The New Economic Raisin Policy

We have talked a lot about Lenin and Stalin’s agricultural policy in class this semester, so when I came across an article about how how the raisin market is controlled in the United States, I was immediately reminded of the NEP. Confoundingly, American raisin production is regulated by a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee, established by the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, which a group of raisin farmers are currently challenging in the U.S. Supreme Court. The system works as follows:

The committee, run by 47 raisin farmers and packers, along with a sole member of the raisin-eating public, decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an “orderly” market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates, and gives many of them away, while selling others for export. Once it has covered its own costs, it returns whatever profits remain to farmers. In some years there are none. Worse, farmers sometimes forfeit a substantial share of their crop: 47% in 2003 and 30% in 2004, for example.

As one would expect (especially from The Economist), the article makes references to the Soviet command economy, but gets the era wrong, calling it Brezhnevite, rather than what it is – Leninist. The NEP, such as this system, was a quasi-capitalist, and after meeting the state set quotas, farmers could sell what they grew. The Brezhnev era on the other hand was characterized by lines and rationing. As part of the raisin-eating public, I have never had a problem being able to buy raisins. The time period when this law was enacted is a cause of interest, as it was not long after the USSR itself had used this system. Similar market controls were common for other crops as well, but most have abandoned them already. I wonder if there was any modeling of U.S. agriculture policy during the great depression on Soviet policy following the Russian Civil War. I also wonder how this system survived the Cold War without being labeled as communist. Perhaps I should be paying more attention to how Soviet History connects to the food I eat.