Trucking Country: Food Politics and the Transformation of Rural Life in Postwar America
Hamilton’s dissertation traced the efforts of state and federal agricultural experts, cooperating with food processors and supermarkets, to create the postwar marketing machine. Emerging from an effort to contain the political controversies surrounding New Dealism in agriculture, this marketing machine sought to eliminate economic uncertainties (such as seasonal and regional variations in production, or potential strikes from unionized workers) from the food distribution chain. According to postwar USDA economists, policymakers, and engineers, the rationalization of food marketing could effectively keep commodity prices high for farmers, without production controls, while consumer food prices remained steady. Industrial farms, high-tech food processors, and suburban supermarkets, by practicing economies of scale and by using the latest technologies - from pesticides on farms to forklifts in cold-storage warehouses - thus emerged as part of a political effort to solve the decades-old “farm problem” by reducing the cost of moving food from farms to consumers. Ultimately, Hamilton hypothesized trucks were political technologies, used to define the contours of public policy regarding foods and farmers.