Publication Date

April 2015


Michael Nelson




English (United States)


This thesis focuses on the issue of persistent agricultural protectionism in the United States and the European Union. Through the lens of Comparative Political Economy and the framework of structural, rational and cultural policy analysis, the thesis presents and assesses the plausibility of various hypotheses explaining agricultural policy continuity. The thesis focuses on two distinct episodes of agricultural policy adjustment: the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the EU and the 2008 US Farm Bill. In the EU it is found that institutions, decision-making rules, and public reinforcement of pro-agricultural bias among key actors in EU agricultural policy was primarily responsible for continuity in the 2003 CAP reform. In the US, continuity of overall levels of agricultural support in the 2008 Farm Bill are argued to be the product of political and interest group incentives offered to legislators who support agriculture, within the structure of the farm bill in Congress. The interaction of cultural and rational variables, respectively, with existing institutions and structure of well-established agricultural policies explain the remarkable policy continuity in the EU and the US, in the face of countervailing pressures for reduction of agricultural support.



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