Cover image for American agriculture and the problem of monopoly : the political economy of grain belt farming, 1953-1980
American agriculture and the problem of monopoly : the political economy of grain belt farming, 1953-1980
Lauck, Jon, 1971-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 259 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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HD1773.A3 L38 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The breathtaking number of mergers and joint ventures among agribusiness firms has left independent American farmers facing the power of an increasingly concentrated buying sector. The origin of farmers' concern with such economic concentration dates back to protests against meatpackers and railroads in the late nineteenth century. Jon Lauck examines the dimensions of this problem in the American Midwest in the decades following World War II. He analyzes the nature of competition within meat-packing and grain markets. In addition, he addresses concerns about corporate entry into production agriculture and the potential displacement of a production system defined by independent family farms.

Lauck also considers the ability of farmers to organize in order to counter the market power of large-scale agribusiness buyers. He explores the use of farmer cooperatives and other mechanisms which may increase the bargaining power of farmers. The book offers the first serious historical examination of the National Farmers Organization, which fully embraced the bargaining power cause in the postwar period. Lauck finds that independent farmers' attempts at organization have been more successful than previously recognized, but he also shows that their successes have been undermined by the growing concentration and power of agri-business firms, justifying a new approach to antitrust law in agricultural markets.

Author Notes

Jon Lauck is editor-in-chief of the Minnesota Journal of Global Trade .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This wide-ranging volume presents a nostalgic view of the ideal American family farm that never really existed. Perceived as a concept of republicanism threatened by presumed emerging monopolies, its defenders search to protect this institution as a venerable American way of life. Lauck traces the threat to family farms from large agribusiness industries, especially meat packing, grain processing, and corporate farming. Being large and few in numbers, these industries are suspected of manipulating purchase prices to the disadvantage of the farmer and the consumer. Protective measures discussed include an antitrust watch and the creation of countervailing farm organizations (e.g., National Farmers Organization) and farm cooperatives, all of which were exempted from antitrust law; as well as government measures, e.g., price support and purchase of crop surplus at parity prices. Yet no proof is offered of monopoly behavior; the threatening industries were evidently in competition with each other. The author laments the loss associated with change in rural America but does not compare the costs and benefits of the change to the consumer or the surviving farmer. To his credit, Lauck goes beyond the period and topic specified in the title to give a comprehensive picture of recent agriculture in the US. Seventy pages of endnotes. Graduate and research collections. ; University of California, Davis

Table of Contents

List of Tablesp. vii
Prefacep. ix
1 The Problemp. 1
2 The Corporate Farming Debatep. 19
3 The Political Economy of Meatpacking and Grain Processingp. 39
4 The Grain-Trading "Cartel"p. 62
5 The NFO and Farm Bargainingp. 84
6 Farmer Cooperative Marketingp. 109
7 The State and Agricultural Organizationp. 136
Conclusionp. 163
Epilogue: Toward an Agrarian Antitrustp. 177
Notesp. 183
Indexp. 255