American Agriculture Movement belt buckle

Farmers organize for better federal policies

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The American Agriculture Movement (AAM) was formed in 1977 by farmers frustrated with U.S. farm policy and low commodity prices. They called for fair prices on agricultural products, the creation of an ag producers organization to advise government policies, and limiting imports.

At the time, it cost farmers more to produce America’s food and fiber than they earned by selling those commodities. Farm income had dropped by $13 billion nationally in less than a decade. The value of farmland sank, making it difficult for farmers to find lenders to sustain their operations through lean times. Faced with losing their farms and their way of life, they organized.

From café conversations typical of small farm communities, farmers in Campo, Colorado, realized they shared the same frustrations about the ag industry and were increasingly concerned that politicians and industry leaders were out of touch with the everyday needs of farmers. They created the AAM to be a political voice for farmers as well as to support farmers across the country as they organized on a local level. In December 1977, the AAM coordinated protests, rallies, and tractor caravans called tractorcades across rural America. Hundreds of tractors made their way through Texas’s farming communities, and Texas farmers drove their tractors up Congress Avenue to the Capital. Businesses in several Texas towns closed their doors for a day in solidarity. In Amarillo, farmers forced nearly 80 stores to close and blocked delivery trucks. In Plainview, a meatpacking operation shut down for 48 hours under pressure from local farmers.

In 1978, nearly 3,000 farmers drove their tractors hundreds of miles to Washington, D.C., where rallies attracted more than 3 million people and congressional offices were filled with farmers. The 1979 tractorcade was less successful — fewer farmers participated and legislators refused to meet with them. Despite nationwide efforts, the Movement did not affect the policy changes necessary to stop the looming crisis. Farm debt doubled between 1978 and 1984 and land prices continued to fall dramatically. The mid-1980s saw foreclosure and farmer suicide rates on par with the Great Depression. The AAM established a permanent D.C. office in 1979, where the organization continues to lobby for changes to U.S. farm policy.

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American Agriculture Movement belt buckle Artifact from Washington D.C.
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