The rise of contract farming and vertical integration is one of the most important changes in modern agriculture. Yet the adoption and diffusion of these new forms of organization has varied widely across regions, commodities, or farm types, however. Transaction cost theories and the like are not fully effective at explaining the variation of adoption rates of different organizational forms, in part because of their inherent static nature. In order to explain the adoption, diffusion and evolution of organizational form, a more dynamic framework is required. This paper lays out such a framework for understanding the evolution of organizational practices in U.S. agriculture by drawing on existing theories of economic organization, the diffusion of technological innovation, and organizational complementarities. Using recent trends as stylized facts we argue that the agrifood sector is characterized by strong complementarities among its constituent features and that these complementarities help explain the stylized facts. We also discuss several testable hypotheses concerning changes in organizational form in agriculture.


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