Agriculture policy creation in the United States

Agriculture in theUnited Statesbegan to demand a voice in government by 1820.  The plea for representation by rural citizens and agricultural constituents was met with the creation of Agriculture Committees in the House of Representatives in 1820 and in the Senate in 1825.  Since this time there has been an ever-increasing creation of agricultural legislation and government involvement in this sector from exploration and testing to inspection and standards legislation.

Federal assistance in the agriculture sector originated in 1933 with the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).  The AAA initiated crop and marketing controls, and was later amended to allocate funds for the removal of agricultural surplus.  The Farm Credit Act, established in the same year, was the first loan program for farmers.  The history of farm legislation, beginning with these Acts, is a story of surplus removal, price support and acreage removal for the purposes of affecting pricing and farm income.

Since the AAA in 1933 the same four measures have generally been used to accomplish these goals: price support or the purchase of commodities; acreage and production controls; direct payments, usually to make up the difference between a target price and that of the market; and direct trade intervention consisting of import controls and export subsidies.[1]  The Agriculture Act of 1949 established parity based farm price guarantees and set a precedent for farm legislation that continues today.  Congress enacts new legislation, usually referred to generically as the Farm Bill, every six years.  If the US Congress is unable to design a new bill before the previous act expires legislation reverts to the permanent Agriculture Act of 1949.  This “permanent law” is extended every time a new Farm Bill is enacted though there is simultaneously a development in the creation of US agriculture policy every six years.[2]

In the 1950s and again in the 1980s agricultural legislation turned towards stock augmentation programs.  In 1954 the Agricultural Trade Development Assistance Act, known as the Food for Peace Program, allowed for a system of direct intervention.  Under this system food supplies were to be increased and exported to Less Developed Countries (LDCs) experiencing difficulty providing the commodities necessary to feed their populations.  Eventually a Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) was developed in the 1970s to provide concessions to LDCs.  Most Favored Nation (MFN) status was established to grant general non-reciprocal and non-discriminatory preferences to trade partners.  With this status the USand European Community were able to put restrictions on production in LDCs resting upon rules of origin and content.  These rules limited the ability of LDCs to export processed products and helped to develop dependency of some states on singular raw commodities and natural resources.  Over time the creation of these growing export markets was found to benefit high-income states more than the LDCs they were designed to support.[3]

In 1981 the Farm Bill legislation created was in response to the “imminent world food crisis” identified to have been developing in the 1970s.  Whether the world was “in crisis” or not, the legislation set aside surplus to help the world’s soon-to-be starving populations overcome this hurdle.  The USgovernment, agribusiness and other developed nations began to engage in furious research to produce new fertilizers and high yield seeds.  Through multi-national corporations (MNCs) and government efforts this technology has been utilized and transferred around the globe.[4]

An unfortunate side effect of this increased production was that by the time the Farm Bill of 1985 was being created in the USthe focus was necessarily on chronic overproduction and ever-increasing surplus.   Since this time agricultural legislation has continued to focus on surplus and deconstructing support policies along with conservation programs and trade policy.[5]  By trying to achieve these goals the policy has seemed to allocate monetary benefits in direct proportion to volume of output.  This policy is inherently geared toward larger farms and discourages the maintenance of smaller family farms.

Simultaneously the policy encourages capital investment, lowering the cost of farming to those with large land holdings and increasing investment in machinery and industrial farm equipment and away from human resources.  Producers in this system compete for land, raising acreage prices, and increasing the equity of the land holdings of existing farmers.  Land holders use this increased equity to invest more in technology, increasing their production, resulting in fewer though larger and more specialized farms.  These trends reduce costs to the large farmer, thus reducing cost to the consumer, and also encourage cooperation with non-farming sectors such as chemical, technology, and equipment producers.[6]

These policies perpetuate the trend in increasing farm size and make the capital requirements for farming much higher.  This makes it increasingly difficult for young or new farmers with little capital to enter the agricultural markets.  These trends do not bode well for farm-based communities.  As rural areas are consolidated into large holdings and family farms diminish in number so do rural communities.  Fewer residents means less civil society, eventually fewer public services and stagnating rural communities.  Thus the rhetoric of rural development policy and the equity of “rural life” does not necessarily hold true with the creation of these Farm Bills.[7]  And important to note, a reduction in the number of farms increases the possibility of a disruption in the food supply in the case of crisis or disaster in the future.  These Bills often do a disservice to the entire agricultural market by attempting to regulate something as powerful as nature.

