporate entities. This global economic restructuring of agriculture has spread to more and more countries, which often in turn leads to fewer, larger, and more highly industrialized farms. Agribusiness conglomerates seek capital to fuel further consolidation in order to achieve economies of scale in agri-food production processes. As a result, agricultural investment firms are purchasing farmland in various regions and a variety of commodity crops. Rather than families farming on the land, whose aim for a successful enterprise would also include a commitment to upholding the dignity of those involved in the operation as well as the local economy, farm management is carried out by more anonymous entities: the firm, tenant farmers, or other third parties.

While abuses of local regions and cultures is certainly not an inherent feature of corporate investing, agricultural leaders must have the courage to conduct an honest evaluation of their existing financial practices in light of their deeper vocation in Christ and their responsibility for the common good. Tradition affirms that an account will indeed be required of each of us, precisely in terms of how we have served “the least” among us. As Pope Francis has expressed:

“Land grabbing, deforestation, expropriation of water, inappropriate pesticides: these are some of the evils which uproot people from their native land. This separation is not only physical, but existential and spiritual because there is a relationship with the land. This sad separation is putting rural communities and their special way of life in notorious decline and even at risk of extinction.”

Agriculture, even on a large scale, as a legitimate business endeavor, can create opportunities for communities to participate fully in their own integral development. To approach agriculture merely as the creation of a market commodity to be exchanged exclusively in light of maximum profits reduces this noble undertaking to mere profit-taking. The agricultural leader has the unique responsibility to guide financial endeavors in accord with human flourishing, not merely the making of money. By serving the common good through the creation of and participation among fair exchanges, the agricultural leader can be a catalyst for authentic human flourishing.

So to reflect: Do I practice principles of justice and solidarity in my dealings?


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