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Argentine Rural Society

Argentine Rural Society

The Society for Rural Argentina (SRA) is the main voice for the rural interests of the country. It primarily defends the viewpoints of its most powerful sector, the large livestock raisers of the pampas region. Founded in 1866 by a small group of forward-looking ranchers, since its beginnings the SRA has focused on two main objectives: collaborating on technical improvements and setting itself up to represent the interests of the rural sector before the state. In its early years, this modernizing project failed to attract wide support among large landowners. Nevertheless, during the great economic expansion of the 1880s ranchers began to join. By 1910 the SRA had more than 1,000 members and had already become one of the most prestigious institutions of Argentina.

During this foundational period, in which industry and workers held limited power, and in which rural exports boomed, the SRA as a pressure group was not as important as sometimes claimed. After that, however, as the Argentine political economy became more contentious, politics have had an increasing influence on the institution. Since 1912 the SRA has come up against the reform proposals of the Argentina Agricultural Federation (Federación Agraria Argentina, or FAA), an institution originally comprised of small farmers, many of them tenants. With the Great Depression, which strongly affected rural exports, tensions within the rural sector became more intense. New associations of midsized-livestock farmers, also critical of the SRA, formed in those years, such as the Confederaciones Rurales Argentinas (CRA).

The coup d'état of 1943 marked a historical change of direction for the SRA. For the next half century, the state actively promoted industrialization, urban development, and improved living conditions for workers, to some extent at the expense of the rural sector. In addition to increased taxation for the rural sector, successive administrations maintained a freeze on land rents for more than twenty years, which in the long term helped to democratize land ownership. The conflict between the state and the SRA reached its climax during the Perón administration (1946–1955); after that it attenuated but did not disappear altogether. The hostile policies of Perón and his successors towards rural production helped bring the members of the SRA and other representatives of the sector closer together. In the early 1990s Argentina abruptly abandoned industrial protection, and the rural sector once again became the focus of greater attention from the state. Rapid agricultural growth was accompanied by a profound renovation of the entrepreneurial class. Many of the owners of the more modern, technically more complex, agrarian enterprises created since the 1990s do not identify with the SRA. Nevertheless, in the early 2000s the SRA continues to enjoy the advantages provided by its position as the traditional representative of the rural sector, even though the growing complexity of agrarian interests and the importance of other business sectors have reduced its influence considerably.

See alsoAgriculture; Argentina: The Twentieth Century; Livestock.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hora, Roy. The Landowners of the Argentine Pampas: A Social and Political History, 1860–1945. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Manzetti, Luigi. "The Evolution of Agricultural Interest Groups in Argentina." Journal of Latin American Studies 24, no. 3 (1992): 585-616.

Palomino, Mirta. Tradición y Poder: la Sociedad Rural Argentina. Buenos Aires: CISEA-GEL, 1988.

Smith, Peter. Politics and Beef in Argentina: Patterns of Conflict and Change. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969.

                                             Roy Hora

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