But this is not news.  During the Great Depression when agriculture was faced with excess human resources the New Deal government set “fair” commodity prices.  Rather than facilitating employment transfer out of agriculture this policy sent the wrong economic signals to farmers to continue production, further augmenting the already poor food situation.  Farm Bills have continued to set prices, support unproductive agricultural markets and generally distort the free hand of the food market.  To deconstruct these age-old policies farmers are eventually going to have to absorb the cost of de-capitalization of these policies.[8]

Bruce Gardner assesses the USagriculture situation by citing that the increased incidence of non-farm income in farm households has increased their average income considerably.  Combined with government programs and payments, farm households are on average better off now than non-farm households.  He shows that the income disparity historically evident between urban and rural families no longer exists and that farm income continues to rise as do land prices.[9]

The most recent Farm Bills have been no different (if somewhat better for world trade) than those previous in their creation of market distorting legislation.


The 1996 FAIR Act

The 1996 Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act (FAIR) adapted agriculture policy in theUSto change slightly the 1990 Food, Agriculture, Concentration, and Trade (FACT) Act which preceded it.  The Act adjusted total annual payments for the period 1996 to 2002 to address the concerns of reducing the federal budget deficit and allow more freedom to farmers to produce to meet the demands of the marketplace.  Though the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URAA) supported strong growth in agricultural trade and US exports, WTO concerns did not play a major role in the organization of the 1996 Farm Policy.  Embedded within the 1996 Farm Bill were three major changes to be noted.


Decoupling of Income Support Policies

The Act created Production Flexibility Contract (PFC) payments, which replaced previously used price/deficiency payment provisions, to ensure farmers who enroll in the program with payments not to exceed a maximum of $35.6 billion of transition payments over the 7-year period of the Act.  These PFCs were intended to sever the link between income support payments and farm prices.  The payments depended neither on the type or amount of crop produced nor the market price for that crop.  The contracts expected the individual farmer to comply with existing conservation plans for farm and wetland provisions, as well as adhere to planting flexibility provisions.[10]  Major commodities such as dairy products, sugar, peanuts and tobacco were excluded from the decoupling program.

The FAIR Act also abolished the provision under the FACT Act known as the Acreage Reduction Program (ARP).  This program was used to reduce the acreage that participating farmers could plant with a single crop.  Under this previous Act producers’ payments were reduced if more than 15 percent of their base acreage was planted to other crops or idled.  Under the FAIR Act producers were permitted to plant 100 percent of their total tracts without loss in payments.  This includes haying and grazing land and alfalfa production, though planting of fruits and vegetables was limited unless there was a “history of double cropping with fruits and vegetables in the region” on contract acreage.[11]  From April 1996 forward, set aside programs were no longer voluntary.  The deconstruction of the ARP was meant to make farmers more responsive to market forces and allow them greater control in their production decisions.[12]  Unaltered was the Loan Rate (LR), which provided a safety net for farmers in case of inclement weather or market distortion.  The LR was set at 85% of the preceding 5-year average prices.  Under the Act the purchase of crop insurance was no longer required, but farmers had to waive their rights, in writing, to emergency crop assistance.[13]


Reduction of Export Subsidies

Previous to the 1996 FAIR Act export subsidy programs were comprised of the Export Enhancement Program (EEP), the Dairy Incentive Program (DEIP), the Sunflower Oil Assistance Program (SOAP), and the Cotton Seed Oil Assistance Program (COAP).  The EEP was the largest of the programs, which predominantly benefited wheat and wheat flour exports.  The program itself was left largely unchanged though its funding was cut because so little of the EEP funding was used in fiscal years 1996 and 1997.  For example, funding for the fiscal year 1998 was reduced from an allocated $500 million to $150 million.  Funding for wheat, wheat flour, barley, barley malt, rice, vegetable oils, frozen poultry and eggs were changed to one-year allocations in order to coincide with the limitations of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture.  The Act similarly reduced spending levels for fiscal years 2000-2002 that were closer to those agreed upon in the URAA.  Total EEP funding during the fiscal period 1996 to 2000 was in the end more than 1.6 billion dollars less than the maximum levels permitted under the URAA.

