Burning Corn for Fuel

In normal years before the Depression, farmers in Nebraska and throughout the corn belt grew corn, first to feed their livestock and then to sell as a cash crop. Normally, corn was more profitable when it was fed to cattle which were then sold as meat products.

But in the 30s, prices for both livestock and cash crops dropped to rock bottom. In 1925, corn had sold at $1.07 per bushel. By November and December 1932, corn was selling for only 13-cents per bushel.

Walter Schmitt remembers when most homes were heated and food cooked by coal. But by 1932, corn was actually cheaper than coal. So, farmers began burning their harvest rather than selling it. Walter calls those times “preposterous.”

In a similar story, LeRoy Hankel remembers an uncle shipping hogs to market in Omaha by truck. By the time the auction house had deducted the bill for shipping and their commission, the uncle got a total of $1.00 – one dollar – for 1,300 pounds of hogs. Leroy’s uncle told him ironically, “I don’t know why I cashed that check. I wish I’d [have] framed it!”

Written by Bill Ganzel of the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.



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