Nathan DeLayIn this edition of What We’re Reading, Dr. Nathan DeLay, Assistant Professor in Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, shares his recent read over government policy in agriculture, called Plowshares and Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture by E.C. Pasour Jr. and Randal R. Rucker.

Those outside of agriculture are often surprised by the large and complex role of government policy in the food we eat. This influence is justified as necessary for securing America’s food system – an important concern in light of COVID-19’s recent impact on supply chains. However, the stated goals of government policy should be tested against their real-world effects on farmers and consumers.

In Plowshares and Pork Barrels, Pasour and Rucker demystify U.S. agricultural policy, examining the incentives of farm groups, agribusinesses and the politicians who represent them. Pasour and Rucker tell the “origin story” of U.S. agricultural policy starting in the Great Depression and apply economic analysis to the modern Farm Bill. Though agricultural policy has changed in the 15 years since it was written, the analysis provided in this book holds up well.