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Applied Ethics in AgricultureSociology/Economics 362 Paul Lasley and Arne Hallam Fall, 2003
“Character is not the same thing as reputation. Character is what you are. Reputation is what people say you are.”Josephson, 2002
Why we got involved in the study of ethics in agriculture • About 10 years ago Phil Baumel and Paul Lasley began a series of studies that focused on ethics within farm cooperatives • Grant from Farmers Cooperative Service • Findings from the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll • Teaching a new course, Sociology/ Economics 362X, first offered fall, 2002
What do you suppose coop managers and board members told us about ethics in agriculture?
Cooperative Managers and Board Members Identified Several Areas of Ethical Concern • Shirking responsibilities • Business dealings with friends, relatives, or competitors • Sales incentives • Pricing policies • Illegal Practices
Reasons given for unethical behavior • Extreme pressure to show a profit • No board oversight on management • Too much competition that it is unhealthy • Business is too complex for a lay board • Fewer farmers, greater business, more incentive to retain them as members • Young farmers lack appreciation of cooperatives • Tough economic times on the farm contributed to erosion in ethical standards.
What do you think Iowa farmers told us? • Do you suppose they agree that ethics have declined among farmers? • Can you provide examples?
What Iowa Farmers Told Us(2002 Farm Poll, n=1942) • At one time a person’s word was as good as a signed contract; now you must get it in writing. 93% somewhat or strongly agreed • In general, ethical standards in society have declined. 87% agreed
What farmers told us • I used to take a persons’ word as measure of his/her honor, but now-a-days you can’t always simply accept what a person tells you. 85% agreed. • One reason ethical standards have declined is that people have lost respect for authority. 70% agreed • Often people admit they are not being ethical in paying the full amount of their taxes. 49% agreed.
What farmers told us • Even among friends and neighbors, I am concerned that they no longer feel obliged to honor their word. 37% agreed • Farmer’s ethical standards have declined. 57% agreed
The widespread decline • Where are ethical lapses most recognized?
How have ethics changed? • % Decline in past 10 years • Clergy 24% • Neighbors 31 • Local Merchants 36 • Local Agribusiness 37 • Lenders 41 • Farmers 45 • Youth and young adults 68 • Local elected officials 70 • Elected state officials 72
The Six Pillars of Character(Source: Josephson, Making Ethical Decisions) • Trustworthiness • Honesty • Truthfulness • Sincerity • Candor • Honesty in conduct • Integrity • Relability
The Six Pillars of Character(Source: Josephson, Making Ethical Decisions) • Respect • Civility, courtesy, and decency • Dignity and autonomy • Tolerance and acceptance • Responsibility • Accountability • Pursuit of Excellence • Self Restraint
The Six Pillars of Character(Source: Josephson, Making Ethical Decisions) • Fairness • Process • Impartiality • Equity • Caring • Citizenship
Some guides to determine if an action is ethical • The Golden Rule, “you act in a way that you would expect others to act toward you” • The Professional Ethic, “You take only those actions that would be viewed as proper by an objective panel of your professional peers”
3. Kant’s Categorical Imperative, “Ask yourself, “What if everyone behaved this way?” 4. Child on Your Shoulder, “Would you proudly make the same decision if your young child were witnessing your choice?” 5. TV Test, Could you explain and justify your actions to general television audience?” 6. The Des Moines Register Test, “Would you like your friends and neighbors to read about this?”
Four simple questions • Could you or someone else suffer physical harm? • Could you or someone else suffer emotional pain? • Could the decision hurt your reputation, undermine your credibility, or damage important relationships? • Could the decision impede the achievement of any important goal?
Seven Steps to Better Decisions • Stop and think • Clarify goals • Determine Facts • Develop options • Consider consequences • Choose • Monitor and modify
What happens when there is not adherence to a code of ethics? • People begin to “cut corners” • Most unethical and illegal activities start small • Rationale or justifications often include, everyone else is doing it • Erosion in ethics brings about greater regulation because trust has been violated • Rules, regulations and laws reflect the formalization of ethics
Erosion in Ethics=Distrustful Culture • Where people no longer trust each other • Where extreme individualism is primary • Where people no longer know each other • With diminished respect, trust and cooperation, there are calls for regulations to monitor or regulate behaviors/actions
Symptoms of Distrust in Agriculture • Legal representation • Formalized contracts • Fear of Liability—liability insurance • Less personal contact—fear of strangers • Formal communication • Suspiciousness
Need to Emphasize Ethics in Farming • What would a professional code of ethics in farming look like? • Who should take the lead in drafting such a document, and how it could be used?
The Need for a Code of Ethics in Farming • Evidence is there has been an erosion in ethics • The erosion in ethics has contributed to loss of trust, and consumer confidence, and calls for more regulations. • A code of ethics might restore confidence and farming could be viewed a leader in pursuing higher ethical standard.
THE CHALLENGE OF THIS COURSE • The challenge is how can Iowa farmers begin to develop a code of ethics that would define professionalfarmers. • As future leaders in agriculture, we hope this course will contribute to your ability to make ethical decisions.