Thirteen trucks carrying Canadian cattle were forced to detour around North Dakota and cross into the U.S. through Minnesota on this date in 1978. North Dakota farmers, members of the American Agricultural Movement, were blockading the border in an effort to keep Canadian livestock out of the country and raise American farm prices. After prosperity in the early 1970s, by 1976 plummeting farm prices were forcing American farmers to take drastic measures.
In the late 1960s, U.S. trade deals with the Soviet Union led to record-breaking high prices for American grain. Many farmers began to borrow to expand or modernize their operations, and some non-farmers rolled the dice by taking out large loans to purchase farm land. By taking on such large debts, however, both these new and veteran farmers opened themselves up to risk, and when farm prices began to plummet, most family farmers were unprepared and unable to keep up with their loan payments.
To address the crisis, Congress passed the Food and Agriculture Act of 1977, but farmers criticized the act as being too little, too late. As banks began to foreclose, farmers organized to take action. They met in southeastern Colorado in the spring of 1977 to create the American Agricultural Movement. By August, the movement had spread to twenty states, including North Dakota. Farmers threatened to go on strike if the government did not impose higher commodity prices.
In North Dakota, member farmers focused on keeping Canadian imports out of the country. Farmers in trucks and tractors blockaded all three points of entry along the state’s northern border. When the thirteen semis were blockaded at Pembina on January 10th, they were forced to detour to Minnesota and enter through Noyes, accompanied by Minnesota State Patrol cars. Farmers followed the trucks, hoping to persuade them to turn back, but the truck drivers went on to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Around the country, farmers staged ‘tractorcades’, in which they drove their tractors en masse around important buildings and landmarks. Only a week after the Pembina incident, farmers staged a memorable ‘tractorcade’ on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; although damaging the grounds, the farmers garnered enough publicity that politicians went on to push for new farm legislation in the coming months.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Dill, Joseph (ed.). 1988 North Dakota: 100 Years: p. 140. The Forum Publishing Company: Fargo, ND.
The Forum, Fargo-Moorhead. Wednesday, January 11, 1978; 100 (56): pp. 1-2.