Farm Policy's New Course

March 25, 1983

Report Outline
Consequences of Farm Recession
Government's Role in Agriculture
Beyond Today's Farm Problems
Special Focus

Consequences of Farm Recession

Farmer's Plight: Surpluses, Low Prices

Three years ago, President Carter's secretary of agriculture, Bob Bergland, announced the federal government saw no need to pay farmers to take a single acre of crop land out of production. What could not be sold at home could be shipped abroad to satisfy a seemingly insatiable world market that already was claiming one-third of this country's grain production.

In the topsy-turvy arena of global food needs and U.S. farm policy, such optimism now seems like ancient history. As farmers prepare for spring planting this year, the message from Washington is dramatically different. Bergland's successor, John R. Block, is offering farmers new and old incentives, including paying them with surplus crops, to leave up to 50 percent of their wheat, feed grain, rice and cotton lands idle. Bumper crops in 1981 and 1982, falling demand, rising export competition and the dollar's strength abroad have left farmers and the government stocked with price-depressing surpluses.

Market prices for wheat, corn and other important grains have shrunk by one-third in the past two years. Cotton prices dropped 25 percent. Farm income has nose-dived along with prices, from a historic high of $32.7 billion in 1979 to an estimated $19 billion last year. That is less than the interest payments on outstanding farm debt of $215 billion — a figure that has nearly doubled since 1977 and quadrupled since 1972, according to the Department of Agriculture. Adjusted for inflation, farmers' income last year was the lowest since 1933.

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
Agriculture and the Environment
Exports and Imports
Farm Loans, Insurance, and Subsidies