THE FABLE OF THE BEES REVISITED: CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE U.S. HONEY PROGRAM

In his 1973 paper, Steven Cheung discredited the "fable of the bees" by demonstrating that markets for beekeeping services exist and that they function well. Although economists heeded Cheung's lessons, policy makers did not. The honey program—-the stated purpose of which was to promote the availability of pollination services—operated for almost 50 years, supporting the price of honey through a variety of mechanisms. Its effects were minor before the 1980s but then became important with annual government expenditures near $100 million for several years. Reforms of the program in the late 1980s reduced its market effects and budget costs, returning it to its original role as a minor commodity program. The 1996 Farm Bill formally eliminated the honey program, which redirected lobbying efforts toward enacting trade restrictions and obtaining annual relief through the appropriations process. We measure the historical welfare effects of the program during its various incarnations, examine its frequently stated public interest rationale—the encouragement of honeybee pollination, and interpret its history in light of economic theories of regulation.


Issue Date:
2001
Publication Type:
Report
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/29153
Total Pages:
55
Series Statement:
Report 20




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-24

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