While legislative actions were being taken to help farmers, many Americans were dismayed by the disparity of having farm surpluses while many people went hungry. To help alleviate hunger and reduce surpluses the USDA initiated new food programs. The Food Stamps program provided surplus food to poor families and School Lunch programs used surpluses to feed children. The USDA built four new research labs across the nation to find new uses for agricultural products so that farmers could find new markets for their surpluses. Once relief was flowing, attitudes improved. War Clouds With A Silver Lining In 1939 the growing clouds of war worldwide caused trouble for American farmers. United States agriculture braced for the unknown as foreign markets closed and surpluses surged higher than ever. Although some expected an economic boom, farmers were asked to produce only what was needed at home. However, the situation quickly deteriorated in Europe and elsewhere. America ’ s allies needed help — in massive quantities. Early in 1941 the USDA once again urged American farmers into no-holds-barred production. Hog farmers and cattle ranchers were also told to produce more. The Lend Lease Act of that year guaranteed the Allies food and other supplies. At the same time, officials urged American families to conserve food, fuel and other resources. Although surpluses were high, supplies could run out quickly if America entered the war. To foster conservation, initiatives such as the National Victory Garden program encouraged people to grow their own food at home. As the manufacturing of new armaments for the U.S. military and its allies swelled, jobs opened up everywhere and great numbers of men and women, especially minorities, left farm work for higher paying jobs in industry. It was obvious that America was growing again. “ Shock Troops ” of the Countryside The war in Europe continued. Although farmers jumped at the opportunity to produce more for the Allies and make more money for themselves, like most Americans they wanted to stay out of the war. Then the attack on Pearl Harbor changed everything. Farmers dedicated themselves to the “ defeat of the Axis. ” They eagerly adopted science and technology, such as planting hybrid corn, to increase production. Yet even as farm output increased, food rationing went into effect. Farmers began using more and more machinery to replace animal power. The shift away from horses and mules freed up more land for the production of feed grain for livestock and increased meat production. In 1942, the Food Administration was formed to bolster food production. “ Food will win the war and write the peace ” became USDA ’ s slogan. Life on the farm got busy, even hectic, and by the end of 1942 farm labor became scarce. To stem the tide of men leaving farms to go to war, the Government exempted 1,600,000 men from the draft. These farm workers helped fight the war on the home front. The “ shock troops ” of the countryside made a major difference. By the end of the war U.S. food and fiber production reached record levels. As one farmer declared in a letter to President Roosevelt, they “ had surpassed the efforts of any other class of people in these United States. ” Agricultural Science and Research at War
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