Use of contour buffer strips in commodity crop systems in southwestern Wisconsin helps reduce soil loss and traps nutrients on slopes. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
ABSTRACT: U.S. government policies and programs promoting agricultural bioenergy? development have tended to prioritize national goals of energy security?, economic growth and environmental improvement, while marginalizing the local experiences, views and concerns of farmers and rural communities that will produce the needed energy crops. Based on qualitative field interviews with 48 farming and non-farming participants in two switchgrass? bioenergy projects (in southern Iowa and in northeastern Kentucky), this paper examines local perspectives on the potential opportunities, drawbacks, and tradeoffs of the emerging agricultural bioeconomy for rural people and places. Individual project participants expressed both positive and negative perceptions about the impacts of the agricultural bioeconomy, with local and regional revitalization being the benefit most desired and also least expected. Skepticism about the social impacts of the agricultural bioeconomy often stemmed from observations of corporate control in agriculture more generally. This research suggests that narrow instrumental views of farmers and rural communities as technical providers of energy feedstocks can be misleading, because they omit the local social and cultural context that complicates rural responses and receptivity to the development of the agricultural bioeconomy.