Farming in the Midwest: Rhyme Time
How bad is this farm slump?
The farm crisis in the 1980s left a deep mark on the Midwest.
It was the worst downturn in farming since the Depression.
After an unprecedented boom in demand for wheat ended, thousands of farmers faced ruin.
Agricultural banks and makers of farming equipment were washed away by a wave of bankruptcies.
Midwestern farmers look at parallels with the 1980s whenever their cyclical industry is heading downwards.
Prices for corn, wheat and other agricultural commodities started to fall after their peak in 2013, since when the comparison has been raised again.
Exports of wheat and soyabeans nearly tripled in the 1970s, thanks to the weakness of the dollar after America abandoned the gold standard in 1971, and the Russian wheat deal in 1972, when America sold the Soviet Union about 440m bushels of wheat for around $700m.
Until then the Soviets had imported hardly any American foodstuffs.
The sudden bonanza was such that farmers bought more and more land, with more and more debt.
This went well until interest rates jumped up, the dollar strengthened and exports to the USSR were halted after the invasion of Afghanistan.
Farmers' biggest asset, land, dropped in value, which in turn increased their liabilities until they became so big that they could not stay in business.
The latest farming boom started in 2006, when demand for crops such as maize (corn), sugar cane and soyabeans generated record profits thanks to demand for (maize and sugar-based) ethanol, and the then skyrocketing Chinese economy.