Cover image for Private interests, public policy, and American agriculture
Title:
Private interests, public policy, and American agriculture
Author:
Browne, William Paul, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, [1988]

©1988
Physical Description:
xviii, 294 pages ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780700603343

9780700603350
Format :
Book

On Order

Summary

Summary

Agriculture is at a critical juncture. The Food Security Act of 1985, which was intended to reduce surpluses by making American farm products more competitive in world markets, has not yet succeeded. Food imports have outstripped food exports. Huge grain surpluses continue to pile up. Because many farmers and economists fault federal agricultural policies for the current predicament, this book examines how recent policies, like the 1985 law, have been made and focuses on the key role that private interests play in the policy process. Not only does Browne give us the first comprehensive study of all of the organized interests at work in agricultural policymaking, but he also makes an important contribution to understanding the interaction of organized interests in the American political process. His book should appeal to a wide audience composed of those interested in agriculture, policy process, and interest group behavior.

In the early 1980s, 128 separate organizations employed Washington-based lobbyists who regularly worked to influence agricultural policies. Many other organizations periodically lobbied in agriculture. The general farm organizations have been joined by commodity organizations, trade associations, corporate spokesmen, farm activists, industry lobbyists, consumer groups, environmentalists, and advocates of a variety of food-related programs. Long gone are the days when the farm bloc preordained policy outcomes and when students of American politics looked upon agriculture as a classic example of the "iron triangle" or self-governing subsystem of interest groups, bureaucrats, and legislators. Now the policymaking process is fragmented by the clamor from competing organized interest groups, and the policy makers responded by fashioning piecemeal policy with no seeming thought to unity of purpose. In an attempt to throw light on what actually happens in Washington, Browne explains what groups and interests are active in agricultural policymaking, what strategy and tactics they employ, and why some have more influence than others. One of Browne's conclusions is that a surprising number of agricultural issues are uninfluenced by the interest groups because they ignore them.

For nearly a decade William P. Browne has studied the major farm organizations, congressional hearings and records related to agricultural issues, and the American Agricultural Movement. But perhaps his richest source of information has been extensive interviews with lobbyists, executives, and grassroots activists during and just after the 1985 farm bill debates. In the course of his research, Browne sought to learn how interest groups behave in deciding their policy priorities and how this behavior actually relates to influence over the desired policy outcomes.


Reviews 4

Booklist Review

To better understand the relationship between public policy formation and interest groups, Browne supplemented 10 years of general farm-lobby research with in-depth interviews of selected agricultural interest groups before and after the passage of the Food Security Act of 1985. While his book is aimed at political scientists and those concerned with agricultural policy, readers who simply want to know more about interest groups will find this work equally appealing. As essential reading for understanding the many diverse agricultural lobbying forces, Browne's work identifies categories of agrarian protest, producer/agribusiness organizations, agribusiness middlemen, supplier/facilitator groups, public interest groups, and agribusiness/food groups. His research shows that "agricultural interests are highly diverse and capable of producing both policy conflict and mixed political message," due to a mix of single-purpose and multipurpose groups. Appendix; index. --Brenda Pacey


Choice Review

In this brilliant study of agricultural lobbying, Browne provides the most important contribution to our understanding of private involvement in US policy-making since the 1963 publication of American Business and Public Policy by Raymond A. Bauer, Ithiel de Sola Pool, and Lewis Anthony Dexter. Unlike most studies of group power, this exhaustively researched and beautifully written work goes far beyond single case studies of preconceived theoretical models. It captures the detailed context and important time dimension of agricultural policy-making. Browne concludes that "dominance" and "control" of public policy by a single lobby is now out of the question because of the proliferation of organizations and people involved in the policy-making process and because of the increasing complexity and interdependence of issues. The old closed "subgovernment" notion has been replaced, he says, by continuous pressures from the external environment, by attempts at locating low-level (and often unpredictable) governmental spokespersons, and by sporadic coalition formation designed to hammer out negotiated settlements. In all this activity lobbyists are intensely aware of the limits placed on their behavior. The author also offers insights on the expanded role of professional consultants, and on the importance of protest organizations in what was once regarded as a staid policy arena. This book will become a classic in its field. Highly recommended for all academic institutions. C. T. Goodsell Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Booklist Review

To better understand the relationship between public policy formation and interest groups, Browne supplemented 10 years of general farm-lobby research with in-depth interviews of selected agricultural interest groups before and after the passage of the Food Security Act of 1985. While his book is aimed at political scientists and those concerned with agricultural policy, readers who simply want to know more about interest groups will find this work equally appealing. As essential reading for understanding the many diverse agricultural lobbying forces, Browne's work identifies categories of agrarian protest, producer/agribusiness organizations, agribusiness middlemen, supplier/facilitator groups, public interest groups, and agribusiness/food groups. His research shows that "agricultural interests are highly diverse and capable of producing both policy conflict and mixed political message," due to a mix of single-purpose and multipurpose groups. Appendix; index. --Brenda Pacey


Choice Review

In this brilliant study of agricultural lobbying, Browne provides the most important contribution to our understanding of private involvement in US policy-making since the 1963 publication of American Business and Public Policy by Raymond A. Bauer, Ithiel de Sola Pool, and Lewis Anthony Dexter. Unlike most studies of group power, this exhaustively researched and beautifully written work goes far beyond single case studies of preconceived theoretical models. It captures the detailed context and important time dimension of agricultural policy-making. Browne concludes that "dominance" and "control" of public policy by a single lobby is now out of the question because of the proliferation of organizations and people involved in the policy-making process and because of the increasing complexity and interdependence of issues. The old closed "subgovernment" notion has been replaced, he says, by continuous pressures from the external environment, by attempts at locating low-level (and often unpredictable) governmental spokespersons, and by sporadic coalition formation designed to hammer out negotiated settlements. In all this activity lobbyists are intensely aware of the limits placed on their behavior. The author also offers insights on the expanded role of professional consultants, and on the importance of protest organizations in what was once regarded as a staid policy arena. This book will become a classic in its field. Highly recommended for all academic institutions. C. T. Goodsell Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University