The DEIP was changed to fit the limitations of the URAA as well.  The funds, totaling $105 million in 1999, were reallocated under different programs to benefit the milk powder and cheese sectors while diminishing the existence of the DEIP program to little more than an acronym.  These actions were in an effort to export the maximum volume of dairy products allowable under the dairy sales program of the Uruguay Round of the GATT.  The Act similarly nullified the SOAP and COAP.  Most of these funds are simply reallocated to different groups of funds so that the visible structures of the existing programs do not offend the URAA.  By changing the distribution of the funds, the farm sector is still serviced, but the offending regulations in the WTO are reduced or abolished.

The FAIR Act maintains the repayment of commercial credit under the Export Credit Guarantee programs.  These programs provide guarantees to other countries on export credit with repayment schedules from three to ten years.  They also broaden the limits of potential markets, offering credit guarantees to emerging and riskier markets such as those in LDCs.  The program allows for the exportation of a broader range of products, and improves the possibility of exporting value-added products.


Conservation Programs

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) continued to be authorized by the 1996 FAIR Act.  Efforts to target funds for the program were increased and criteria for acreage set aside to receive funding for environmental and conservational benefits were also increased.  A new conservation program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) was established to provide educational and technical assistance to further reduce soil, water and resource related problems.


Other Provisions

The Food Stamp Program was reauthorized under the FAIR Act and the Farm Bill continues to be linked with comprehensive welfare reform.  A Fund for Rural America was established to increase resources for agricultural research and rural development.


The 2002 Farm Bill

In the intervening years between the FAIR Act and the 2002 Farm Bill (Farm Security and Rural Investment Act – FSRIA) commodity prices weakened considerably due to increased supply and reduced demand.  With the expansion of crop production provided by the 1996 FAIR provisions, legislators were faced with a net farm income decline combined with a weakened safety net for farmers.  To compensate producers’ for their losses, Congress enacted a series of five different emergency appropriations bills.  Market Loss Assistance (MLA) payments amounted to $2.857 billion in 1998, $6 billion in 1999, and $9 billion in 2000 to result in over $24 billion in additional assistance from 1999 to 2001 including an extra $5.5 billion in 2000 under the Agriculture Risk Protection Act.

Thus, included in the desire to allow farmers more flexibility in crop planting there was a strong push to provide producers with an income safety net.  These issues, combined with a dedication to sound environmental and conservation practices led to the creation of the 2002 Farm Bill package.  The House of Representatives passed a version of the Farm Bill in October 2001 followed by The Senate’s version passed in February 2002. A House-Senate Conference Committee to craft the final bill took place in March-April 2002. Both the House and the Senate passed the conference version of the Farm Bill in early May, and the legislation was then sent to the President who signed it into law on May 13, 2002.  The legislation covers agricultural programs through 2007 covering commodity programs, conservation, trade, rural development, nutrition, credit, forestry, and energy.

The 2002 Farm Bill combines the provisions of the 1996 FAIR Act with the emergency spending bills implemented between 1998 and 2001.  For example, the 2002 Act maintains the marketing assistance loans from the FAIR Act while direct payments replace the PFC payments, and counter-cyclical payments are used to firmly institutionalize the MLA payments of the inter-legislative period.[14]  This paper will limit its analysis of the 2002 Farm Bill to those policies that have a direct effect on international trade and those that have evident global implications.  The newest policies and most glaring differences from previous legislation are outlined here, excluding, for the most part, individual commodity regulation.


Commodity Programs

Rather than entering into 7 year Production Flexibility Contracts as under the 1996 FAIR Act, farmers enter into annual agreements for direct payments.  The payment rates are specified per bushel under the new Bill instead of being fixed at a specific total level.  For example, total PFC payment levels for each fiscal year (FY) were fixed at: $5.570 billion in 1996, $5.385 billion in 1997, $5.800 billion in 1998, $5.603 billion in 1999, $5.130 billion in 2000, $4.130 billion in 2001, and $4.008 billion in 2002.

