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Seasoned farmers remember the drastic issues and times that led farmers to make a fateful trek to Washington some 45 years ago.

Brad Haire, Executive Editor

December 20, 2023

2 Min Read
A Tractorcade protest leaves Atlanta, Georgia for Washington, DC, as farmers join the American Agriculture Movement, January 1978.Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images

The article on Rural France turned upside-down by farmers appeared on BBC website Dec. 13. Farmers in parts of France started, carefully the article added, to unscrew roadside signs, flip them upside down and then nicely screw the signs back to their respected posts. They did this to thousands of signs.

Upending the directions is the latest tactic French farmers have used this year to illustrate their mood towards government policies. Specifically, they don’t like the increasing cost of farm diesel and other inputs, late subsidy payments, burdensome government regulations, expanding bureaucracies and competition from imports. Sounds familiar.

This year, the fed-up French farmers have also dumped milk, spread manure in places where most folks should be used to seeing manure, like around government offices, and they drove about 1,000 tractors to Paris. That also sounds familiar.

I don’t directly remember the famed Tractorcade protest that fervently drew U.S. farmers to Washington. I was a little fellow at the time and likely only protesting going to bed. I do know well some farmers who did take that fateful journey, which in February will be 45 years ago. Many of our seasoned farmers remember the drastic issues and times that led farmers to make the trek, but for those who need a brief reminder:

In the winter of 1978 and 1979, organized by American Agriculture Movement, some 3,000 farmers mobilized their tractors, many without cabs, and drove to D.C., some from thousands of miles away. Why? In short, they wanted a say in farm policy and realistic economic sustainability across American’s rural landscape, which was hurting. Other efforts to try and convey that message prior to the tractor movement were tried but met with varying degrees of success. The Tractorcade movement delivered the point straight to the target.

To say the farmers weren’t received well on their arrival is an understatement. Impoundments and other tactics were used to squash the momentum and spirits. Then a blizzard hit, causing major logistically issues for the city. Farmers, ones with fair grievances to be heard, got on the tractors they had driven and helped unclog a crippled city.

I’m not advocating another drive to Washington, especially in today’s antsy atmosphere. But many of the issues of that day remain issues.

Today, U.S. ag industry has great lobbyists and important farm groups who traverse the bureaucratic, political maze that is Washington. I know you do, but if you haven’t lately, support or reach out to the people who do represent us up there, especially those who have some agricultural sense. And if you don’t want to drive to Washington, with today’s incredibly useful technology, you can do it from the cab of your tractor.

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