THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE by Wayne D. & Gladys L. Baker Rasmussen


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Rasmussen's description of the history and functioning of the DOA suffers from that affliction which plagues most institutional resumes -- i.e., the institution is isolated from the matrix of the society which it serves. Rasmussen and Baker nevertheless do provide some interesting glimpses into government agricultural policies, albeit from a limited bureaucratic perspective. The department, an outgrowth of the post-Civil War effort to strengthen the small, free farmer against the plantation lords, remained for years just a helpful research organization, advising farmers on breeding, soils, and conservation. However, the onset of the Depression transformed it into an agency for economic control, e.g., supervision of crop restrictions and the price support program which has characterized American agriculture since that time. Today, its functions remain mostly economic and are expanding -- recently, for instance, DOA has become involved in the welfare-surplus food controversy -- one of the major points at issue over the Butz nomination. But nowhere do the authors delve into the real economic and political forces which have shaped the department.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1972
Publisher: Praeger