Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Jeff S Worsham


As with similar studies of agenda setting, this research builds on the work of Baumgartner and Jones (1993), King (1997), Worsham (1997), and Tzoumis (2001). Specifically, the focus of this study is on agricultural support policymaking---as it relates to African American farmers. Three fundamental objectives serve as the blueprint for the analysis. The first is to understand how Congress governs the agenda of agricultural support policy over the post-war period. Second, is to learn whether congressional activity is conducive to the interests of African American farmers and, third, is to assess if and when the agenda of agricultural support policy ever intersected with that of civil rights. Three qualifiers help facilitate and focus the analysis: (1) congressional committees are used as the venue of agenda-setting activity; (2) bill introductions; and (3) congressional hearings are used as the measures of agenda status and governmental attention.;The analysis in this dissertation derives from data collected on agricultural-related bills and hearings in Congress from 1940-1998. Through the utilization of both bill introductions and congressional hearings, general patterns of issue composition, committee competition, policy monopoly, and coalitional activity are fundamentally examined. In part, endogenous and exogenous punctuating events are evaluated according to the variation in these patterns.;The first chapter introduces the purpose and layout of the study. Chapter Two examines the evolution of agricultural policy and the travail it created for African American Farmers. This historical analysis will show that by the time New Deal politics produced new public policies, the direction of favoring large farmers was set and followed by government (Browne, 2003, 145). An important product of this accommodation made to large farming interests was the early arrangement of dominant subsystem politics, which consequently influences the direction of agricultural policy well into the late 1960s. Chapter Three describes the two perspectives of agenda setting. This chapter not only serves as a conduit to the research theory, but it also provides the backdrop for the next two analysis chapters.;Chapters Four and Five illustrate the agenda dynamics of agricultural support policy are influenced by the institutional actions of congressional committees/subsystems, policy entrepreneurs, as well as by endogenous and exogenous punctuating events. Findings will illustrate that although Agricultural Committees may serve as the institutional anchor for subsystem arrangement and policy monopoly, punctuating events tend to alter the policy equilibria maintained by such an arrangement. Moreover, such events can and do alter policy outputs as well.;Chapter Six of the research details how group pressure at the state and local level aided in bringing forth legislative assistance and governmental attention to the problems faced by African American farmers. However, due to the limited success and continued complaints of discrimination, African American farmers change venue and take their issue to the courts. As such, the later segment of this chapter details the current status of the class-action lawsuit brought against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and how judicial action has yet to equate to institutional redress. Chapter Seven concludes the dissertation by examining how the research contributes to the understanding of agenda setting, and notes for further research.