Iowa Public Television


Lessons Learned from the Farm Crisis

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. 

Some wondered if the lessons of the nation's farm crisis might too soon be forgotten.

Karen Heidman: We never learn our lessons.  We don't.  We always think that our situation is unique and that this can't happen again, things will be different this time.  So, no, the lesson to be learned is we never learn.

Chuck Hassebrook: When anybody tells you that we've reached a new plateau of profitability in agriculture and that land prices are never going to go down again, don't believe them.  And we're starting to hear that again today and whenever I hear that I assume the end, the crash is coming pretty close when people start saying that.  So one never believes that.  It seems like every generation has to relearn lessons and the lesson, frankly the lessons we learned in the 80s farm crisis, had they been heeded more widely, could have, would have presented housing, the meltdown in housing that has taken our whole economy down in the early part of this century.  And so it seems, you know there's an old saying that a financial genius is someone in good times with a short memory and in good times there are a lot of people with short memories and we can't afford to have that kind of short memory in agriculture in this good time for farming.

Tags: agriculture documentaries farm farm crisis farmers Iowa rural