Abstract: Farmers under Siege: Regulating Drugs, Manure, and Pesticides in the Postwar Midwest

Joseph L. Anderson


This paper is an examination of the complexity of farmers' attitudes about government regulation of productive technology. Farmers utilized new tools and techniques to minimize costs and maximize production in a period during which commodity prices did not keep pace with expenses. Much of this technology was capable of "offending and polluting our environment," as Clifford Hardin, President Nixon's Secretary of Agriculture, conceded. As a result, federal and state governments began to regulate technology use in hopes of mitigating some of the most severe consequences of its use. Some farmers agreed that regulation was desirable to protect human health and ecosystems while others were hostile to any regulatory effort. Many (if not most) farmers ignored or fought new regulations and found themselves out of touch with the changing political and social landscapes of the postwar world. The preliminary conclusion of this study is that even as government regulation damaged farmers' credibility and constrained technological choices, it actually strengthened the market position of the largest farms that accounted for an increasing share of American production.