Good Harvest Yields Farm Woes

A bitter wind blows across Nebraska. Another year of hope and hard work, and farmers like Vern Jantzen find themselves deeper in debt. CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara reports for Eye On America.

"We've got bales of hay lined up over here," Jantzen says. "We had an excellent harvest and I still can't make any money because everything I take to town isn't worth anything cause the prices are so bad."

Bumper harvests and the crash of the Asian market have built a mountainous glut of American grain.


Hog and cattle prices are so critically low that family farming is in a fight for survival.

"A lot of people are treading water and it just depends on who gets tired first," Jantzen says.

Some experts say this could go down as the worst year for farming in the 1990's. It has hit such a low that as many as a quarter of Nebraska's farmers - 15,000 of them -- could be forced out or decide to get out after this year.

Staying a step ahead of foreclosure is forcing some farmers to sell off their machinery one piece at a time.

But for those in deepest trouble, keeping a farm in the family could be a matter of life and death.

"I know of about four suicides I would say," says Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen.

Hansen thinks some of this year's nearly two dozen farm fatalities may have been disguised as accidents to collect insurance.

"Some of the farm accidents probably weren't farm accidents -- they were probably planned suicides," Hansen says.

A farmer not wishing to be identified knows the pressure and depression of these times.

"We had a year similar to this, but it's nowhere near the bloodbath this is. This is unreal."

These days, the fortunate farmers are plowing and planning for next year. For others, a long painful winter could be their last on the farm.

Reported By Bob McNamara
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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