The US Farm Crisis and the Restructuring of American Agriculture: Domestic and International Dimensions

  • Frederick H. Buttel

Abstract

The US farm crisis — or ‘farm financial stress’, as it is often referred to euphemistically in America — is actually an ensemble of many crises of national and international political economy. Its most immediate and salient components, as experienced directly by farmers, are heavy debt loads (and hence onerous debt service obligations), rapid declines in the value of farm land and other agricultural assets, low prices for many of the most important US farm commodities (especially soybeans, wheat, and corn), and a somewhat heightened pace of voluntary and involuntary liquidation of assets since 1981. More structurally, the US farm crisis is closely rooted in extraordinarily high real interest rates that have prevailed due to Reagan Administration fiscal and monetary policy, which have had a dramatic effect on the capital-intensive — and hence interest-rate-sensitive — agricultural sector. The farm crisis also reflects the contradictions of continued increases in US (and world) productive capacity in the basic grains and oilseeds due to technological change. The capacity to produce has relentlessly increased even as the means for purchasing and valorising this expanded production have stagnated. The US farm crisis is also a policy crisis — a protracted struggle among many contending forces that makes it virtually impossible to arrive at a political solution to problems of the agricultural economy without (and, in some respects, despite) massive state intervention and subsidy programmes.

Keywords

Migration Corn Depression Income Expense 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Bibliography

  1. Barker, R. (1986), ‘Impact of prospective new technologies on crop productivity: implications for domestic and world agriculture.’ Paper presented at the Conference on Technology and Agricultural Policy, National Academy of Sciences, December.Google Scholar
  2. Bergesen, A. (1982), ‘Economic crisis and merger movements: 1880s Britain and 1980s United States’, pp. 27–39 in E. Friedman (ed.), Ascent and Decline in the World-System (Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage Publications).Google Scholar
  3. Boehlje, M. D., R. Thamodaran, and A. D. Barkema (1985), Agricultural Policy and Financial Stress (Ames, IA: Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.Google Scholar
  4. Breimyer, H. F., (1983), ‘Conceptualization and climate for New Deal farm laws of the 1930s’, American Journal of Agricultural Economics 65:1153–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Browne, W. P. (1986), ‘Issues of world food and trade: perspectives and projections’, pp. 1–13 in W. P. Browne and D. F. Hadwiger (eds), World Food Policies: Toward Agricultural Interdependence (Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner).Google Scholar
  6. Bultena, G., P. Lasley and J. Geller (1985), ‘The farm crisis: profiles of dislocated and at-risk farm operators in Iowa’. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Rural Sociological Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va., August.Google Scholar
  7. Buttel, F. H. (1983), ‘Beyond the family farm’, pp. 87–107 in G. F. Summers (ed.), Technology and Social Change in Rural Areas (Boulder, Co.: Westview).Google Scholar
  8. Cochrane, W. W. (1979), The Development of American Agriculture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).Google Scholar
  9. de Janvry, A. (1980), ‘Agriculture in crisis and crisis in agriculture’, Society, 17:36–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ehrensaft, P. (1980), ‘Long waves in the transformation of North American agriculture: a first statement’, Cornell Journal of Social Relations, 15:65–83.Google Scholar
  11. Ehrensaft, P., P. LaRamee, R. D. Bollman and F. H. Buttel (1984), ‘The microdynamics of farm structural change: the Canadian experience and Canada-U.S.A. comparisons’, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 66:823–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Friedmann, H. (1980), Household production and the national economy’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 7:158–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Friedmann, H. (1982), ‘The political economy of food: the rise and fall of the postwar international food order’, American Journal of Sociology, 88:248–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 93.
    Friedmann, H. (1986), ‘Patriarchy and property: a reply to Goodman and Redclift’, Sociologia Ruralis, 16:186–.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frobel, F. (1980), Current Development of the World Economy (Tokyo: United Nations University).Google Scholar
  16. Geisler, C. C. and F. R. Popper (eds) (1984), Land Reform, American Style, (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld).Google Scholar
  17. Goodman, D. and M. Redclift (1985) ‘Capitalism, petty commodity production and the farm enterprise’, Sociologia Ruralis, 15:231–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gordon, D. M., R. Edwards and M. Reich (1982), Segmented Work, Divided Workers: The Historical Transformation of Labor in the United States (New York: Cambridge University Press).Google Scholar
  19. Harl, N. E. (1986), ‘Responding to the farm crisis: an evaluation of alternative public policies’. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Philadelphia, May.Google Scholar
  20. Henry, M., M. Drabenstott and L. Gibson (1987), ‘Rural growth slows down’, Rural Development Perspectives, 3 (June):25–30.Google Scholar
  21. Hottel, B. and D. H. Harrington (1979), ‘Tenure and equity influences on the incomes of farmers’, pp. 97–107 in Structure Issues of American Agriculture. Agricultural Economic Report 438. Washington, D.C.: Economics, Statistics, and Co-operatives Service, US Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  22. Johnson, G. L. (1985), ‘Agricultural surpluses—research on agricultural technologies, institutions, people, and capital growth’, pp. 57–70 in M. Gibbs and C. Carlson (eds.), Crop Productivity—Research Imperatives Revisited. Proceedings of an international conference held at Boyne Highlands Inn, MI, 13–18 October 1985, and Arlie House, Va., 11–13 December 1985.Google Scholar
  23. Kloppenburg, J., Jr. and F. H. Buttel (1987), ‘Two blades of grass: the contradictions of agricultural research as state intervention’, Research in Political Sociology, 3, 1989.Google Scholar
  24. Mann, S. A. and J. M. Dickinson (1978), ‘Obstacles to the development of a capitalist agriculture’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 5:466–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mooney, Patrick H. (1985), ‘The transformation of class relations in Wisconsin agriculture, 1945–1982’. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison.Google Scholar
  26. Office of Technology Assessment (1986), Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture, Washington, D.C.: Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).Google Scholar
  27. Rasmussen, W. D. (1983), ‘New Deal farm programs: what they were and how they survived, American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 65:1158–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sanderson, S. E. (1985), ‘The ‘new’ internationalization of agriculture in the Americas’, pp. 46–68 in S. E. Sanderson (ed.), The Americas in the New International Division of Labor (New York: Holmes & Meier).Google Scholar
  29. Sanderson, S. E. (1986), The Transformation of Mexican Agriculture (Princeton: Princeton University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Shepard, L. (1985), ‘The farm debt crisis: temporary or chronic?’ Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Western Economics Association, Anaheim, Ca., July.Google Scholar
  31. Smith, L. W. and R. Coltrane (1981), Hired Farm Workers: Background and Trends for the Eighties. Rural Development Research Report No. 32. Washington D.C.: Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  32. US Department of Agriculture (1986a), Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms, January 1, 1986. Agricultural Information Bulletin No. 500. Washington, D.C.: National Economics Division, Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  33. US Department of Agriculture (1986b), ‘States survey farm financial conditions’, Agricultural Outlook, (September):21–2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Goodman and Michael Redclift 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick H. Buttel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations