The Dust Bowl in America

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In the early 1900s, the Southern United States plains were plowed up into agricultural fields. The effects of this wheat boom can still be noticed today, which is one of the most common crops in the United States. These waves of grain created an unforeseen effect, a man made disaster known as The Dust Bowl, causing a negative economical, political, and social shift throughout the United States economy. In the earlier 1900s farmers began migrating to the southern plains to take advantage of inexpensive land offers, not knowing that the area was not suited for agriculture with high winds and very dry summers. Due to the Homestead Act of 1862 many inexperienced farms took advantage of the land using their poor agricultural practices in addition with many years of a drought. The plains had been deeply plowed and planted for wheat but as the droughts got worse, the farmers kept plowing and planting and nothing would grow. The ground cover that held the soil in place began eroding away, which is still a ramification that is shown today. Congress declares soil erosion a national menace in an act establishing the Soil Conservation Service in the Department of Agriculture (formerly the Soil Erosion Service in the U.S. Department of Interior). Under the direction of Hugh H. Bennett, the SCS will develop extensive conservation programs that retain topsoil and prevent irreparable damage to the land. Farming techniques such as strip cropping, terracing, crop rotation, contour plowing, and cover crops are advocated. Farmers are paid to practice soil-conservation farming techniques (Timeline: The Dust Bowl).

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It takes approximately over a thousand years just for only three centimeters of topsoil to form. Even today soil lasagne is still a big situation that is being dealt with, Because the Dust Bowl permanently reduced the productive potential of a fixed factor, it might not be surprising that full recovery was not experienced in eroded areas(Hornbeck). In the southern United States some of the areas have lost over half of the topsoil since the Dust Bowl from the booming of industrial farming. Plowing, planters, Mechanical cultivators, and Harvesters provided a industrial farm booming in America. Plowing machines were an important tool for early farmers, they were used to turn over soil, allow moisture to reach the roots of the crops while keeping down the and still loosen the soil for when planters put the crops into the soil. Planters lay down the seeds in a precise manner in rows. All of these machines that farmers used, were mass produced for farmers in the plains of the United States, this enhanced the causing of the Dust Bowl mostly due to the fact that most farmers overused these machines. In the beginning before the Dust Bowl there was no drought in America so overusing these farming machines was not a issue because the plenty of rain kept the soil from eroding and drying out over time, but only a few years later once the decades of drought was introduced soil began to dry out easier. Yet many farmers kept their ways, not rotating their crops after each harvest and over plowing the soil leading to the topsoil drying out easily, and once the winds appeared at the plains it gathered all of the loosened topsoil causing the Dust Bowl decade to begin. The 1930’s Dust Bowl period was one of extreme soil erosion on the American Plains, unexpectedly brought about by the combination of severe drought and intensive land-use.

Strong winds swept topsoil from the land in large dust storms, and occasional heavy rains carved deep gullies in the land. By the 1940’s, many Plains areas had cumulatively lost more than 75% of their original topsoil(Hornbeck). As winds came over the United States Plains and began to picked up the dried soil, causing extremely dense clouds of dust that formed across the region creating a years long storm. The dust storms forced farmers out of business and contributing to the Great Depression by having a scarce amount of animals since most of the livestock was depleted from the storm, along with most crops not being edible and covered in dust. Taking away both their homes along with their agriculture, causing crop prices that once were profitable to grow dropping below subsistence prices. In result many families realized that the drought and dust storms would not end, some sold what they could not take and began to drive west on Route 66. Many hoped to become hired hands on California farms(Dust Bowl Migration). Along with dust storms came illnesses such as pneumonia, rickets, valley fever, and malnutrition. The most common illnesses that were brought from the Dust Bowl were pneumonia and malnutrition due to inhaling severe amounts of dust and malnutrition due to most crops and livestocks were depleted once the storms hit the Midwestern United States. Farmers started turning towards a different solution resulting in the slaughtering millions of pigs to reduce the supply causing an inflation of prices. Soon to follow farmers had sold over 10 percent of all their farms, and a majority of those sales were caused by the drought. In the spring of 1933 the government put into action the Emergency Livestock Reductions.

