Our farmers are again in crisis. The issue is not only that so many farmers have been hit hard by years of falling prices and rising bankruptcies but that the interlocking system of trade and farm policies are designed for exactly that kind of outcome. It is not so much a crisis of prices as a Crisis by Design.

That is the title of an article written by IATP founder Mark Ritchie and Kevin Ristau in 1987, in the midst of another farm crisis. It was a watershed document that has been the cornerstone of IATP’s work for many years and has catalyzed further analysis and action by family farmers and their allies. It traced the origins of farm policy, starting from the historic pattern of boom and bust cycles of prices through the eventual establishment of parity pricing and supply management that emerged in the 1930s.

Now, more than 30 years later, we are in the middle of another farm crisis, with the added pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and an impending climate catastrophe. We took a fresh look at the analysis and predictions made in Crisis by Design to understand how the farm situation has changed since then and what current policies imply for the future. We examined nine factors in the farm economy, as well as how U.S. agriculture intersects with global markets, the environment and broader disparities. 

Original Crisis By Design