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The American Experience


Timeline of farming in the US (1850 - 1996)
1978 May -- The Emergency Assistance Act of 1978 is passed to aid wheat, feed grain and cotton producers. Under President Jimmy Carter, the Farmer-Held Grain Reserve Program is formed to limit grain production and control food price fluctuations. At this time there are 2.5 million farms in the U.S., averaging 415 acres.
1979 February -- A tractor procession of farmers from the American Agriculture Movement arrives in Washington to lobby Congress for higher prices. The protest leads Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland to propose a full-scale national dialogue on the future of American agriculture in order to develop a more workable policy.
1980 January 1980January -- When the U.S.S.R invades Afghanistan, President Carter declares a grain embargo. This, combined with an extremely hot summer, make 1980 a difficult year for many farmers. Disaster loans for farmers total $30 million for feed alone. Congress passed a new crop insurance program in the fall to assist farmers.
1981 President Ronald Reagan lifts the grain embargo and signs an agreement with the U.S.S.R. to export 9 million tons of grain per year for the next five years.
1982 The annual income per farm, after expenses, is $9,000, while the average debt per farm, including mortgages, totals more than $30,000. Crop prices drop, and many farms and some small banks become bankrupt.
1983 Jim Jordan and his family are featured in an article about how hard it is for young farmers to start farming, in the Des Moines Register and Tribune. As a result of the article, they were offered a farm to rent, where they lived and worked for seven years.
1985 The average size of U.S. farms has more than doubled since 1945, from 195 acres to 440 acres. In that time, the average cost of running a farm has increased almost 20 times, requiring an investment of $100,000 to $500,000. More than half of all farms are rented, and many farms are owned by business partnerships or corporations rather than individuals.
1990 1990Russel and Mary Jane Jordan face their last year at Troublesome Creek. In order to preserve the farm and pass it on to their son Jim, they auction off all of their belongings to cover their bank debt of $220,000.
1996 The Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act (FAIR) is signed by President Bill Clinton. FAIR, the most ambitious federal farm program since the Roosevelt years, allows for domestic and export markets rather than the federal government to determine crop production. FAIR includes provisions for rural economic development and encourages farmers to practice conservation methods through incentives. It will remain in effect until 2003.


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