Agricultural commodity branding in the rise and decline of the US food regime: from product to place-based branding in the global cotton trade, 1955–2012

Agriculture and Human Values 32 (4):777-793 (2015)

Recent scholarship has focused on the tensions, contradictions, and limits of place-based branding through labels of origin, place-named agricultural products, and geographical indications. Existing literature demonstrates that even well-intentioned efforts to use place-based branding to protect the livelihoods and cultural and ecological practices of small producers are often undermined by transnational firms, states, and local elites who attempt to capture the benefits of these marketing strategies. Yet, little attention has been given to the implications of place-based branding for competition among geographically dispersed agricultural producers. While place-based branding can be used for emancipatory ends, it can also be used strategically by agricultural producers to expand their market share at the expense of others. To explore these dynamics, I trace an alternative history of place-based branding that begins not in the potentially emancipatory politics of protecting terroir but rather in the tensions and contradictions characterizing the rise and decline of the US food regime. Drawing on a cross-time comparison of branding strategies within the global cotton trade, I make two key arguments. First, I argue that US producers and the US state forged the use of different types of branding strategies in response to the distinct tensions and contradictions characterized by the rise and decline of the US food regime. Second, these distinct branding strategies organized competition among geographically dispersed cotton producers in different ways
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DOI 10.1007/s10460-015-9593-z
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