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The Butz Stops Here: Why the Food Movement Needs to Rethink Agricultural History

14 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2017  

Nathan A. Rosenberg

University of Arkansas School of Law

Bryce Wilson Stucki

U.S. Census Bureau

Date Written: August 31, 2017


From the 1890s to the 1930s, rural Americans played a vital role in radical leftist politics. Over the decades, some of those people chose to leave, but more of them were driven out due to policy — agricultural policy, in particular. Republicans and Democrats, alike, have supported laws that favor corporate agriculture, which continue to drive small farmers out of business and depopulate the countryside. While specialists know this history well, the public tends to know a folk history, written by figures associated with contemporary food movements.

This folk history rests on several key myths, which cover different periods of modern history from the New Deal to the present. We challenge these myths, not to attack particular authors or engage in pedantry, but to reveal the causes and extent of the suffering endured by rural families in the 20th century, which in turn, decimated the populist left. A reconsideration of the history of agricultural policy will help food-system reformers develop a more radical — and more effective — vision for rural America.

Keywords: food law & policy, food, agricultural law, food systems, agricultural history, food movement, USDA, New Deal, Earl Butz, Black farmers, Farm Bureau

Suggested Citation

Rosenberg, Nathan A. and Stucki, Bryce Wilson, The Butz Stops Here: Why the Food Movement Needs to Rethink Agricultural History (August 31, 2017). 13 J. Food L. & Pol'y 12 (2017). Available at SSRN:

Nathan Rosenberg (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas School of Law ( email )

260 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

Bryce Stucki

U.S. Census Bureau ( email )

4600 Silver Hill Road
D.C., WA 20233
United States

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