The Political Economy of Agricultural Protection


Cameron G. Thies is associate professor of political science, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-6030. Schuyler Porche is a Ph.D candidate, Department of Political Science, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-5433.


In this paper we analyze the political economy of agricultural producer support in the OECD countries between 1986 and 2001. We review the variety of theories of agricultural protection created by economists to explain this apparent anomaly. Most of these theories give short shrift to institutional features of the political system by simply assuming that politics is determined by underlying economic factors. We explicitly include political institutional factors, such as veto players, federalism, party fragmentation, and the timing of elections, alongside traditional economic factors to model agricultural producer support. A political economy model demonstrates that agriculture should not be treated as the exception to our understanding of protectionism as is often the conclusion of previous econometric studies. The results of several cross-sectional time-series analyses suggest that agricultural producer support conforms to general patterns of protectionism in other areas of industry.