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Published June 17, 2013, 06:05 PM

60 on 6: 1980’s Farming Madness

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It is hard to imagine the days of dust and debt on North Dakota farms. With impressive crop prices the last few years, producers have enjoyed a run of pretty good farming seasons.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It is hard to imagine the days of dust and debt on North Dakota farms. With impressive crop prices the last few years, producers have enjoyed a run of pretty good farming seasons.

Tonight Reporter Kevin Wallevand takes us to the early 1980's when our area farmers were in financial and emotional trouble.

It was like pressure cooker waiting to blow. Farm foreclosure auctions scattered across North Dakota and Minnesota in 1984 and 1985. In Pelican Rapids, a mock funeral for the farm industry, right down Main Street. There were tractor-cades blocking farm lenders in lakes country and in eastern North Dakota.

In the 70's farm incomes and crop prices soared. In the early 80's, the bottom fell out; land values plummeted, farm income dropped, farm debt and interest rates grew, crop prices fell. In 1984 one out of every three farmers around here had cash flow problems. Between 1984 and 1988 673 farm bankruptcies alone in North Dakota. Tight money and high interest rates popped the ag bubble. In our region, tempers flared, pitting the farm economy against lenders. There were so many farm auctions, retired auctioneers came out of retirement. There was anger, embarrassment. Families on the farm for generations now forced off the land. Some saw cattle repossessed.

It is estimated 300,000 farmers faced failure nationwide in 1983. In Minnesota, a farmer who was refused a farm loan shot and killed two bankers. It is estimated the farm foreclosure crisis resulted in 900 farmers taking their life in the Upper Midwest in the early 80's.

The crisis sparked Congress to act, and today there are safeguards in place. Never again does the heartland want to see movies and books and concerts written and sung about some of the soil's saddest days.

And since 1980 the number of farms in North Dakota has dropped from 40,000 to 31,000.

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