Top of page

A cartoon of a yellow hen, trailing behind five chicks.
Hen & chickens. 1901. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. //

Chickens, Trucks, and Tariffs: A 1960s Trade War

Share this post:

The following is a guest post by Joshua Chang, a former participant with the Creative Digital Publications program at the Law Library of Congress. He is a law student at Wake Forest University.

Chickens have been a part of human diets for centuries. As populations have grown, so has the demand for food. During the 1960s, as globalization increased post-World War II, European farmers grew concerned about American chicken imports. With the increased supply of American chickens in Europe, European farmers were worried about being priced out of the chicken market. For them, cheap chicken from across the Atlantic Ocean was a threat.

Concerned with the growing market share of American poultry, the European Economic Community (EEC) (the EEC was later absorbed into the European Union) came together to form a common policy on agriculture. The new common policy was then used to create a universal tariff on imported chickens. The primary goal of these new regulations was to curb American chicken imports. By some accounts, this new tariff resulted in losses in American poultry exports amounting to $26 million in trades with West Germany alone.

A black and white profile photo of a Form pick-up truck.
A 1956(?) Ford pickup truck. 1956. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. //

The response from the U.S. was mixed, but farmers were upset at the prospect of losing a significant portion of their customers. The United States attempted to reach a resolution through consultations with the EEC, but these negotiations soon failed, and the U.S. soon instituted retaliatory tariffs.

In a 1963 proclamation, President Johnson and his administration established tariffs targeting key exports from European markets, including potato starch, brandy, and certain automobiles. Supporters of the U.S. tariffs argued that these tariffs were necessary to equalize the imbalance created by European tariffs, thereby making them permissible under international trade agreements.

Since the 1960s, the U.S. and European Union have reached common ground, and most of these tariffs have expired. The tariffs that continue to exist today primarily affect light truck imports into the U.S. Although these tariffs are no longer related to poultry, they are still referred to as the “chicken tax.”

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.


  1. Such an interesting topic. Congratulations on your publication Joshua!

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.