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The Assessment of Fairness in Agricultural Markets

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Abstract: In this paper we propose a framework for assessing claims of unfairness by agricultural producers. By employing concepts from network exchange theory and considerations of power and dependency, we show that judgments about fairness can be made after considering the structure and context of the network and the way context influences expectations of network actors. Expectations are important because they form the basis for claims of fairness or unfairness in that claims of unfairness usually arise when expectations are violated. We test our framework by examining statements made by current and former poultry producers who participated in the May 2010 workshop on issues of concern in the poultry industry, conducted by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Justice. We claim our framework not only helps us know what to look for in assessing claims of unfairness but also helps us understand why unfairness claims might arise or why they did not arise when we might have expected them.

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