Campus Units

Economics, Agricultural Education and Studies

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Agricultural Finance Review




Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the current farm economic downturn and credit restructuring by comparing it with the 1920s and 1980s farm crises from both economic and regulatory perspectives.

Design/methodology/approach This paper closely compares critical economic and regulatory aspects of the current farm downturn with two previous farm crises in the 1920s and 1980s, and equally importantly, the golden eras that occurred before them. This study compares key aggregate statistics in land value, agricultural credit, lending regulations, and also evaluates the situations and impacts on individual farmer households by using three representative case studies.

Findings The authors argue that there are at least three economic and regulatory reasons why the current farm downturn is unlikely to slide into a sudden collapse of the agricultural markets: strong, real income; growth in the 2000s, historically low interest rates; and more prudent agricultural lending practices. The current farm downturn is more likely a liquidity and working capital problem, as opposed to a solvency and balance sheet problem for the overall agricultural sector. The authors argue that the trajectory of the current farm downturn will likely be a gradual, drawn-out one like that of the 1920s farm crisis, as opposed to a sudden collapse as in the 1980s farm crisis.

Originality/value The review provides empirical evidence for cautious optimism of the future trajectory of the current downturn, and argues that the current downturn is much more similar to the 1920s pattern than the 1980s crisis.


This article is published as Wendong Zhang, Kristine Tidgren, (2018) "The current farm downturn vs the 1920s and 1980s farm crises: An economic and regulatory comparison", Agricultural Finance Review, doi: 10.1108/AFR-08-2017-0075

Copyright Owner

Emerald Publishing Limited



File Format


Published Version