The Farm Crisis of the 1980s was not just an economic crisis, but an identity crisis for the two-thirds of Iowa farm families that risked losing their livelihoods. Confronted with a situation that was well outside of their control, they sent thousands of letters to government officials, asking for, and sometimes demanding, answers. Many of those letters expressed puzzlement, anger, and disappointment as writers tried to explain how the hopes and dreams of a lifetime had slipped through their grasp. They expressed deep frustration with politicians, consumers, and even other farmers who did not understand or sympathize with the stresses imposed by markets, environmental forces, and government policy that first encouraged borrowing and expansion, and then punished those who had followed that advice. Although the Reagan administration eventually responded, it was not before a significant number of farmers had left, or been removed from, their land.

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