Farmers and the U.S. Congress: rethinking basic institutional assumptions about agricultural policy

An assumption shared by most agricultural economists is that, as farm numbers decline in a democratic government, farm policy attention from rule-makers will decline as well. This assumption - despite important work to the contrary in institutional economics - is often voiced in federated governing units, especially the U.S., where constituents are locally organized and the commitment of rule-makers to nationwide policy is limited. While significant theoretical literature challenges that majoritarian view from the perspective of interest-group theory, this is the first empirical test and explanation of the behavior of rule-makers. The findings of this analysis indicate that classic majoritarian expectations are not met in the U.S. Congress. Instead, unexpectedly large numbers of legislators seek favorable policy action for farmers as distinct minorities within their districts. However, these same legislators balance their attention to farmers by also taking policy action in agriculture on behalf of other types of constituents. Legislators explain these actions as the result of their own electoral needs to satisfy vocal minorities from their political districts plus the ease with which they can marginally adjust a large base of U.S. farm programs. Thus, a kind of neo-majoritarianism emerges. These results are especially important given the growing attention to federated governance in the European Union, East Europe, in North America through free trade agreements, and with the GATT. They indicate that farmers will continue, despite shrinking numbers, to be influential in those governing structures that have historically strong farm programs and the capacity to diversify from that policy base.


Issue Date:
1994-12
Publication Type:
Journal Article
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/173487
Published in:
Agricultural Economics: The Journal of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, Volume 11, Issue 2-3
Page range:
125-141
Total Pages:
18




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-27

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