To replace MLA payments proportional to PFC payments, counter-cyclical payments were implemented to make up the difference of income when effective prices are lower than target prices.  The effective price was identified as the sum of the higher of the national average farm price for the

marketing year, or the national loan rate for the commodity, and the direct


Figure 1: 2002 Farm Act Payment Rates


Commodity Payment rate
Wheat $0.52/bu
Corn $0.28/bu
Grain sorghum $0.35/bu
Barley $0.24/bu
Oats $0.024/bu
Upland cotton $0.0667/lb
Rice $2.35/cwt
Soybeans $0.44/bu
Other oilseeds $0.008/lb

Source: 2002 Farm Bill[15]


payment rate for the commodity. The payment amount for a farmer equals the product of the payment rate, the payment acres, and the payment yield.  Counter-cyclical payments are made after the end of the crop year for that commodity in one payment of 35% in October of the year the crop is harvested and another in February of the following year of 70% minus the previous payment.


Figure 2: Target Prices for Counter-Cyclical Payments


 Commodity 2002-03 2004-07
Wheat $3.86/bu $3.92/bu
Corn $2.60/bu $2.63/bu
Grain sorghum $2.54/bu $2.57/bu
Barley $2.21/bu $2.24/bu
Oats $1.40/bu $1.44/bu
Upland cotton $0.724/lb $0.724/lb
Rice $10.50/cwt $10.50/cwt
Soybeans $5.80/bu $5.80/bu
Other oilseeds $0.098/lb $0.101/lb

Source: 2002 Farm Bill[16]


Interestingly enough, Congress undervalued the payments necessary to keep American farmers at an acceptable income level in the period from 1996 – 2000.  It was in this period that MLA payments were introduced to compensate for the increased supply of commodities combined with the 1997-99 economic and financial crisis inAsia, which supposedly slowed economic growth and decreased global demand for US agricultural products.  Legislators seem to have learned from this experience enough to predict future markets and set target prices once again.

The 2002 Farm Bill also updated the determinants of acreage base and payment acres used for calculating direct and counter-cyclical payments.  Under 1996 legislation the contract acreage was base acreage plus land leaving CRP acreage and minus acreage entering CRP enrollment.  Payments were made on 85% of contract acres.  Under the new legislation payments are made on 85% of base acres, and producers have two options from which to choose to calculate their base acreage.  They can either choose their base acres to reflect contract acreage that would have been used for 2002 PFC payments under the FAIR Act or to update base acres to reflect the 4-year average of planted acreage plus land that was prevented from planting for the specific commodity during the 1998-2001 crop years.  Planting restrictions and program yields for calculating payments remain largely the same except for the addition of some commodities and the adjustment in regulation for others.

Loan rates were for the most part fixed under the 2002 legislation.  Before 1996 Marketing Assistance Loans, Loan Deficiency Payments, and Commodity Loans were subject to fluctuation of market value of commodities, often tied to prices inNorthern Europe, as is the case for upland cotton, and usually tied to a maximum and minimum price per unit.  Loan rates under the 2002 Farm Bill were fixed in legislation.

In order to comply with the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture, whose aims have not been a focus in previous Farm Bill legislation, the 2002 Farm Bill addressed compliance specifically.  Under the Uruguay Round the US must limit trade distorting domestic support for commodities to a maximum allowable level as determined by an Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS – discussed in Chapter Three).  In 1995 the ceiling on US AMS support was at $23.1 billion and was subsequently reduced to $19.1 billion in 2000.  The Farm Bill legislates that if Agriculture spending should rise to a level such that it might exceed allowable AMS levels, the Secretary, with the approval of Congress, may adjust spending to ensure respect of these spending levels.


