Monday, June 5, 2017

This is America (2)

The earliest organizations of farmers began to develop in the late 1800s. Those groups organized under a variety of names and philosophies, including The Grange, The Farmer's Alliance, The Agricultural Wheel, The Ancient Order of Gleaners and the Equity.

In 1870, almost 50 percent of the US population was employed in agriculture.

Rural America was the center of the Populist movement of the 1890s.

America long thought of itself as essentially connected with farming and farm communities. According to this idea, landholding produced self-reliant, free-thinking citizens, unlike the immigrants of the cities who were dependent on their priests and party bosses. In a tradition famously identified with Jefferson, the man who worked the land was upright, reliable, uniquely able to serve his local village and defend his country.

1920's, James Howard (AFBF) outlined three remedies for the nation's farm problems: longer term credit to carry crops through orderly marketing, tariffs to protect against competing imported farm crops and the general cooperative marketing plan outlined by Farm Bureau.

During the Roaring Twenties, President Calvin Coolidge had himself photographed in a Vermont hayfield, a fresh pair of overalls covering his dress shirt, his black shoes still gleaming from their morning shine. Despite the incongruity, no one laughed.

1929 stock market crash.
1932, farm foreclosures had become rampant.

In the early 40's the typical Midwestern farm ran between 80 and 300 acres—half of today's average size—and produced several kinds of grain, livestock, and hay, and a garden's worth of vegetables. There were 6.1 million farms in the U.S., down over 288,000 from 1930. The average farm size was 174 acres, compared to 157 acres 10 years earlier.

WW2 had damaged farm production in many major countries, leading to widespread hunger in the world and farmers thus free of worry about surplus production. Farm Bureau pushed to open export opportunities overseas, so U.S. food production could take advantage of ready markets around the world.  After the War, a farm economy that had been static since the beginning of the Depression opened up to big tractors, large amounts of chemical fertilizer, and herbicides and pesticides.
1947 Congress began dealing with management of government grazing land and attempting to establish that a certain percentage of the revenue from grazing fees be used for rangeland improvement in the national forests.

Competition stiffened, and vast numbers of farms disappeared during the 1950s. Within 20 years, almost every farm in the Midwest was on a two-crop rotation: corn and soybeans, the giant commodities of the heartland. In the early 1970s, a boom in grain exports brought a rush of wealth, farmers purchased a new generation of giant harvesting machinery, and ambitious operators again expanded their land.
The 1970s was an era of rapid change for the nation and American farmers. American vocabulary changed with the new advances.
Several issues confronting farmers and Farm Bureau in the 70s remain the same today: international trade, farm labor, transportation, property rights, ag chemical availability and use, commodity price support programs, taxes, water rights and resources, conservation programs and land use questions.

1980s Farm Crisis
During the 1980s, farmers in the United States were confronted by an economic crisis more severe than any since the Great Depression. Many of those who relied on agriculture for their livelihoods faced financial ruin. The epicenter of the downturn was in the Midwest, but the effects quickly rippled to other areas where agriculture played a prominent role in the local economy.

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