The Fable of the Bees Revisited: Causes and Consequences of the U.S. Honey Program

Posted: 26 Aug 2004

See all articles by Mary Katherine Muth

Mary Katherine Muth

RTI International

Randal R. Rucker

Montana State University - Bozeman - Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics

Walter N. Thurman

North Carolina State University; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Ching-Ta Chuang

National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) - Institute of Applied Economics

Abstract

In his 1973 paper, Steven Cheung discredited the "fable of the bees" by demonstrating that markets for beekeeping services exist and function well. Although economists heeded Cheung's lessons, policy makers did not. The honey program has operated for over fifty 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. Although the 1996 Farm Bill formally eliminated the honey program, it was reinstated in the 2002 Farm Bill. 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.

Suggested Citation

Muth, Mary Katherine and Rucker, Randal R. and Thurman, Walter N. and Chuang, Ching-Ta, The Fable of the Bees Revisited: Causes and Consequences of the U.S. Honey Program. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=582382

Mary Katherine Muth (Contact Author)

RTI International ( email )

3040 Cornwallis Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194
United States

Randal R. Rucker

Montana State University - Bozeman - Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics ( email )

Bozeman, MT 59717-2920
United States
406-994-5644 (Phone)
406-994-4838 (Fax)

Walter N. Thurman

North Carolina State University ( email )

Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

Ching-Ta Chuang

National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) - Institute of Applied Economics

2, Pei-Ning Road
Keelung, Taiwan 20224
China

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