Figure 3: Loan Rates Fixed in Legislation


 Commodity 2002-03 2004-07
Wheat $2.80/bu $2.75/bu
Corn $1.98/bu $1.95/bu
Grain sorghum $1.98/bu $1.95/bu
Barley $1.88/bu $1.85/bu
Oats $1.35/bu $1.33/bu
Rice $6.50/cwt $6.50/cwt
Soybeans $5.00/bu $5.00/bu
Other oilseeds $0.096/lb $0.093/lb
Upland cotton $0.52/lb $0.52/lb
ELS cotton* $0.7977/lb $0.7977/lb
Peanuts $355/ton $355/ton
Graded wool $1.00/lb $1.00/lb
Non-graded wool $0.40/lb $0.40/lb
Mohair $4.20/lb $4.20/lb
Honey $0.60/lb $0.60/lb
Small chickpeas $7.56/cwt $7.43/cwt
Lentils $11.94/cwt $11.72/cwt
Dry peas $6.33/cwt $6.22/cwt

* Extra Long Staple cotton                                                            Source: 2002 Farm Bill[17]



Most of Title III of the 2002 Farm Bill is dedicated to expanding existing programs that open up opportunities for international trade in agriculture.  The Export Credit Guarantee Program and the Intermediate Export Guarantee Program that were outlined under the FAIR Act were extended until 2007 along with their annual funding. The programs designed to further develop markets abroad for US Agricultural goods, the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development Program (FMDP), both received additional funding.  The Emerging Markets Program targeted at newly opening food markets was maintained at its current level of funding.

Food aid and development programs were extended under this Bill as well.  The Public Law 480 Program, known as Food for Peace, was continued.  Under the P.L. 480, agricultural commodities are provided on concessional credit terms to developing country governments.  Title One specifies that priority is given to “countries which have demonstrated the potential to become commercial markets, are undertaking measures to improve their food security and agriculture development, and demonstrate the greatest need for food.”[18]

Section 416 was unsurprisingly maintained, a permanent law provided for in the Agricultural Act of 1949 that mandates disbursement of commodities held by the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) as donations abroad to “prevent waste.”  Other maintained and extended provisions include the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Nutrition Program, the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust/Food Security Commodity Reserve, the John Ogonowski Farmer-to-Farmer Program, and the Food for Progress (FFP) fund, originally created under the Food Security Act of 1985 to provide developing countries’ governments with commodities to strengthen private sector agriculture growth.  These programs, while sometimes enhancing the farming programs in developing countries, are helpful to insure that agricultural surpluses, often amplified by domestic subsidies, find import destinations abroad.

Under this same section however was a direct address to the URAA of 1994.  Under the provision for the Export Enhancement Program the 2002 Farm Bill specifically expands its definition of unfair trade practices.  The EEP is at its basic level a fund for export subsidies “to U.S.exporters to help compete against subsidized prices in specific export markets.”[19]  Since the URAA the EEP has fluctuated from a $350 million cap on expenditure in FY 1996, down to $250 million in FY 1997 and then back up.  In FY 1998 expenditure was at $500 million, at $550 million in FY 1999, and $579 million in FY 2000.  The Program was subsequently capped at $478 million in 2000 and 2001 and the current Farm Bill extends that limit through 2007.  Time will tell how strong this regulation will hold.

The definitions of unfair trade practices outlined in the EEP Provision are more geared towards ensuring market access for theU.S.than identifying generally unfavorable practices, however.  These unfair practices are as follows:


v  Practices of state trading enterprises that “are not consistent with sound commercial practices conducted in the ordinary course of trade;”

v  Subsidies that decrease market opportunities forU.S.exports or unfairly distort agricultural markets to the detriment of the U.S;

v  Unjustified trade restrictions or commercial requirements, such as labeling, that affect new technologies, including biotechnology;

v  Unjustified sanitary or phytosanitary restrictions;

v  Other unjustified technical barriers to trade;

v  Rules that unfairly restrict imports ofU.S.products in the administration of tariff-rate quotas; and

v  Failure of a country to adhere to already existing trade agreements with the U.S.[20]


These definitions leave little room for any foreign market to shield itself fromU.S.imports.  Though the 2002 Farm Bill did not technically run counter to the Agreement on Agriculture, it is argued here that this listing is a prime example of why many WTO parties expressed dismay that it did little to support the “spirit” of the agreement.

