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Statement and Letter on the Appointment of a Special Committee on Farm Tenancy.

November 17, 1936

The President has appointed a special committee of farm leaders, editors, and persons prominent in public affairs to make a report on the most promising ways of alleviating the shortcomings of the farm tenancy system. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace has been asked to serve as chairman of the committee, and L. C. Gray, Assistant Administrator of the Resettlement Administration, is designated Executive Secretary and Technical Director.

A continued increase in farm tenancy during the past half century was cited by the President in his letter to Secretary Wallace, as "significant evidence that we have fallen far short of achieving the traditional American ideal of owner-operated farms." The number of tenant farmers in the United States has grown steadily since the first count was taken in 1880, and this growth in tenancy has been "frequently associated with soil depletion and declining living standards."

Under the general auspices of the National Resources Committee, the special committee on farm tenancy is charged with the duty of reporting by February 1, 1937, on ways and means of developing a land tenure system "which will bring an increased measure of security, opportunity, and well-being" to farm tenants.

In his letter to Secretary Wallace, the President urged that the committee confer with other leaders in State and national affairs, and referred specifically to Senator John H. Bankhead of Alabama and Representative Marvin Jones of Texas who had worked actively for the enactment of farm tenancy legislation during the 74th Congress.

Herewith is a copy of the letter written by the President to Secretary Wallace, together with a list of those who have been asked to serve on the committee.

My dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to ask you to serve as Chairman of a special committee which will make a report to me not later than February 1 on a long-term program of action to alleviate the shortcomings of our farm tenancy system.

I am anxious that we thoroughly examine and report on the most promising ways of developing a land tenure system which will bring an increased measure of security, opportunity, and well-being to the great group of present and prospective farm tenants. The rapid increase of tenant farmers during the past half century is significant evidence that we have fallen far short of achieving the traditional American ideal of owner-operated farms. The growing insecurity of many classes of farm tenants, frequently associated with soil depletion and declining living standards, presents a challenge to national action which I hope we can meet in a thoroughly constructive manner.

It is my thought that the first step in evolving a workable program is the preparation, under the general auspices of the National Resources Committee, of a comprehensive report by a special committee of persons who have both an extensive knowledge of the problem and a sympathetic interest in its solution. I am designating Dr. L. C. Gray, Assistant Administrator, Resettlement Administration, to serve as Executive Secretary and Technical Director for this special committee.

As you know, Senator John H. Bankhead and Representative Marvin Jones have manifested a keen interest in this problem and, during the 74th Congress, worked actively in behalf of proposed tenancy legislation. It is my desire that the committee consult with them. It will be helpful also to secure the views of other State and national leaders.

The list of persons whom I am asking to serve on this committee is enclosed.

Very sincerely yours,

Honorable Henry A. Wallace

Secretary of Agriculture

Washington, D. C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement and Letter on the Appointment of a Special Committee on Farm Tenancy. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/208433

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