Farm Policy and Food Needs

October 28, 1977

Report Outline
Return to Government Controls
Evolvement of Today's Policies
Challenges to American Agriculture
Special Focus

Return to Government Controls

Farmer Discontent Over Prices, Surpluses

After half a decade of high commodity prices and relative prosperity, American farmers are slipping back into the hole—and they don't like it. Three successive good crop years, not only in the United States but in most countries around the world, have refilled empty storage bins and depressed farm prices to the lowest levels in four years. Farmers who have the facilities are holding grain back from the market. Those who do not are forced to sell at less than the cost of production.

Nationwide, net farm income will barely reach $20-billion this year, down from the all-time high of $33.3-billion in 1973. Adjusted for inflation, the $20-billion is about equal to what American farmers earned in the 1936 depression year. There are far fewer farmers now, and average family income is considerably above depression levels. But so is the cost of living and, even more important, the cost of farmland, machinery, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and seeds. Farm debt has doubled since 1970, exceeding $100-billion, for the first time in history, and the end is not yet in sight.

The current farm depression amounts to a substantial political liability for President Carter, who made a strong showing among traditionally Republican farm-bloc voters in the 1976 election. Although farmers do not have the organizational clout of urban labor unions or big business, they are making their voices heard in Washington. A new movement, called American Agriculture, is planning a strike to begin Dec. 14 and its followers threaten not to sell their non-perishable farm goods or to plant spring crops unless the situation changes. “Unless we get one hundred per cent of parity,” said one of the leaders, “we will not sell and next year we will not produce.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Farm Policy
Nov. 02, 2018  Organic Farming Boom
May 01, 2012  Farm Subsidies
Dec. 02, 1994  Farm Policy
Aug. 05, 1994  Genetically Engineered Foods
Mar. 25, 1983  Farm Policy's New Course
Oct. 28, 1977  Farm Policy and Food Needs
Apr. 06, 1966  Reversal of Farm Policy
May 02, 1962  Milk Surpluses
Dec. 07, 1949  Brannan Plan
May 01, 1939  Agriculture Under the Trade Agreements
Sep. 20, 1937  Farm Legislation and the Ever-Normal Granary
Nov. 05, 1935  Potato Control Under the A.A.A.
Apr. 25, 1934  Stabilization of the Dairy Industry
Jan. 24, 1930  The Federal Farm Board
Sep. 24, 1928  Wheat Pools in Canada and the United States
Feb. 10, 1927  The McNary-Haugen Bill
Dec. 10, 1924  The President's Agricultural Conference
Farm Loans, Insurance, and Subsidies
Farm Produce and Commodities