Trade provisions under Title III extend even further attempts to ensure market access forU.S.agricultural products.  The Bill established new programs to remove or minimally alleviate sanitary, phytosanitary, and other technical barriers to trade.  The Biotechnology and Agricultural Trade Program was established to develop protocols through bilateral negotiations and authorizes $6 million per year through 2007 to provide quick response intervention in the event of non-tariff barriers toU.S.exports involving issues such as food safety, disease and biotechnology.  This same section established an export assistance program to address specific barriers toU.S.specialty crops.  This technical assistance program authorized $2 million per year to address issues such as market access and expansion for these “threatened” specialty crops.

Similarly, the DIEP, discussed above, was extended to 2007.  The Dairy Export Incentive Program subsidizes the export ofU.S.dairy products through the CCC.  The goal with this program is mainly to ensure that a maximum amount of dairy is exported from theU.S.and distributed throughout international markets.

It seems very little ground was gained by the international delegates of the WTO against U.S.barriers to international agriculture trade.  The few examples identifiable include the provision discussed above whereby the Secretary is granted the discretion to limit funding when it appears the AMS ceiling will be exceeded, and then only when his adjustments are submitted beforehand to Congress.

The delegates in the next Doha Round in Hong Kongwill be pleased to note that the Country-of-origin labeling provision, originally implemented by the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 will be extended to 2007.  The FAIR Act took into consideration discussions at the WTO summits and extended this provision to include some new food items in the provision as well.  These commodities bear labels informing the final purchaser of their country of origin for trade and security purposes.  The 2002 Bill requires that meat, fish, produce and peanuts be included in the provision, but attempts to soften the burden of added expense to American producers by declaring that they “could benefit if a ‘United States country of origin’ label increases the demand for their products.”[21]

In all of these provisions theU.S.legislation is whole-heartedly one sided.  Efforts are genuine to open borders and further the ease of trade, but only from an exportation stance.  There are no provisions to dismantleU.S.barriers to trade and allow an increased level of imports from other agricultural markets.  In review of these policies it is difficult to find evidence that theU.S.sends a concerned delegation to agricultural negotiations of the WTO at all.  It is apparent that the dismantlement of international trade barriers rests secondary to the protection of domestic agricultural interests.  But who are these interests?  The interested parties and creators of the preceding policy are identified in the following sections.


Influence on Policy Creation: PACs and Lobbies

Kishore Gawande did a survey in 2005 of lobbying and protection in the agriculture sector in the USand shows that special interests make a great difference in the direction of agriculture policy there.  In developed nations, and especially in the US, agriculture receives much more protection in the form of subsidies than other sectors.  He finds that this high level of protection is directly linked to strong lobbies.  Farmers in these nations make up a small proportion of the population and labor force.  As a consequence raising the prices of farm products has little impact on labor demand and wages.  Furthermore, the general population spends only a small proportion of its wages on farm products compared to citizens of developing countries so they are consequently far less sensitive to price increases of these products.[22]

It follows that agriculture policy is rather insulated from counter lobbying and protectionist policy is increasingly successful.  In the USagribusiness accounts for 15% of GDP and though the labor force involved is quite small, it is never-the-less effective.  Counter lobbying to the interests of agribusiness is further weakened by fragmentation.  Consumers as a lobbying group are poorly organized, understandably since the group would largely include the entire USpopulation.[23]

Gawande identifies over 200 Political Action Committees (PACs) that were active during the ten-year period that he studied.[24]  Though PACs are designed to insure the election of a candidate, he finds that this lobbying is not always directed to such aims.  Much PAC activity is to gain access to politicians and influence their votes.[25]  During the 107th Congress, that drafted the 2002 Farm Bill, in Agribusiness alone 277 PACs made contributions totaling over $16.5 million.[26]

Gawande studies the difference between informational and quid pro quo lobbying.  He differentiates between quid pro quo lobbying and informational lobbying identifying the alternative theories of how policy influence occurs.  For the purposes of this paper the benefits exchanged for favorable policy are less important than the very fact that so much energy is focused on swaying legislators in the House of Representatives and the Senate.  He finds that funding is more or less equally distributed between the House and Senate, and though at present Republicans seem to receive more funding, Democrats were the greater recipients before 1996 when Republicans took over both houses of congress.[27]

