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Drought Shortages and Excess Crop Acreage (1935)

The Drought and Current Farm Imports - 1935 - Section 7

Section Seven from the 1935 Booklet Issued by the WPA covers topics on the impact of the drought has had on farmers and cattle ranchers and how the return to near normal rainfall in the key corn planting regions may cause overproduction.

After Drought Shortages -- What?

Wheat farmers, corn and hog farmers, livestock growers now find themselves in the situation of greatly diminished supplies and relatively high prices for their products.

The reduction in livestock numbers during 1934, according to the livestock inventory report of the Department of Agriculture issued the middle of February, was more than twice as great as in any other year of the 45 years of record.

All cattle were reduced 11.2 percent; hogs were reduced 35.3 percent. The corn crop was about a billion bushels under expectations, the wheat crop was short some 300,000 bushels of average production.

With prices for hogs, beef, corn, wheat, and other agricultural products supported by these shortages, the position of American agriculture is such that a cycle of expansion and overproduction ordinarily would be indicated for the near future.

This has already been true of similar periods in the past. After the drought year of 1894, for instance, when farmers harvested only about 1,615,000,000 bushels of corn, corn yields not only went back to normal in the following year, but farmers had planted an additional 10 million acres.

As a result of expanded production and normal yield in 1895, the price of corn went down approximately 45 percent from the level of the previous year, or from 45 cents to 25 cents.

Similar examples of overproduction and decline in prices following years of shortage might be cited for other grains and for livestock. Every livestock farmer knows that livestock cycles have been particularly disruptive in the past.

Will farmers in the next year or two experience the same disastrous over expansion of production and collapse of prices which followed on years of shortage in the past?

The weather of the coming season will be an important factor. Shortage of moisture during the early months of 1935 in parts of the western plains region has indicated a less than normal wheat crop, so that restrictions on wheat plantings for 1935 have been greatly modified by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration for those producers who agree to off-set this year's increased plantings next year.

Excess Crop Acreage Might Bring Over-Production Again

Rainfall throughout most of the corn belt and in other major crop regions was about normal during the early part of 1935, however, and abandonment of adjustment programs could soon result in excessive production once more.

The extra acreage in corn, cotton, and tobacco lands is still in existence, and is capable of producing unneeded surpluses again. Average weather for these crops and unlimited planting, brought about through the attraction of present high prices, could quickly cause a new surplus problem for American farmers.

The drought wiped out surpluses without removing any of the causes of those surpluses. It did not for example, lower any tariffs, or restore any of our export markets, the loss of which backed up surpluses on our home markets.

The elements of the beginning of an overproduction cycle are present at this time. Present adjustment programs are designed to adjust production to a level which will make up drought shortages, render importations unnecessary, and provide adequate supplies for domestic needs and for exports.

But only by continuing to utilize the cooperative planning facilities of the adjustment programs can American farmers avoid the disruptive fluctuations of production cycles of the past.

Index to Part I of the Current Farm Imports 1935 Booklet

  1. Introduction, Export-Import Status, Imports in 1923
  2. Current Imports, Relative Volume and Corn Imports
  3. Adjustment of Oats, Barley, and Rye; Meat Imports; Slaughter of Animals
  4. Butter Imports, Reduction in Tariffs, Present Situation
  5. Should Imports be Prohibited, Export Basis, Agricultural Exports
  6. Exchange of Goods, AAA Programs, Livestock Programs
  7. Drought Shortages and Excess Crop Acreage
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