Handbooks on Globalisation series
Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 7: US agricultural policy and the globalization of world agriculture
This chapter examines the relationship between the world economy and the shape of US agricultural policy since the creation of supply management policy in the 1930s. The policy of supply management had three primary programs: price supports, production controls, and export subsidies. During the twentieth century, the contours of this policy changed as it expanded and contracted at different times. The US government remains deeply involved in agriculture today, including by providing subsidies to farmers, but the goal of US agricultural policy is no longer to manage the supply of agricultural commodities. This chapter explains the long-term trajectory of US agricultural policy by focusing on the relations between class structure, national policy and the world economy. These periodic shifts in US agricultural policy were connected to changes in the world economy. On the one hand, the world economy helped to shape US agricultural policy as world prices rose and fell, competition in international markets ebbed and flowed, and rules of trade changed. On the other hand, US agricultural policy shaped the world economy as the dominant position of the USA after World War II allowed it to set the rules organizing food and agriculture in the world economy. One consequence of the US food regime was the spread of supply management policy across the globe. This food regime broke down in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This chapter, then, will close by briefly examining the international consequences of the shift away from supply management in the USA as well as in the international food regime – most notably, unstable commodity prices and the threat of food crises.
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