Similarly the Center for Responsive Politics lists over 400 individual lobbies under the heading of Agribusiness.  Together these lobbies spend over $77 million on influencing the creators of Agriculture policy to draft favorable legislation.[28]  They may also make policy recommendations as Gawande points out exchanging information for policy.  This informational lobbying is


Figure 4: Most Active Agriculture PACs in 2002 by Sector



Agricultural Services/Products: $3,031,741
35% to Democrats
65% to Republicans
Crop Production & Basic Processing: $3,754,456
48% to Democrats
52% to Republicans
Dairy: $1,525,415
39% to Democrats
61% to Republicans
Food Processing & Sales: $2,619,258
18% to Democrats
82% to Republicans
Forestry & Forest Products: $1,813,909
20% to Democrats
80% to Republicans
Livestock: $721,471
22% to Democrats
78% to Republicans
Poultry & Eggs: $639,543
32% to Democrats
68% to Republicans
Tobacco: $2,417,154
23% to Democrats
77% to Republicans

Source: Center for Responsive Politics


to insure that policy makers are fully informed before they draft legislation.  During the creation of the 2002 Farm Bill Bob Stallman, then President of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the greatest donor-lobby to the Agriculture Services and Products sector, made public recommendations to congress.  He suggested rebalancing loan rates and the implementation of the counter-cyclical payments to provide a safety net to farmers.  Stallman’s proposals would raise the cost of the Farm Bill by $7.7 million, and would increase URAA green box incompatibility.[29]  Between the $4.7 million paid by the AFBF as quid pro quo lobbying and the informational lobbying by the organization, it seems that policy creators are heavily influenced by these lobbying efforts.


Figure 5: Agribusiness Lobbies


Industry # Of Lobbies Greatest Spender
Agricultural Services/Products 95 American Farm Bureau Federation: $4.7 million
Crop Production and Basic Processing 134 Dole Food Company: $1.2 million
Dairy 29 International Dairy Foods Association:  $500,000
Food Processing and Sales 72 Grocery Manufacturers ofAmerica: $1.74million
Forestry andForestProducts 53 International Paper: $3.2 million
Livestock 20 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association:  $400,000
Miscellaneous Agriculture 9 National Council of Agricultural Employers $540,000
Poultry and Eggs 9 Perdue Farms: $152,000
Tobacco 21 Philip Morris: $11.22 million

Source: Center for Responsive Politics


It is important to note that Agriculture Committee members are highly lobbied and receive large donations from Agribusiness interests.  This is one of the reasons why Agriculture Committee membership is sought after by Senators and Representatives alike.  But being a congressional representative from a state with strong agricultural interests is usually sufficient to guarantee PAC funding.  In the Senate, representatives of sparsely populated agricultural states are particularly exposed to representatives of farm organizations and industries are well organized to lobby, especially through coalitions.[30]

While these PACs and individual lobbies have influence over the direction of agriculture policy creation in the US, it is the congressional representatives who sign their names to the policy.  In the House policy creation and manipulation takes place in committees before it is sent to the floor for a vote.  In this half of the legislature the focus of most agricultural lobbying and PAC donations are to members of the Committee on Agriculture.  In the Senate individuals have greater influence over legislation on their own.  Here the correlation between Agriculture Committee membership and funds received is less marked.58


United States Agricultural Elites

For the purposes of this paper, members of the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry are identified as the creators of US Agriculture policy.  A survey of these Committee Members was undertaken by the author to study their origins, education, private and public lives.  This data was compiled by reviewing 107th Congress lists and document, the biographies and personal information provided by the Committee Members, and information provided by policy review and government transparency organizations.

At the time of the drafting of the 2002 Farm Bill the House Committee on Agriculture was chaired by Representative Larry Combest, a republican from Texas.  The Committee consists of fours subcommittees.  The Department of Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry was then chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and oversaw by ranking Democrat Rep. Eva Clayton (NC).  The General Farm Commodities, Resource Conservation and Credit subcommittee was chaired by Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and led by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS).  The subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture was chaired by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and led by Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN).  The fourth subcommittee, that of Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs was chaired by Rep. Terry Everett (R-AL) and led by Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA).[31]

Simultaneously the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry was helping to draft the same piece of influential legislation.  The process in this committee was divided between four subcommittees as well.  The Forestry, Conservation, and Rural Revitalization subcommittee was chaired by Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln, a democrat from Arkansas, and led by ranking republican Sen. Michael D. Crapo from Idaho.  The subcommittee on Marketing, Inspection, and Product Promotion was chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and led by Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald (R-IL).  The Production and Price Competitiveness subcommittee was chaired by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and led by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS).  The subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation was chaired by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).[32]

These are the men and women who were most influential in drafting the 2002 Farm Bill.  Though persuaded by the PACs and lobbies who expended so much time and money to insure their interest, these are the people elite theory identifies as the locus of power in the agriculture sector.