In many states approximately 470,000 cattle and 438,000 pigs were brought in, and six million of those pigs and cattle were purchased from the farmers. In the fall of 1934, with cattle depleted the government started to buy and destroy thousands of the starving livestock. Of all the government programs during that time period the cattle slaughter was the worst for farmers, yet it was hard for farmers to give up their herds, the cattle slaughter benefited many of them avoiding losing their land. The pigs and cattle were killed to simply increase pricing when many couldn’t afford this. Farmers began to sell their herds with no choice, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, AAA payments became many farmers’ income for that year. They had worked hard to raise those crops and livestock, and they absolutely hated to see them killed and the meat go to waste (Ganzel, Reinhardt). Within days of his inauguration in 1933, President Roosevelt called Congress into special session and introduced a record 15 major pieces of legislation. One of the first to be introduced and enacted was the AAA, the Agricultural Adjustment Act. For the first time, Congress declared that is was “the policy of Congress” to balance supply and demand for farm commodities so that prices would support a decent purchasing power for farmers. This concept, outlined in the AAA, was known as “parity.”AAA controlled the supply of seven “basic crops”corn, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, tobacco and milkby offering payments to farmers in return for taking some of their land out of farming, not planting a crop (Ganzel 1).

During the Dust Bowl nearly all of the crops and the soil had been destroyed on the Great Plains. The few crops that did survive were being sold at extremely low prices that farmers could not profit from. Sharecropping farmer’s tenants were not able to make payments on the land and farmhouse, and farmers who owned their land couldn’t make payments as well. In result many families gathered their belonging to being their journey across America, mostly because people left areas where the weather was challenging for agriculture in the mid-1930s(Guntman). The affected Dust Bowl states mostly migrated to California hoping to begin a new life and a new chance. Historians have since clarified some of the dimensions of the misnamed migration. Numbers are elusive but same to say that 300-400,000 Oklahomans, Texans, Arkansans, and Missourians moved to California and settled there during the 1930s (Gregory).

As more and more families migrated to California for work opportunities the state was forced to adopted a general state sales tax in 1933 to make up for all the migrants (California Sales Tax Guide). These newly established taxes cause governmental distress among many locals, Los Angeles Police Chief James E. Davis sends 125 policemen to patrol the borders of Arizona and Oregon to keep undesirables out. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union sues the city(Timeline: The Dust Bowl). Many Californians were much against the southerners migration, California didn’t welcome the influx of Okies. Since the number of migrant workers outnumbered the available jobs, tensions grew between Californians and laborers, and public health concerns rose as California’s infrastructure became overtaxed(Trimarchi). The government began to offer relief to farmers through President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The President thought it was the government’s duty to play a role to help the American people get through the hard times of the Dust Bowl era. During the beginning months of his’ presidency many bills were passed to relieve poverty, reduce unemployment and to increase the economic recovery. Yet the programs didn’t end the constant issue, the New Deal benefited the American people immensely by taking care of their needs and giving them work to do, and hope during tough times. A decline in the United State’s finances followed after the Dust Bowl, without farmers having any crops or livestocks to profit from this further decline the amount of crops being grown in the states.

This lead to financial issues, with the United States forced to importing foods and grains from other countries who did suffer such a shift in their society, leading America into a financial situation the governments grew desperate(Cunfer). Although the situation did allow the federal government to take control of land and provide national parks for the citizens it meant that crops could only be produced in specific areas in the mid United States. The Dust Bowl had a greatly negative impact economically, politically, and socially that still be seen today through the use of crop rotation after each years harvest and not over using farming machines during droughts. The loss of livestock and crops in the plains of the United States affected the economy greatly and was a major contributing factor to the political decline in America. Especially the migration of many Oklahomans, Texans, Arkansans, and Missourians to California contributed greatly to the social aspect of many upset citizens of California. Although the United States economy has had a recovery from the Dust Bowl effects, the government still takes the same precautions that were enforced after the Dust Bowl years to make sure this man made disaster doesn’t occur in history again.

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The Dust Bowl in America. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved March 21, 2023 , from

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