Because President Roosevelt’s advisors believed that the economic depression had been caused by an economic slowdown in farming, much of the New Deal was intended to help farmers. In the alphabet soup of agencies, several were intended to help farmers, and the impact of these New Deal programs continues today.
- AAA, the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933
- CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps of 1933
- FSA, the Farm Security Administration of 1935 and 1937
- SCS, the Soil Conservation Service of 1935
- And the REA, Rural Electrification Administration
The basic outlines of each of these programs have continued into the 21st Century. So, historians can look back and identify the New Deal programs as the fourth major period of U.S. farm policies.
In the first years after America was founded, the federal government concentrated on distributing new “frontier” land to settlers who were migrating to the new nation. One of the major problems, of course, of this effort was how to deal with the Native Americans who were already living on the “new” land.
The second major period began in roughly 1830 when the government began to help farmers grow more crops. The U.S. established new universities that were supposed to find better methods of farming.
The third major period began in the late 1800s when lawmakers were forced to impose new regulations on the agricultural markets, just as they did on business trusts and monopolies.
Even before the New Deal, the federal government supported farmers directly. President Hoover’s administration tried to support farmers by providing them better credit and then by buying farm produce to stabilize the prices. But that just caused farmers to grow more, which in turn lowered prices even more.
When Roosevelt became president, the belief was that low prices were caused by high production. The supply of crops and livestock was much higher than the demand for those products, and so the prices dropped.
To this day, the basic policy of the federal government has remained to keep prices up by keeping production down. And this is a very real way in which the Great Depression continues to affect those of us growing up and living today.
Written by Bill Ganzel of the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.