Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2000


Published in Great Plains Research 10 (Spring 2000). Copyright © 2000 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Schertz and Doering have produced a useful, comprehensive volume that details key actions leading to passage of the 1996 Farm Act. Although both authors are distinguished economists, the book is more about the political process-and associated policymakers-than economics. It should have lasting value, if for no other reason than that the 1996 legislation differed greatly from the twenty or so farm acts preceding it. For anyone who has wondered why the outcome was different in 1996, this book is must reading.

The authors begin, correctly, with a chapter on the 1994-95 setting for farm legislation, since farm bills are typically shaped by current realities, not prospective future conditions. Among the realities of 1994-95: Republicans had gained control of both house of Congress; budget balancing was in vogue; and questions were being raised about the appropriateness of taking land out of production. Near the end of 1995 and through the early months of 1996, moreover, commodity prices were rising, sparked in no small part by excellent agricultural exports. If there was ever a time to make a radical change in commodity price and income supports, this appeared to be it.