Reforming Farm Policy: Toward A National Agenda

In This Review

Reforming Farm Policy: Toward A National Agenda

By Willard W. Cochrane and C. Ford Runge
Iowa State University Press, 1992
279 pp.
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In this striking book two very good agricultural economists condemn the main lines of thought that American farm policy has followed for half a century and make detailed proposals for changes that focus on rural incomes rather than the prices of major commodities. "The overall thrust of our proposed policy reforms is quite simple," write the authors. "We propose to take away permanent subsidies from the already rich commercial farm sector and replace them with income stabilization payments made in times of deteriorating market conditions." They would reallocate the savings to programs that benefit the environment and improve the quality of rural life. This excellent study is also concerned with many neglected issues: the variegated needs of the many part-time farmers, the health and safety of farm workers, the maintenance of competition in the food processing industry, the survival of country towns and the size of the Department of Agriculture. International competitiveness and the reduction of import barriers play an important part in the program which Cochrane and Runge believe can be made politically feasible, if Americans look at the realities of agriculture instead of out-of-date images.