Farmers' protest: 1977-85
Tractors organized by the American Agriculture Movement (AAM) in response to low crop prices, high farm debt and widespread foreclosures arrived in Washington, D.C. December 10, 1977 for a series of demonstrations on the eve of a nationwide farmers’ strike.

About 500 farm vehicles and trucks converged on the city in two columns involving about 1,000 farmers and supporters. The slow moving vehicles snarled traffic

The farmers’ principle demand was 100% parity—a guarantee by the federal government that prices would insure that farmers turned a reasonable profit.

The movement mushroomed quickly in 1978 from a group of farmers in Colorado to demonstrations in most state capitals by the end of the year.

Most elected officials expressed sympathy but offered little in the way of help. President Jimmy Carter’s administration briefly halted foreclosures of federal loans, but quickly resumed them.

The nationwide strike largely fizzled, but protests utilizing tractors continued around the country.

Over 2,000 farmers returned to District of Columbia in January 1978, clashing with police in Fairfax County and marching through downtown Washington streets.

The largest protest in Washington took place beginning February 5, 1979 when dozens of vehicles drove around the Beltway and through downtown streets bringing traffic to a halt.

Angry farmers broke through barriers, threw a thresher over the White House fence and flattened a number of police motor scooters.

Police eventually confined the tractors to the National Mall where the heavy vehicles damaged the grounds.

The farmers were able to turn around the negative publicity when a major snowstorm hit the city on President’s Day. The tractors were the only vehicles that could get through the snow that was as high as two feet, delivering critical supplies and personnel and clearing roads.

Subsequent farmer protests were held in 1980 and 1985.

The high profile tractor-cades drew widespread publicity, but did not change farm policy Washington, D.C.

The number of farms totaled about 6 million in 1935 of about 150 acres compared to about two million farms today (2016) averaging about 450 acres each. These figures are somewhat misleading because the top 10 percent of farms account for 70 percent of the cropland. The top 2.2% take up about one-third.

The number of small farms has been relatively stable since the 1970s (even increasing slightly), but the number of mid-size farms has drastically as agribusiness has taken hold. The statistics are similar to the increasing concentration of wealth among the general population.
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