Franklin D. Roosevelt

Statement on Signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act.

March 01, 1936

In signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act, I feel that I am approving a measure which helps to safeguard vital public interests not only for today, but for generations to come.

This legislation represents an attempt to develop, out of the far-reaching and partly emergency efforts under the Agricultural Adjustment Act, a long-time program for American agriculture.

The new law has three major objectives which are inseparably and of necessity linked with the national welfare. The first of these aims is conservation of the soil itself through wise and proper land use. The second purpose is the reestablishment and maintenance of farm income at fair levels so that the great gains made by agriculture in the past three years can be preserved and national recovery can continue. The third major objective is the protection of consumers by assuring adequate supplies of food and fibre now and in the future.

The Federal Government, with an annual expenditure far less than the actual yearly wastage of fertility by erosion in the past will make grants of money to farmers, conditioned upon actual evidence of good land use. Thus, in carrying out the soil conservation plan, there will be provided a positive incentive to and protection for those who voluntarily shift from soil-depleting surplus crops, such as cotton, corn, wheat and tobacco, into erosion-preventing and soil-building crops, such as grasses and legumes, of which there is no surplus. This will help to bring about and maintain a healthy supply-and-demand situation from farm commodities, and will have a beneficial effect on farm prices and farm income.

There will be no contracts with farmers. The program does not control individual production of individual farm commodities. The absence of production control may make impracticable the attainment of exact parity prices, as defined in the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Nevertheless, I am confident that the farmers, cooperating with the Government, will work hard within existing legal limitations to achieve the goal of the new law, which is parity not of farm prices, but of farm income. They and we have not abandoned and will not abandon the principle of equality for agriculture.

In general, the new farm act follows the outlines of a longtime policy for agriculture which I recommended in my statement of October 25, 1935. The wise use of land which it seeks to encourage involves sound farm practice and crop rotation as well as. soil conservation. The income insurance feature afforded by the conditional payments will help farmers to maintain these beneficial systems of farming without interruption in poor crop years. Long-time adjustments, as I said last October, can be adapted to natural soil advantages of regions and localities.

Sound farming is of direct interest not only to farmers, but to consumers. To the extent that the new plan succeeds in its aim of preserving and improving farm lands, consumers will share substantially in the benefits. In years of surplus, consumers may lightly take for granted the continuance of adequate supplies of food and fibre; but the recurring dust storms and rivers yellow with silt are a warning that Nature's resources will not indefinitely withstand exploitation or negligence. The only permanent protection which can be given consumers must come from conservation practiced by farmers.

For a long time, I have felt that there was need for concerted action to promote good land use. Years ago, as Governor of the State of New York, I took such steps as I could in that direction, and I described them in detail in a speech at French Lick, Indiana, June 2, 1931, on the subject "Acres Fit and Unfit." I said that, having reached a determination as to the best use of land, "we arrive at once at the larger problem of getting men, women and children—in other words, population—to go along with a program and carry it out." I said, "Government itself must take steps, with approval of the governed, to see that plans become realities."

As I made that speech, I was thinking in terms of my State, of other States and of the Nation. Now this new Act incorporates a system of Federal aid to function when State cooperation with the Federal Government can be arranged.

The provision for State-Federal cooperation, beginning not later than January 1, 1938, will mark a further application of the principle of shared responsibility. This is in accord with the strong feature of the agricultural adjustment programs which operated in a democratic manner through cooperation with the State land grant colleges, State committees, county associations and county committees, township committees and individual farmers.

The history of every Nation is eventually written in the way in which it cares for its soil. The United States, as evidenced by the progressive public opinion and vigorous demand which resulted in the enactment of this law, is now emerging from its youthful stage of heedless exploitation and is beginning to realize the supreme importance of treating the soil well.

I do not regard this farm act as a panacea or as a final plan. Rather I consider it a new basis to build and improve upon, as experience discloses its points of weakness and of strength. Aiming at justice for agriculture and self-interest for the Nation, the plan seeks to salvage and conserve the greatest values in human life and resources with which this Nation is endowed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Statement on Signing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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