Agricultural Protection in Historical Perspective
The distortions in trade in agricultural products are one of the major problems in international trade. The agricultural depression of the late nineteenth century also affected Western Europe. In France the “Meline Tariff’ of 1892, named after the Minister of Agriculture, imposed the same high duties on agricultural imports as on imports of manufactured products. The success of agricultural protectionism in Germany may likewise be attributed to the power of rural interests, but a coalition of industrialists and the aristocratic landowners of Prussia was only tenuous and intermittent, a marriage of political convenience without underlying economic rationale. In 1906 the Tariff Commission was set up by the government and it recommended subsidies for British agriculture and warned of the danger of dependence on imported food. In the early nineteenth century, the United States historically had a comparative advantage in primary products and for the most part, the agricultural sector did not need protection.