About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

15 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 283 (1986-1987)
America's Decision: Will We Save the Family Farm

handle is hein.journals/nyuls15 and id is 305 raw text is: AMERICA'S DECISION: WILL WE SAVE THE
FAMILY FARM?
SENATOR ToM HARKIN*
I.
INTRODUCTION: THE ROOTS OF THE FARM CRIsIS
America's farm economy and farm communities are in crisis. Debt and
despair, foreclosures and even suicides have swept across the heartland in re-
cent years, turning entire regions into economic wastelands.
Despite the severity of the situation, solutions are possible; what is lack-
ing is commitment on the part of our national leadership. For fundamentally,
the farm crisis is a crisis of values. It is the result of a failure by our nation's
political and economic leaders to recognize the importance of rural America
to the stability and strength of our democratic society.
In the fall of 1986, a column in the Wall Street Journal headlined, Why
Not Save The 31,000 Top Farmers?, argued that farm foreclosures in the
Midwest and South were nothing more than the inevitable workings of the
marketplace, weeding out all but the most efficient farmers.'
While I disagree with the author's premise, he identified the central ques-
tion we face in formulating a farm policy: How many farmers will our society
permit to own and work the land?
Do we want two million farm families owning the land they live and work
on, preserving it for future generations? Or do we want our farms run as giant
corporations, owned by absentee landlords and operated by day laborers?
America must now decide whose interests our government will defend: the
vast majority of farmers or the handful of large producers and agribusiness
conglomerates.
The Reagan administration has given us its farm policy: big is best. As
a result, we have witnessed families breaking under financial strain;' banks
Copyright © 1988 by Tom Harkin
* Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, served ten years in the U.S. House of Representa-
fives prior to his election to the U.S. Senate in 1984. He is a member of the Senate's committees
on Agriculture, Appropriations, Labor and Human Resources, and Small Business. The Sena-
tor wishes to credit Rod Benson for his research assistance in the preparation of this Article.
1. A mere 1.3 percent of farm businesses accounted for nearly half of total net farm in-
come in 1984, or $13.2 billion out of $26.7 billion. Peterson, Wy Not Save The 31,000 Top
Farmers?, Wall St. J., Oct. 8, 1986, at 34, col. 3.
2. See CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY INC., FARM POLICY: THE POLITICS OF SOIL, SUR-
PLUSES, AND SUBSIDIES, 145-66 (1984) [hereinafter FARM POLICY POLITICS].
3. See Robbins, Farm Belt Suicides Reflect Greater Hardship and Deepening Despondency,
N.Y. Times, Jan. 14, 1986, at All, col. 1. See also Turkington, Farmers Strain To Hold The
Line As Crisis Uproots Mental Health, Am. Psychological A. Monitor, Apr. 1, 1985, at 1.
283

Imaged with the Permission of N.Y.U. Review of Law and Social Change

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing nearly 3,000 academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.



Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline with pricing starting as low as $29.95

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most