Growing a Nation

Historical Timeline — 1980

Economic Cycles

1981-82
Recession

1983-90
Business expansion

 

 

 

Farm Economy

1980s
Farm financial crisis affects farmers with heavy debt loads

Farmers & the Land

1980
Total population: 227,020,000; farm population: 6,051,000; farmers 3.4% of labor force; Number of farms: 2,439,510; average acres: 426; irrigated acres: 50,350,000 (1978)

1980s
For the first time since the 19th century, foreigners (Europeans and Japanese primarily) begin to purchase significant acreages of farmland and ranchland

1986
The Southeast's worst summer drought on record takes a severe toll on many farmers

1987
Farmland values bottom out after a 6-year decline, signaling both a turnaround in the farm economy and increased competition with other countries' exports

1988
Scientists warn that global warming may affect the future viability of American farming; one of the worst droughts in the Nation's history hits Midwestern farmers

Farm Machinery & Technology

1980-89
Commercial fertilizer use: 47,411,166 tons/year
1980s
More farmers use no-till or low-till methods to curb erosion

1980
One farmer supplies 75.7 persons (est.)

1987
1-1/2 to 2 labor-hours required to produce 100 pounds (1/5 acre) of lint cotton with tractor, 4-row stalk cutter, 20-foot disk, 6-row bedder and planter, 6-row cultivator with herbicide applicator, and 4-row harvester

3 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (3 acres) of wheat with tractor, 35-foot sweep disk, 30-foot drill, 25-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks; 2-3/4 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (1 1/8 acres) of corn with tractor, 5-bottom plow, 20-foot tandem disk, planter, 20-foot herbicide applicator, 12-foot self-propelled combine, and trucks

1989
After several slow years, the sale of farm equipment rebounds; more farmers begin to use low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA) techniques to reduce chemical applications

Crops & Livestock

1980
The first American patent for a genetically engineered organism, a bacterium used to clean up oil spills, is granted

1980s
Biotechnology becomes viable for improving crop and livestock products

1983-84
Avian influenza of poultry eradicated before it spreads beyond a few Pennsylvania counties

1986
Antismoking campaigns and legislation begin to affect the tobacco industry

Transportation

1980
Railroad and trucking industries deregulated

Agricultural Trade & Development

1980-89
Agricultural exports: $35.6 billion/year or 15% of total exports

1980s
European grain and animal exports become more competitive with U.S. products

1981
U.S. agricultural exports peak at $43.8 billion, then decline until 1987; President Reagan lifts the grain embargo against the Soviet Union

1988
The U.S.-Canada trade accord initiates free trade in all commodities

Life on the Farm

Mid-1980s
Low prices and indebtedness affect many farmers in the Midwest; many rural counties decline in population

 

 

 

Farm Organizations & Movements

1986-88
Country singer Willie Nelson organizes first of the Farm Aid concerts to benefit indebted farmers

Agricultural Education & Extension

1980s
Enrollments in colleges of agriculture drop in wake of the farm crisis

1985
USDA scientists indicate that agricultural chemicals infiltrate ground water more than previously thought

Government Programs & Policy

1983
USDA Secretary John Block implements a payment-in-kind (PIK) program, resulting in the third-largest acreage reduction ever

1985
Food Security Act lowers government farm supports, promotes exports, and sets up the Conservation Reserve Program

1989
30 million acres retired under the Conservation Reserve Program of the 1985 Food Security Act

Back to Top