Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 73–88

Life after the regime: market instability with the fall of the US food regime

  • Bill Winders
  • Alison Heslin
  • Gloria Ross
  • Hannah Weksler
  • Seanna Berry


The US food regime maintained some degree of stability in terms of prices and production levels for commodities in the world economy. This food regime, resting on supply management policy, began to falter in the early 1970s. In the late-1980s and 1990s, notable changes occurred in the world economy regarding agriculture as the food regime became more market-oriented. The end of the twentieth century saw the breakdown of many institutions, organizations, and international agreements that had tried to stabilize prices and production from 1945 to 1975. This paper examines this period of change (roughly 1960–2010) and explores the effects on five commodities: cocoa, coffee, corn, soybeans, and wheat. These commodities offer important points of comparison. First, while cocoa, coffee, and wheat were regulated by international organizations and agreements, corn and soybeans were not. Second, the US dominated the international corn and soybean markets, but the cocoa, coffee, and wheat markets were much more competitive. And third, corn, soybeans, and wheat were commodities largely produced in the core of the world economy, while cocoa and coffee were produced in the periphery. Thus, comparing the effect of the fall of the US food regime on these commodities reveals the importance of previous regulation, the level of market competition, and geographic origin in the world economy.


Food regime World economy Agricultural prices Liberalization 



Common Agricultural Policy


Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade


International Coffee Agreement


International Cocoa Agreement


International Monetary Fund


International Wheat Agreement


North American Free Trade Agreement


World Trade Organization


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bill Winders
    • 1
  • Alison Heslin
    • 2
  • Gloria Ross
    • 3
  • Hannah Weksler
    • 1
  • Seanna Berry
    • 3
  1. 1.School of History, Technology, and SocietyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.AtlantaUSA

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