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The Fable Of The Bees Revisited: Causes And Consequences Of The U.S. Honey Program

Listed author(s):
  • Muth, Mary K.
  • Rucker, Randal R.
  • Thurman, Walter N.
  • Chuang, Ching-Ta

In his 1973 paper, Steven Cheung discredited the "fable of the bees" by demonstrating that markets for beekeeping services exist and that they function well. Although economists heeded Cheung's lessons, policy makers did not. The honey program-the stated purpose of which was to promote the availability of pollination servicesoperated for almost 50 years, supporting the price of honey through a variety of mechanisms. Its effects were minor before the 1980s but then became important with annual government expenditures near $100 million for several years. Reforms of the program in the late 1980s reduced its market effects and budget costs, returning it to its original role as a minor commodity program. The 1996 Farm Bill formally eliminated the honey program, which redirected lobbying efforts toward enacting trade restrictions and obtaining annual relief through the appropriations process. We measure the historical welfare effects of the program during its various incarnations, examine its frequently stated public interest rationalethe encouragement of honeybee pollination, and interpret its history in light of economic theories of regulation.

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Paper provided by North Carolina State University, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in its series Reports with number 29153.

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Date of creation: 2001
Handle: RePEc:ags:ncsure:29153
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  1. Orden, David & Paarlberg, Robert & Roe, Terry, 1999. "Policy Reform in American Agriculture," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226632643, Summer.
  2. Rucker, Randal R & Thurman, Walter N, 1990. "The Economic Effects of Supply Controls: The Simple Analytics of the U.S. Peanut Program," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 483-515, October.
  3. Alan L. Olmstead & Donald B. Wooten, 1987. "Bee Pollination and Productivity Growth: The Case of Alfalfa," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 69(1), pages 56-63.
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