The Fault Lines of Farm Policy


The Fault Lines of Farm Policy

A Legislative and Political History of the Farm Bill

Jonathan Coppess

504 pages
2 appendixes, index


December 2018


$80.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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December 2018


$40.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

December 2018


$40.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

At the intersection of the growing national conversation about our food system and the long-running debate about our government’s role in society is the complex farm bill. American farm policy, built on a political coalition of related interests with competing and conflicting demands, has proven incredibly resilient despite development and growth.

In The Fault Lines of Farm Policy Jonathan Coppess analyzes the legislative and political history of the farm bill, including the evolution of congressional politics for farm policy. Disputes among the South, the Great Plains, and the Midwest form the primordial fault line that has defined the debate throughout farm policy’s history. Because these regions formed the original farm coalition and have played the predominant roles throughout, this study concentrates on the three major commodities produced in these regions: cotton, wheat, and corn. Coppess examines policy development by the political and congressional interests representing these commodities, including basic drivers such as coalition building, external and internal pressures on the coalition and its fault lines, and the impact of commodity prices. This exploration of the political fault lines provides perspectives for future policy discussions and more effective policy outcomes. 

Author Bio

Jonathan Coppess is a clinical assistant professor of law and policy in the department of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He previously served as chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, as well as administrator and deputy administrator for farm programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency in Washington DC.


"Without question, Coppess instills in readers the importance of reflecting on the origins and evolution of the farm policy before, during, and after embarking on future farm policy-making processes."—Sheila Fleischhacker, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

"The Fault Lines of Farm Policy is a briskly paced and informative account of the process of making farm legislation."—J. L. Anderson, South Dakota History

“Jonathan Coppess brings his experience and expertise to bear on the challenges faced in crafting a farm bill. The historical perspective of this work will give policy makers the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past.”—Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (2009–16) and president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council

“Jonathan Coppess’s understanding of farm policy since 1990 is especially impressive, and his ability to root this discussion in a larger historical context makes this book a first-rate work of scholarship. The Fault Lines of Farm Policy will be a major contribution to the literature on farm policy and on congressional behavior and the legislative process.”—David Hamilton, author of From New Day to New Deal: American Farm Policy from Hoover to Roosevelt, 1928–1933

“A prolific contributor to today’s farm policy dialogue, Jonathan Coppess draws on legal expertise, legislative experience, political observations, and economic analysis to provide substantial insights about the forces that have driven eighty years of policy decisions.”—David Orden, director of the Global Issues Initiative of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment at Virginia Tech Research Center

Table of Contents

Introduction: Fault Lines and Farm Policy
1. The Origins of Farm Policy, 1909–1933
2. Adjusting to the New Deal and War, 1933–1945
3. Transition and Turbulence after War, 1945–1949
4. A Surplus of Problems and Disagreement, 1950–1969
5. The Commodity “Roller Coaster” and the Crash, 1970–1989
6. Revolution and Reform Launch the Modern Era, 1990–1999
7. Cotton, Ethanol, and Risk Management Form the Modern Era, 2000–2010
8. Old Fights Plague the Agricultural Act of 2014, 2011–2014
9. Trying to Reason with the Fault Lines
Appendix 1: Graphs and Charts
Appendix 2: Bills and Terms

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