The headlines in the mid-1980s were ominous: "Farm Outlook: Bumper Crop of Bankruptcies," "Debts Could End Family Farm Era." But while the experts then were ringing the death knell for the family farm, no one today will say that the small farm is gone forever. Changed, yes. Obliterated, no.
The 1980s, many say, were the middle segment of a three-part cycle. The 1970s brought a surge of stupendous growth, investment and production, a binge that could not be sustained without a hangover. That hangover was the 1980s.
"Agriculture had to take a bath, and it took a real bath," said Marty Strange, program director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Walthill, Neb.
Many agriculture watchers place the beginning of the farm woes at Oct. 6, 1979, when the Federal Reserve Board introduced new tight-money policies that sent interest rates soaring.