In 2015, agriculture accounted for about 1 percent of U.S. GDP and employed less than 1.5 percent of the U.S. workforce. Yet, agricultural interests continue to hold enormous sway over U.S. international trade policy. Relatively untapped foreign markets represent huge opportunities for U.S. agricultural exporters. Meanwhile, high tariffs and tariff-rate quotas on imports raise prices to food processors and consumers. Furthermore, a web of domestic farm support and subsidy programs distort market signals, leading to overproduction that tends to drive down commodity prices worldwide, making it more difficult for farmers in developing countries to earn livings in industries where they have comparative advantages.

Reforming farm policy by cutting subsidy programs and agricultural trade barriers would save U.S. taxpayers and consumers tens of billions of dollars over the next decade, reduce prices to food processing industries and consumers, and help create more space for global trade liberalization.

On this page you will find Cato’s work on agricultural trade, farm legislation, the notorious U.S. sugar program, and WTO and other trade disputes involving cotton, beef, pork, and rules of origin affecting agricultural trade, as well as other related topics.

More on Agriculture

Cato Studies

Reforming Federal Farm Policies

By Chris Edwards. Tax and Budget Bulletin No. 82. April 12, 2018.

Where’s the Beef? Finding a Better Way to Resolve U.S.-China Trade Conflicts

By Simon Lester and Huan Zhu. Free Trade Bulletin No. 71. November 8, 2017.

Antidumping Fowls Out: U.S.–South Africa Chicken Dispute Highlights the Need for Global Reform

By K. William Watson. Free Trade Bulletin No. 62. October 19, 2015.


An Economic Critique of Corn-Ethanol Subsidies

Jerry Taylor. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Regional Economic Development. Vol. 5. No. 1. 2009.

Public Filings

Horne v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

By Steffen N. Johnson, Eimeric Reig-Pleissis, Christopher E. Mills, Ilya Shapiro, & Trevor Burrus. Legal Briefs. October 8, 2014.

Hettinga v. United States

By Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Matt Gilliam. Legal Briefs. November 21, 2012.

Cato Reviews & Journals

43. Agricultural Policy

Cato Handbook for Policymakers. Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 8th Edition (2017).


The 2013 Farm Bill: Reducing the Economic and Environmental Costs

Featuring Chris Edwards and Laura Odato. May 30, 2013. Capitol Hill Briefing.

Tricked on Our Treats: Time to Rethink the U.S. Sugar Program

Featuring Daniel Griswold. October 30, 2009. Capitol Hill Briefing.

Freeing the Farm: A Farm Bill for All Americans

Featuring Sallie James. May 23, 2007. Capitol Hill Briefing.


Down on the Farm? Assessing the Prospects for Global Agricultural Trade Liberalization

By Daniel Griswold. June 8, 2004.

Farm Bill Follies

By Daniel Griswold. June 6, 2002.

Farm Bill Follies

By Daniel Griswold. June 6, 2002.

Downsizing the Federal Government

Agricultural Subsidies

By Chris Edwards. October 2016.

Agricultural Regulations and Trade Barriers

By Chris Edwards. June 2009.