Sonja Hillgren: The Soviet Union harvested its sixth disappointing crop in a row in 1984, so Soviet leaders looked abroad to buy record levels of grain. The U.S.-Soviet grain-trade relationship, which suffered after Jimmy Carter's 1980 embargo, flourished again.
Then the Soviets and Americans revived technological and scientific agreements in agriculture that had been dormant for nearly five years. Agriculture Secretary John Block said the grain-trading relationship was related to broader cooperation, as the superpowers move toward reviving arms-limitation talks …
Secretary John Block: "Agriculture preserved the relationship during some very stressful times in the last few years. Agriculture has led the way with a new trade agreement."
Sonja Hillgren: But Block conceded that heavier Soviet grain-buying was not enough to turn around the poor economic conditions in rural America. High interest rates, low farm income, the strong dollar, sluggish overall farm exports and declining land values continue to plague farmers.
President Reagan responded with a plan to help farmers restructure debts. Also this year Administration officials, members of Congress and prominent agricultural economists spent a great deal of effort studying future farm policy in advance of 1985 consideration of farm legislation. Block argued that reducing Government involvement in farming would be the best long-term policy.
Sonja Hillgren at the Agriculture Department.