The Sordid History of Low Grain Prices

In the 1970s, after decades of grain prices so low farmers were permanently struggling to scratch a living, farmers began to rebel out of desperation and anger. They staged "tractorcade protests" on interstate highways. They even encircled the U.S. Capitol with their tractors, trying to get some attention, trying to awaken their elected officials to their plight.

The problem was, American farmers were too good at what they did. Every year they produced surplus grain, which glutted the market and drove down prices. For farmers to make ends meet, they had to grow as much grain as possible, which only added more surplus.

During this time, with the first oil embargo and then the Iranian revolution, oil prices shot up and American farmers saw an opportunity to help their country and make a living at the same time by turning some of their surplus grain into something America desperately needed: Fuel.

Their efforts succeeded somewhat. Grain prices have risen. Farmers are better able to make a living. And the fuel they're making is allowing the United States to import significantly less foreign oil.

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