More a plowshare than a sword: The Legacy of US Cold War agricultural diplomacy

Jacqueline Mcglade*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, agriculture has assumed an elevated role in world diplomacy due to pressing issues like international poverty relief, changing environmental conditions, farm trade imbalances, rising food prices, and the diversion of crops into bio-fuel production. Consequently, agricultural interests and production have become increasingly entwined with the politics of national protectionism and identity, domestic security, and preservation of trading advantage in developed and developing countries alike. This study examines the current impasse in world agricultural negotiations as an outgrowth of US foreign aid and trade policymaking as it evolved during the Cold War. In particular, it chronicles the historic shift in US foreign policy away from "give-away" food aid and surplus sales and toward the championing of global agricultural redevelopment under such programs as the Marshall Plan and PL 480, the Food for Peace program. As more a plowshare than a sword, the American Cold War push for worldwide agricultural modernization led many countries to experience new levels of food self-efficiency and export capabilities. Along with production parity, however, has come escalating levels of trade competition and national protectionism, which challenges again the achievement of world agricultural stability and prosperity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-102
Number of pages24
JournalAgricultural History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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