The Daily Yonder's coverage of rural economic issues, including workforce development and the future of work in rural America, is supported in part by Microsoft.
Patchwork Nation’s Dante Chinni asks today, “Is the recession finally coming to ‘Tractor Country’?” Chinni and Jim Gimpel have divided the country in demographic blocks and have been reporting how different the nation appears depending on your geography. Tractor Country is the Great Plains, and as we at the Yonder know, this area has suffered less during the recession than the rest of the country. Chinni visited Sioux Center, Iowa, last week, however, and found that “it’s not the standard measures — like unemployment — that reveal the story in these places. It is the quieter numbers inside the economy like commodity prices.”
In particular, the price of beef. At the Tri-Stae Auction House, buyers were picking up old dairy cows on the cheap. Cattle were going for $150 to $200 less per head than two years ago. “We have not seen huge losses in the number of cattlemen, at least not yet. But the bankers are a little more nervous than usual,” said Mike Koedam, who mans the microphone at the auction house. “The cattlemen have had a tough time for the last two years.”
Chinni reports that Tractor Country remains “relatively stable.” The attitude toward debt is different here than in more high-flying parts of the country. “But many here see at least some parallels with the recession of the early 1980s, which hit the coasts and big cities first,” Chinni writes. “As the recovery came to those places, the troubles were just beginning in agricultural America, eventually leading to the collapse of many small farms.”