Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

First Advisor

David Rutherford

Relational Format



Over the last century, federal agricultural policy has shifted from supporting family farmers to protecting profits for a handful of the largest agricultural corporations and food producers. By guaranteeing a price-floor for commodity crops, farm subsidies encourage farmers to overproduce with no regard to traditional supply and demand economics. Under the current system, commodity crops are exceptionally cheap. The emphasis on quantity over quality has led to an array of negative externalities in this country, which include environmental, public health, and economic consequences.

This research attempts to determine the economic feasibility of farm subsidy reform by examining the impact of agricultural subsidies on the Mississippi economy. In order to establish the context, this paper begins with a literature review that explains the evolution of American agricultural policy and details the causal relationship between federal commodity subsidies and the aforementioned negative externalities. Once this relationship is established, questions arise about the possibility to reform farm subsidies without jeopardizing the economic viability of American agriculture. To examine the impact of farm subsidies, the researchers utilized the REMI1 economic model. Regional Economic Modeling Inc. (REMI) is a dynamic economic forecasting tool.

The findings show that employment, economic output, and population decreased immediately with the total removal of farm subsidies from the Mississippi economy. However, there were signs that indicate reform of farm subsidy policy is possible without permanent economic detriment. For instance, employment and output show self-correction over time. The similarities between the respective agricultural industries in Mississippi and the United State as a whole suggest that these data could be extrapolated to accurately represent a change in federal policy as well. These findings are important for public administrators and bureaucrats because the research demonstrates that farm subsidies are not economically entrenched, suggesting the feasibility of agriculture policy reform. Finally, based on a review of the evidence concerning the leading alternatives to industrial agriculture, I argue that government must undertake a national initiative focused on deliberately designing a food system that encourages the civic goals of environmental sustainability, increasing public health, and bolstering economic prosperity.

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