Date of this Version
Another farm policy debate is underway, and those who plan on participating, or even watching closely from the sidelines, would be well advised to read Policy Reform in American Agriculture. The authors make clear that what is at issue goes well beyond whether the 1996 farm bill's decoupled payment system (where the amount farmers receive is independent of the market price for their crops) is jettisoned or not. Indeed, decisions on how to construct a new safety net may be as important to the long-run outlook for US agriculture as the level at which it is set.
Orden, Paarlberg, and Roe clearly favor continuing along the path toward a market-based system. They believe that the efficiency gains from reducing trade barriers and eliminating domestic supply controls and price supports will outweigh any losses attributable to the accompanying price volatility and increased income instability. And, along with most economists, they see a large unfinished agenda in the treatment of import competing commodities such as sugar, tobacco, and dairy products. While that point of view will be obvious to readers, it neither interferes with the objectivity of their reporting nor diminishes the value of their work.