Farmers on Strike

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people across the country lost their jobs. In Iowa, many people were farmers or worked in farm related jobs. When the national economy became weak, farm prices fell and many farmers could not even sell their products for as much as it cost to produce them. Some farmers thought the way to raise farm prices was by organizing protest strikes in the early 1930s.

In a protest strike, people stop an activity that other people depend on. Strikers want other people to realize how much that product or activity is needed.

Milk Dumping

In Iowa and other Midwest states some farmers organized milk strikes to protest the low prices they were paid. They blocked the roads to stop delivery of milk and cream to market. If the driver did not turn back, the strikers would dump the milk.

Striking farmers were tired of losing money on their products. "Why should we even buy gas to drive our products into town?" they said to each other. "With prices this low, we might as well throw the milk away as haul it to town."

Big Bugs with Thick Heads

Strikers wanted all farmers to unite and join the strike. They believed that the protest would attract attention. Government leaders would then realize that it cost more for farmers to produce the milk than they were paid for selling it. As one observer commented, "Maybe some of the big bugs will get it through their thick heads that we're hurting out here."

Strikers also believed that if the supply of milk in towns was reduced, the demand would increase and people would pay higher prices for it.

Some Oppose Strikes

Many farmers disagreed with milk strikes. They thought that dumping milk was wasteful. They were proud of the farm products they raised and did not want to destroy them. Many depended on the money they got for selling milk and cream—even if it wasn't much. They did not think the strikes would help raise prices.

Sometimes the strikes got out of control and became violent. No one had wanted violence, but it showed how angry and desperate many American farmers were during the Depression.

Adapted from an article printed in The Goldfinch 7, No. 4 (April 1986). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.
© State Historical Society of Iowa

 

 


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