Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Agriculture’s Special Legal Treatment

The law treats the agricultural industry differently from other industries in many respects. The federal government spends billions of dollars subsidizing farmers, when persons engaged in other professions are permitted to go out of business without any financial assistance. State laws prohibit corporations from farming, while corporations are permitted and encouraged to engage in other commercial activities. Furthermore, numerous laws, including labor laws, intellectual property laws, and tax laws, include agricultural exemptions.

How can we justify according agriculture special legal treatment? What, if anything, makes agriculture unique?

Tomorrow I will take a stab at identifying the most compelling arguments for according agriculture special legal treatment. I am interested in considering whether good reasons exist for treating the agricultural industry differently from other industries. I will not consider the related issue of which reasons have in fact led legislatures and courts to accord agriculture special legal treatment.


Anonymous D. Daniel Sokol said...

I would add that in a trade context, agriculture seems to have unique issues in terms of difficulties in trade liberalization. Perhaps it has to do with the number of people employed in agriculture in the developing world and the dislocation that more efficient agriculture would cause.

In the developed world, the shift to more efficient methods has reduced the number of workers but has kept the agriculture interest group very strong. Look at the the amount of subsidies that go into agriculture in the US, EU, Japan and elsewhere. The public choice explanation in the developed world seems quite powerful.

10/12/2006 10:04 PM  
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