Regardless of the financial pressure they are under, these members are at the helm of agriculture policy creation and they should be identified with it.










But are they elites?  For the purpose of answering this question a survey was completed of the backgrounds of these committee members, including their education, work history, and political involvement.  It was hoped to ascertain whether these actors fit the elite profile.  Were they raised in upper class families?  Did they attend Ivy League Universities?  Are they CEOs, on Boards of Directors, and have ties with others of similar backgrounds?

The data collected shows that they are not all Ivy League educated from upper class families.  In fact, the majority of them do not fit an elite profile at all.  Several of these Congress-people are from small towns, working families, and farms themselves.  Their backgrounds range from steel working families, coal mining areas, and generations-old farm communities.  While a large majority attended law school, few attended Ivy League institutions, many were enlisted in the military, and only one of the Agriculture Committee Senators is from a family of the northeast.  While perhaps a number of congress-people make up an elite faction, they are not well represented in the agriculture committees.

While the theory may identify these people as elite policy makers it is not sufficient to denote them as agriculture elites.  They are possibly elites in the agriculture community by their own right however.  Several of these congress-people come from fifth, seventh and even ninth generation farming families.  Their ancestors are often the founders of towns, newspapers and prominent businesses in their communities.  The biographies of these legislative leaders often list parents and grandparents who served as municipal leaders, in state legislatures and in public positions at the national level.  While there is little yachting and perhaps far less hobnobbing at cocktail parties inOklahomathan inMassachusetts, these people may very well represent an alternate version of the elites reviewed in the theoretical literature.

A different set of definitions and descriptors are required for this specific group of elites.  The level of education they possess seems not to be lacking, but their relationships, one to another, formed at institutions of higher education are bound to take on a different form.  The University environments where these people were socialized are far different from those found inNew England.  Rather than values set up by a class of people who trace their heritage and pride to the founders of the nation, these western elites hold different morals developed through the work ethic and difficult life of frontier families.  These morals are often referred to in the biographies of Agriculture Committee members, a tag whereby one western rancher may recognize similar values in another.

Whereas the Mayflower descendants form their relationships and cohesive identities in prestigious prep schools, the agriculture elites meet and refine their values in 4H clubs, county fairs and AFBF meetings, and the leadership positions they attain there.  While the studied and accepted eastern elite builds cohesion in their common study of policy, sociology and leadership, this agriculture group finds common ground in their success as students of agronomy and horticulture.  Even given the level of geographic distance between them, the social and cultural cohesion of this group is bound to take on a completely different form than that of theNew Englandinfluential.  If these differences and special circumstances surrounding the creation of an agricultural elite are taken into account, elite theory may be applied to this group of actors as well.

So many resources are expended to influence the decisions of this group of representatives that it seems had they not the power to lead the direction of US policy, they are granted it by special interests.  If these representatives did not have the influence to create protectionist agriculture policy from an elite theory perspective, they are certainly granted this power and influence by the lobbies that fund them.   Whether from recognized elite backgrounds or not they become elites through the self-inflicted subordination of their constituents.

Along these lines the actors behind the creation ofUSagriculture policy identified here can be described by a specific set of elite characteristics. They do come from established families of the West and South.  Their ancestors were often officials and possibly policy creators before them.  This group holds similar values and beliefs concerning the creation of agriculture policy, and the needs of this sector for protection.  The interventionist policies created by this group have greater implications than the protection of the US Agriculture markets from foreign competition however.  They have global implications in their relationship to the policy created at the WTO.  The next chapter will similarly go over this would-be Global Agricultural Policy and also discuss its creation from an elite perspective.

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