Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Agricultural Economics

Committee Chair

Lawrence DeBoer

Committee Member 1

Michael Langemeier

Committee Member 2

Jason Henderson


The purpose of this study is to do a thorough investigation of what influences farm program payments for a state by examining the United States farm bill and the impact of having a seat on the United States Senate Agriculture Committee. Specifically, this study explores the empirical aspects of the farm bill to determine the most influential factors in the creation of a farm bill, and investigates the impact a political position holds on farm program payments at the state level. This thesis can be used as a foundational understanding of the farm bill, as well as provide insight into a state’s congressional representation that can aid constituents in voting decisions.

In order to prepare for the study, extensive research was done on the United States farm bill. A background and brief history of the farm bill is provided, as well as a titleby- title description, including the programs encompassed in each title. With the farm bill being such a unique piece of legislation, there are four specific factors described that are unique to the farm bill and the subsequent debates: the farm economy, the budget, the nutrition title, and farm bill politics. In order to grasp the scope of the farm bill, a number of visuals are used to display the data associated with the farm bill. An example of how the farm bill works for a specific state, Indiana, is also used to provide an additional perspective. This insight of an invested constituency helps set the stage for understanding what a Senator on the Senate Agriculture Committee is representing. An extensive literature review considers the transformations of the agricultural sector over the last century, as well as previous research of constituency representation and agricultural interests.

This thesis uses data from all fifty United States from 1989 through 2015 that has been collected by United States federal agencies. The OLS panel data method was used to execute the estimation. The estimation strategy models farm program payments as a function of government program participation, agriculture production, and farm characteristics, as well as constituent representation. The regression equations are tested four times: (a) the first with a baseline, (b) the second with the Number of Senators on the Agriculture Committee variable only, (c) the third with the Chairman binary variable only, and (d) the fourth with both constituency representation independent variables included.

The thesis results are consistent with literature research. The first conclusion being that constituent interests drive farm program payments received by a state, specifically in the constituency represented by a Senator on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The next conclusion is that a state does not necessarily need its Senator to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee in order to receive significant farm program payments. The final conclusion found there are programs in the farm bill that are not influenced by constituency representation, and there are specific crops that have more influence over certain farm program payments. The farm bill is a significant piece of legislation and one of the most influential pieces of agricultural policy legislation in the United States and this thesis ultimately strives for a deeper understanding of the farm bill.