Iowa Public Television

 

Farmers Lose Hope

posted on October 10, 2013


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This segment is part of the The Farm Crisis documentary, which examines the tragic circumstances faced by farmers for most of the 1980s, when thousands were forced into bankruptcy, land values dropped by one-third nationally, and sky-high interest rates turned successes into failures seemingly overnight. 

Rep. Jim Leach: There is nothing more dramatic for a family when one has been working at something all their life and working fourteen, sixteen hours a day only to lose money.  And then the question, can you stay in the profession?  Can you raise a family as you've been raised? And this was torturous and there was no farm community in Iowa that didn't have tremendous dimensions of just human difficulty.  The fact is, farmers are optimists and they always have been.  Otherwise one wouldn't be in the business. And to see that optimism eroded was one of the hardest things to live through and to watch as a representative of people.

(music) You know my name, but it's all so strange.  We both grew up here, this place we call home.  I know you, you know me well, how can you sit there at your desk looking at me like I'm some stranger.  I ain't to blame, no and it ain't the rain, the powers that be are telling me to feel this shame and all my mama's words keep ringing in my ears, singing me a song about hard times.  Come again no more.


Many farmers were embarrassed and ashamed by the situations in which they found themselves.

September 22, 1982 -- I've never been so terrified in my life.  I've been to PCA and we are on the verge of ruin!  The interest rates and low prices are simply destroying us.  Our debt has climbed higher and higher, primarily because of interest.  We owe over $18,000 just on interest for PCA for one year!

Kaye Hagedorn: The turning point was about the time that Dean injured himself and had to have spinal surgery.  Sort of before that we borrowed money to operate and I had to go to the bank because I had bought three new boars and I got into the bank and they told me if I was going to be, if I was going to borrow money they had to rewrite all the loans because the interest rate had gone up.  And I think when we finally kind of shut down we were paying something like 21% interest.  It was, it was just enormous.  I, actually both of us, were pretty naive.  We didn't really think of farming as a business.  It was a way of life for us.  And that was a pretty shocking thing.  We were not prepared for that.  So it was initially when we had to rewrite those notes and then when Dean got hurt I think that's what motivated the bank to call the note and take the money out of the account that was going to pay rent to Dean's mother.  And then everything changed for us.  I was shocked but more than that I was shamed because I felt a fool.  I didn't get it.  I had no idea how things really worked.  And I thought the man was my friend, he was my banker, he was friendly, I'm not saying anything against him but he was playing a different game than I was playing.  And I was shamed.

Dean Hagedorn: When I couldn't pay my mother, I couldn't go pay my mother's rent there in 1984 I didn't know how I was going to tell her that.  She didn't have -- she needed the money.  She was a widow and had, at that time, still some farm payments left on the farm that she and dad had and still had owed some money.  You know, and then to tell her I had lost the acreage and couldn't pay her beside that, I thought, how am I going to do that?

(music) I've been awake, up at dawn, every morning since I was born, since I can crawl.  I've worked hard out on that farm, now you're telling me that I might lose it all.  What is right?  And what is wrong?  I always believed these two things would stay where they belonged.  And all my mama's words keep ringing in my ear, singing me a song about hard times.  Come again no more.  Hard times, hard times, come again no more.


Tags: agriculture documentaries farm farm crisis farmers Iowa