The Failure of National Rural Policy

cover art
224 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878408580 (0878408584)

August 2001
LC: 2001023272


Table of Contents

The Failure of National Rural Policy
Institutions and Interests
William P. Browne
Modern farm policy emerged in the United States in 1862, leading to an industrialized agriculture that made the farm sector collectively more successful even as many individual farmers failed. Ever since, a healthy farm economy has been seen as the key to flourishing rural communities, and the problems of rural nonfarmers, former farmers, nonfarm residents, and unfarmed regions were ignored by policymakers.

In The Failure of National Rural Policy, William P. Browne blends history, politics, and economics to show that federal government emphasis on farm productivity has failed to meet broader rural needs and actually has increased rural poverty. He explains how strong public institutions, which developed agrarianism, led to narrowed concepts of the public interest. Reviewing past efforts to expand farm policy benefits to other rural residents, Browne documents the fragmentation of farm policy within the agricultural establishment as farm services grew, the evolution of political turf protection, and the resultant difficulties of rural advocacy. Arguing for an integrated theory of governing institutions and related political interests, he maintains that nonfarm rural society can make a realistic claim for public policy assistance.

Written informally, each chapter is followed by comments on the implications of its topics and summaries of key points. The book will serve as a stimulating text for students of public policy, national affairs, rural sociology, and community development—as well as anyone concerned with the future of agrarian America.
William P. Browne is professor of political science at Central Michigan
University. His many books include Cultivating Congress: Constituents, Issues, and Interests in Agricultural Policymaking (University Press of Kansas, 1995), Groups, Interests, and U.S. Public Policy (Georgetown University Press, 1998).
"Browne's criticisms of analytic knowledge provide a users' perspective on policy research that should be read by all those wishing to engage policymakiers with their analytical findings. . . . The book stands as an important case study of the interaction of interests and institutions in national policymaking and is important reading for the rural policy community."—Journal of Regional Science

"Another scholarly contribution by a keen observer of U.S. rural life. This thoughtful analysis should be of interest to both public policy academics and practitioners."—Chuck W. Wiggins, Texas A&M University

Table of Contents

1. A Troubled Rural Society: Misperceptions of Farming

2. Other Social Misperceptions that Miss Rural Problems

3. An Institutional Perspective

4. Rural Policy as Farm Policy

5. The Agragrian Myth as Fundamentalist Vision

6. Collective versus Selective Benefits and Farm Interests

7. Basic Rural Problems Gain Attention—Almost

8. Concentrated but Fragmented Public Institutions

9. The Resulting Fragmentation of Policy

10. The Impossible Task of Rural Advocacy

11. The Rural Poverty Mess

12. Understanding Congressional Anomalies

13. The Environmental Policy Contrast

14. A Final Explanation