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Hog-Round Marketing, Seed Quality, and Government Policy: Institutional Change in U.S. Cotton Production, 1920 1960


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Between 1928 and 1960 U.S. cotton production experienced a revolution with average yields roughly tripling while the quality of the crop increased significantly. This article analyzes the key institutional and scientific developments that facilitated the revolution in biological technologies, pointing to the importance of two government programs the one-variety community movement and the Smith-Doxey Act as catalysts for change. The story displays two phenomena germane to the recent literature: an important real-world example of Akerlof s lemons model and a case in which inventors, during an early phase of the product cycle, encouraged consumers to copy and disseminate their intellectual property.We would like to thank Shelby Baker, Dick Bassett, Fred Bourland, J. Jerome Boyd, David L. Carlton, Peter Coclanis, Harry B. Collins, John Constantine, Tom Culp, Early C. Ewing Jr., Deborah K. Fitzgerald, Janet Hudson, Susana Iranzo, Hal Lewis, Gary Libecap, Shelagh Mackay, C. W. Manning, Leslie Maulhardt, William Meredith, Robert Margo, Massimo Morelli, Larry Nelson, Carl Pray, Gene Seigler, Macon Steele, Nancy Virts, Henry Webb, Gavin Wright, and two anonymous referees for their comments and assistance. Julian Alston played an especially important role in shaping our analysis. We also benefited from the comments of the seminar participants at the Triangle Economic History Workshop, the University of Mississippi, Harvard University, the Spring 2002 All-UC Group in Economic History Conference at Scripps College, and the 2003 Meetings of the American Historical Association. Work on this article was facilitated by a fellowship granted by the International Centre for Economic Research (ICER) in Turin, Italy.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 63 (2003)
Issue (Month): 02 (June)
Pages: 447-488

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:63:y:2003:i:02:p:447-488_00

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  1. Simpson, D.M., 1954. "Natural Cross-Pollination in Cotton," Technical Bulletins 156738, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  2. Whatley, Warren C., 1983. "Labor for the Picking: the New Deal in the South," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(04), pages 905-929, December.
  3. Bulow, Jeremy I, 1982. "Durable-Goods Monopolists," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(2), pages 314-32, April.
  4. Constantine, John H & Alston, Julian M & Smith, Vincent H, 1994. "Economic Impacts of the California One-Variety Cotton Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 951-74, October.
  5. Howell, L. D. & Watson, Leonard J., 1939. "Cotton Prices in Relation to Cotton Classification Service and to Quality Improvement," Technical Bulletins 168475, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  6. Musoke, Moses S. & Olmstead, Alan L., 1982. "The Rise of the Cotton Industry in California: A Comparative Perspective," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(02), pages 385-412, June.
  7. Simpson, D.M., 1954. "Natural Cross-Pollination in Cotton," Technical Bulletins 156667, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  8. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
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Cited by:
  1. McQuade, Timothy & Salant, Stephen W. & Winfree, Jason, 2009. "Markets with untraceable goods of unknown quality: a market failure exacerbated by globalization," MPRA Paper 21874, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Isengildina-Massa, Olga & MacDonald, Stephen, 2009. "U.S. Cotton Prices and the World Cotton Market: Forecasting and Structural Change," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 49324, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  3. MacDonald, Stephen & Naik, Gopal & Landes, Rip, 2010. "Markets, Institutions, and the Quality of Agricultural Products: Cotton Quality in India," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 61854, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.


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