Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created through the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act in September of 1937, in order to deal with the chronic poverty of American independent farmers and migrant farm laborers. This act created the fsa out of the Resettlement Administration, which President Franklin Roosevelt had launched via an executive order in the spring of 1935.

The FSA's activities fell into two chief categories: rationalization of farming in order to increase its e.ciency and decrease cyclical agricultural booms and busts and elevation of public awareness of the problems confronting farmers, especially in the Dust Bowl–ravaged Southern Plains. In order to achieve the former goal, the FSA sponsored fragmentary land-use reform, provided loans which Farmers Unions used to build cooperatives, and offered rehabilitation and settlement camps for a limited number of migrant farmworkers. fsa-sponsored photography documented the struggles of farmers and migrant farm workers, and included the work of Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Roy Striker, and Marion Post Wolcott. The FSA also sponsored Pare Lorentz's influential documentary, The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936). In the Great Plains, the fsa helped launch irrigation projects, most notably on the Platte River in Nebraska and the Colorado River in Texas. It also offered soil conservation assistance and loans at 3 percent to farmers, while sponsoring continued research into the causes and outcomes of the ecological crisis of the Dust Bowl in the region.

The Farmers Home Administration Act of 1946, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, abolished the FSA and created the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) in its place.

See also ART: Dust Bowl Photographers / FILM: The Plow That Broke the Plains .

Bradley H. Baltensperger Michigan Technological University

Baldwin, Sidney. Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1968.

Lowitt, Richard. The New Deal and the West. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

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