Shifting paths to conservation: Policy change discourses and the 2008 US farm bill

Nadine Lehrer, Dennis R. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


From 2004 until 2006, reform of US agricultural subsidy programmes seemed a likely result of pressure from the World Trade Organization. Many groups saw this pressure as an opportunity to 'green' farm policy by crafting environmental service payments that could replace crop subsidies. Yet the 2008 US farm bill fell short of such drastic changes. This paper uses discourse analysis to trace the decline of prospects for reform of the farm bill, and a shift to incremental policy making between 2006 and 2008. It finds that, in addition to political and situational factors, striking discursive shifts altered policy debates and outcomes to create particular conservation impacts. It thus argues for broader use of rhetoric theory and discourse analysis to assess environmental policy. Implications for land conservation are presented in the context of interest group tactics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)639-655
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Environmental Planning and Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Rachel Schurman, Kristen Nelson, Paul Porter, the late G. Edward Schuh, Kate Clancy, Gretchen Boger, Michael Cochran, Amy Damon, Edith Lehrer and Zhao Ma for reading and commenting on drafts of previous iterations of this work. Thanks are also due to Vickie Bierman, Brooke Haworth, Meagan Keefe, Lisa Kissing and Kaitlin Steiger-Meister for their work transcribing interviews, and to the many interview participants, informants and colleagues who gave their time and energy for this project. This research was funded in part by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship, a MacArthur Interdisciplinary Global Change, Sustainability, and Justice Fellowship, and a University of Minnesota Graduate Fellowship to the first author. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are solely those of the authors. The NSF, EPA, and other funders have not officially endorsed this document, and the views expressed herein may not reflect the views of NSF, EPA or any other funder.


  • Commodity reform
  • Discourse
  • Environmental conservation
  • Policy analysis
  • US farm bill


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