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Why Do Members of Congress Support Agricultural Protection?

  • Bellemare, Marc F.
  • Carnes, Nicholas

It seems paradoxical that developed countries continue subsidizing agriculture even though their agricultural sectors have been declining in relative importance since the middle of the 20th century. What drives support for agricultural protection in developed countries? We answer this question by testing three competing hypotheses about what drives support for agricultural protection in the US: (i) legislator preferences, (ii) electoral incentives, or (iii) lobbying. Using data on the roll call votes of the members of the 106th through the 110th Congresses (1999-2009) and the scores given to each legislator by the Farm Bureau, our findings suggest electoral incentives explain a great deal of the variation in support for agricultural protection, but that legislator preferences and lobbying play a role, too. Moreover, legislator preferences and electoral incentives appear to be substitutes for one another. Why does Congress support agricultural protection? Because many members have electoral incentives to—and because many of those who do not still have other personal or strategic interests at stake.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 47629.

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Date of creation: 16 Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:47629
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  1. Bellemare, Marc F., 2011. "Rising food prices, food price volatility, and political unrest," MPRA Paper 31888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Anderson, Kym, 1995. "Lobbying Incentives and the Pattern of Protection in Rich and Poor Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 401-23, January.
  3. Gary S. Becker, 1983. "A Theory of Competition Among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400.
  4. Kym Anderson & Gordon Rausser & Johan Swinnen, 2012. "Political Economy of Public Policies: Insights from Distortions to Agricultural and Food Markets," LICOS Discussion Papers 32312, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
  5. Grossman, Gene & Helpman, Elhanan, 1993. "Protection for Sale," CEPR Discussion Papers 827, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Bellemare, Marc F. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Just, David R., 2010. "The Welfare Impacts of Commodity Price Fluctuations: Evidence from Rural Ethiopia," MPRA Paper 24457, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Johan F. M. Swinnen & Harry Gorter, 1993. "Why Small Groups And Low Income Sectors Obtain Subsidies: The "Altruistic" Side Of A "Self-Interested" Government," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(3), pages 285-293, November.
  8. Johan F. M. Swinnen, 1994. "A Positive Theory of Agricultural Protection," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 76(1), pages 1-14.
  9. Johan F.M. Swinnen, 2010. "The Political Economy of Agricultural and Food Policies: Recent Contributions, New Insights, and Areas for Further Research," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 32(1), pages 33-58.
  10. Allen, Douglas W, 1991. "Homesteading and Property Rights; or, "How the West Was Really Won."," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-23, April.
  11. Rigoberto A. Lopez, 2001. "Campaign Contributions and Agricultural Subsidies," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(3), pages 257-279, November.
  12. Vesenka, Mary H., 1989. "Economic interests and ideological conviction : A note on PACs and agricultural acts," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 259-263, October.
  13. Gawande, Kishore & Hoekman, Bernard, 2006. "Lobbying and Agricultural Trade Policy in the United States," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 527-561, July.
  14. Barrett, Christopher B., 1999. "The microeconomics of the developmental paradox: on the political economy of food price policy," Agricultural Economics of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 20(2), March.
  15. Poole, Keith T. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "Are legislators ideologues or the agents of constituents?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 707-717, April.
  16. David G. Abler, 1991. "Campaign Contributions and House Voting on Sugar and Dairy Legislation," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 73(1), pages 11-17.
  17. Brooks, Jonathan, 1997. "Congressional Voting On Farm Payment Limitations: Political Pressure Of Ideological Conviction?," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 22(02), December.
  18. Beghin, John C & Kherallah, Mylene, 1994. "Political Institutions and International Patterns of Agricultural Protection," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 76(3), pages 482-89, August.
  19. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 265-286.
  20. Marc F. Bellemare & Christopher B. Barrett & David R. Just, 2013. "The Welfare Impacts of Commodity Price Volatility: Evidence from Rural Ethiopia," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 95(4), pages 877-899.
  21. Jeroen Klomp & Jakob de Haan, 2013. "Conditional Election and Partisan Cycles in Government Support to the Agricultural Sector: An Empirical Analysis," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 95(4), pages 793-818.
  22. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  23. De Gorter, Harry & Swinnen, Johan, 2002. "Political economy of agricultural policy," Handbook of Agricultural Economics, in: B. L. Gardner & G. C. Rausser (ed.), Handbook of Agricultural Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 36, pages 1893-1943 Elsevier.
  24. Abmann, Christian & Henning, Christian H.C.A. & Krampe, Eva, 2012. "Constitutional Rules, Informal Institutions and Agricultural Protection in Developing and Industrial Countries: Theory and Empirical Evidence," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124885, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  25. repec:oup:restud:v:63:y:1996:i:2:p:265-86 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Jonathan C. Brooks & A. Colin Cameron & Colin A. Carter, 1998. "Political Action Committee Contributions and U.S. Congressional Voting on Sugar Legislation," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(3), pages 441-454.
  27. 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.
  28. Stephen D. Levitt, 1998. "Are PACs Trying to Influence Politicians or Voters?," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(1), pages 19-35, 03.
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