Leffler, Warren K. “Tractors, one flying the flag of the American Agriculture Movement, on their way to the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., during the ‘Tractorcade’ protests of February 1979.” WKL, LC-U9-37230- 16 [P&P], Library of Congress.

The Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980’s

In the early 1970’s, demand for U.S. agricultural products abroad surged. Farmers took on massive debts to buy more land to meet the demand. But reduced international prices and rising interest rates combined in the 1980’s, forcing down profits and the value of farmland at the same time. American farmers now struggled to feed their own families. 

Since asset limits and distance prevented many farm families from accessing food stamps, rural communities organized food banks and mutual aid. Farmers organized tractor-cades to draw attention to the scale of the crisis and call for a moratorium on farm foreclosures. In the late 1980’s, Congress finally authorized new policies to stabilize the farm economy, but to many farmers, these legislative interventions were too little too late.

Hal Hamilton and Ellen Ryan, “The Community Farm Alliance in Kentucky: The Growth, Mistakes, and Lessons of the Farm movement of the 1980s,” in ed. Stephen L. Fisher, Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), 129. See also Gilbert C. Fite, “The Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980s: A Review Essay,” The Annals of Iowa 51, no. 3 (1992): 289.

Where is it located in the Museum?

The Farm Debt Crisis of the 1980’s