This article explains how linkages between politicians and rural voters affected the design of agricultural policies, using rice in two countries as examples. In the Philippines, colonial history bolstered an oligarchy of landed elite politicians, whose power was restored after the dictatorship of Marcos ended in 1986. Their practice of patronage brought corruption that led to dwindling rice productivity and increasing import dependence while displacing the political necessity to offer price support to farmers. In Thailand, sociopolitical development was more centralized, with new electoral rules introduced in 1997 to weaken locally confined patronage arrangements. Mass parties competing on a policy platform were favoured instead, resulting in increasing, but eventually, excessive subsidies for rice farmers. Although voter–politician linkages resulted in different rice policies in the two countries, recent instability in the world rice market showed that strategies with greater sustainability considerations are needed in addressing domestic income disparities and global food insecurity.