The United States faced a farm crisis in the 1920's and 1930's, partially caused by high production for WWI, caused the prices for crops to decrease dramatically. The Agricultural Act of 1933 reduced production, and caused farm prices to rise. The Farm Credit Act later in the same year allowed farmers to re-mortgage property that had dropped in value.
The crisis returned in the 1980's, caused (in part) by the 1980 embargo against the Soviet Union, which caused farm exports to plummet. Farm debt doubled between 1978 and 1984. In addition to the embargo, farmers were also hurt by high interest rates, high oil prices, and a strong dollar. Bankruptcies rose to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
In 1982, the suicide rate among male farmers peaked at 58 suicides per 100,000 farmers, according to data by the National Farm Medicine Center. The most recent suicide data available for farmers, collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012 and released in 2016, shows that suicide rates for workers in the farming, fishing, and forestry industries have risen to 90.5 per 100,000.
Chapter 12 bankruptcy was created in 1986 as a response to the worst farm crisis since the Great Depression, which had been caused by a mix of factors, including low commodity prices, high debt levels, high inflation, high gas prices, and a grain embargo against the Soviet Union.
Things have only gotten worse since 2016.
This story was in the Washington Post this morning:
"Chris Dykshorn had been despondent over the couple’s finances, crippled by surplus grain he couldn’t sell because of the trade war and flooded fields. At the end of May, he texted: “I seriously don’t know how we are gonna make it.” The next day, he wrote: “I just want to sit in the house and cry.” On June 13, he went to the utility room to get his gun."
Trump's tariffs have had a devastating affect on U.S. farmers, leading to an increase in bankruptcies and suicides. Exports to China were down $1.9 billion in the first six months of 2019, compared to 2018. Agricultural exports to China fell from $24.2 billion in 2014 to $$9.1 billion in 2019.
Trump's solution to the problem sounds like an old defense of NASA: "Just through money at it". In 2018, the government issued $12 billion in aid to farmers, and gave them another $16 billion in 2019. This is what a farmer in Illinois had to say about the aid:
"“The aid package that has come in is a relief, and it softens the landing, but it’s not a solution, it’s a Band-Aid,” says Stan Born, a farmer who attended an event in Decatur, Illinois. When asked if the payments make him whole, Born, who grows 500 acres of soybeans near Decatur, responds, “Of course not.” He’d rather have free trade, he says. At $28 billion so far, the farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion.
Since rural voters have been shifting towards the Republican Party since 2008 (Trump got 62% of the rural vote in 2016), we need to call his farm aid package what it actually is.
In the meantime, Agriculture Secretary Sonne Purdue is doing his best to switch the farm vote back to the Democrats. In Minnesota, in August, he had this to say:
“I had a farmer tell me this in Pennsylvania,” Perdue said, according to Agri-Pulse. “He said, ‘What do you call two farmers in a basement?’ I said ‘I don’t know, what do you call them?'”
Perdue said the farmer said: “A whine cellar.”
There was some uncomfortable laughter in the crowd, but that was quickly overshadowed by others who were upset and booed the joke due to the insensitive timing and nature. The joke was told two days after China declared a halt to purchasing American agricultural products as retaliation from Trump increasing tariffs on Chinese goods. Can you say “Too soon?”
If you factor in the aid to both the auto industry and the banking industry, our country actually made money, even though a profit of $15. 35 billion on an investment of $426.35 billion is a lousy return, it's still a profit. $28 billion to farmers is nothing more than a sunk cost.