Calvin Coolidge photo

Special Message to Congress on Need for Revising Reclamation Law

April 21, 1924

To the Congress of the United States:

I would respectfully urge on Congress the immediate necessity of revising the present reclamation law.

The Secretary of the Interior appointed a special advisory committee of six members to study reclamation and make report to him. That committee has completed its work and has made its report to the Secretary of the Interior, and he has transmitted that report to me. I herewith transmit it to you.

Many occupants of our reclamation projects in the West are in financial distress. They are unable to pay the charges assessed against them. In some instances settlers are living on irrigated lands that will not return a livelihood for their families and at the same time pay the money due the Government as it falls due.

Temporary extensions of time and suspension of these charges serve only to increase their debts and add to their hardships. A definite policy is imperative, and permanent relief should be applied where indicated. The heretofore adopted repayment plan is erroneous in principle, and in many cases impossible of accomplishment. It fixes an annual arbitrary amount that the farmers must pay on the construction costs of projects regardless of their production.

In its place should be substituted a new policy providing that payments shall be assessed by the Government in accordance with the crop-producing quality of the soil.

The facts developed by the special advisory committee show that of the Government's total investment $18,861,146 will never be recovered. There will be a probable loss of an additional $8,830,000. These sums represent expenditures in the construction of reservoirs, canals, and other works for the irrigation of lands that have proven unproductive. I recommend that Congress authorize the charging off of such sums shown to be impossible of collection.

Because of high rates of interest and other agricultural difficulties existing, farmers are often unable to borrow money for temporary relief. The establishment of a credit fund by the Government from which farmers on projects may secure capital to make permanent improvements, buy equipment and livestock, should be considered.

More than 30,000 water users are affected by the present serious condition. Action is deemed imperative before the adjournment of Congress, that their welfare may be safeguarded.

The probable loss and the temporary difficulties of some of the settlers on projects does not mean that reclamation is a failure. The sum total of beneficial results has been large in the building up of towns and agricultural communities and in adding tremendously to the agricultural production and wealth of the country. Whatever legislation is necessary to the advancement of reclamation should be enacted without delay.


THE WHITE HOUSE, April 21, 1924.

Calvin Coolidge, Special Message to Congress on Need for Revising Reclamation Law Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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