The NFO, founded in the late 1950s and based in Ames, Iowa, had a strong presence in Minnesota. The organization drew both praise and contempt when it withdrew milk from the market for 15 days and reduced domestic production by 2% in March 1967. The Albion-French Lake Co-operative in Annandale was the site huge 4,600 gallon milk dump.
An Iowa-based federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order to stop the effort.
The suspension of actions in an attempt to relax marketing power and raise market prices has spread to other companies. NFO members used trucks to block deliveries of cattle to South St. Paul. Other actions included blocking rural roads, installing spikes to puncture truck tires and confronting those who refused to abstain. Two men who tried to block a transporter truck in Wisconsin were run over and killed.
The tragedy has clouded the reputation of the movement.
The NFO found itself in court when processors accused it of monopoly practices in 1967. The organization won the “Midwestern Milk Monopolization” lawsuit and was awarded $ 21 million, but the decision failed. was only taken years later.
Farmer activism is as old as the nation.
The Shays rebellion in the 18e century involved New England farmers attacking courthouses and other government offices to protest low prices and policies that went against their economic interests. Farmer Daniel Shays led the group. He was arrested and sentenced, but he and most of the others involved were pardoned.
Less violent action in the 19e A century against high rail fares and soaring input prices spawned the cooperative movement, which flourished despite strong opposition from those who believed it was a dangerous form of European socialism.
The economic disaster of the Great Depression led to penny auctions in which farm auction participants pledged to bid maximum on livestock and machinery so lenders suffered.
Technology in the form of high-voltage power lines sparked protests in the 1970s. A New York Times writer wrote an article in November 1978 that aired complaints against a proposed line. Farmers and people living in rural areas said a test on the line itched their skin, crackled radios and ruined television pictures. Other more serious complaints from others affected by the proposed power lines included cancer and risks to pregnancies and infants. One farmer said he received a shock while plowing a field under a power line and another said a light bulb glowed when held under a line. Land use and environmental issues were also raised.
Many have called for a moratorium on the construction of lines. A dispute involving the Coal Creek station near Underwood, North Dakota, has drawn attention. The Cooperative Power Association and the United Power Association have proposed the construction of 400 miles of line. Lines would be erected on field boundaries when possible and across them when necessary.
The cooperative plans were approved, but landowners and rural residents were not happy. Authorities reported that 9,500 isolators were shot down and 16 towers shot down by vandals.
The desperation caused by the agricultural crisis of the 1980s sparked protests. As a young reporter, I covered a sit-in at the Federal Land Bank office in northern Iowa. The small FLB office consisted of a busy employee who tried to defuse the situation as best he could. The anger was directed more at the lending practices of the federal FLB and other federal lending agencies.
Loans had been aggressively pushed into the go-go era. The flaw in the system was that loans were made more out of equity than income. When land prices fell, mortgages fell under water.
It was a tragic time and farmers responded with a wave of activism.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.