Farm Labor Supply

March 14, 1942

Report Outline
Farm Production Goals and Labor Supply
Wartime Drafts on Farm Labor Supply
Measures to Overcome Reduced Supply of Farm Labor
Special Focus

Farm Production Goals and Labor Supply

Appeals for the largest farm output in the nation's history, made at a time when farmers' sons are being conscripted and large numbers of hired hands are being drawn into war Industries, have raised the question whether sufficient farm labor will be available to attain the desired production goals. It is generally agreed that the supply of farm labor will be drastically reduced by 1943, but there is less agreement as to whether an overall shortage at present exists or is likely to be experienced before the end of this year's growing season.

Complaints of a farm labor shortage come principally from the farmers themselves, echoed by their representatives in Congress, and to a lesser extent from government officials. A poll of members of the House from midwest farm areas reveals that each is receiving 20 to 50 letters a day from constituents who say they cannot obtain sufficient labor to plant and care for their crops. Senator Ellison D. Smith (D., S. C.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, said on February 10 that throughout the whole Atlantic seaboard, from Maine to Florida, there has come a cry for farm labor, and in my immediate section the condition is appalling.” In California the mass evacuation of Japanese is creating a critical shortage of farm labor according to Harold J. Ryan, Los Angeles County Commissioner of Agriculture, who pointed out, March 6, that “Japanese have been growing 68 per cent of the vegetable acres and 64 per cent of the truck crops.” Ryan called for immediate mobilization of women's and children's labor battalions.

Conflicting Opinions on Farm Labor Shortage

Testifying before the House (Tolan) Committee on Labor Migration in February, William J. Rogers of the Office of Agricultural Defense Relations, estimated that “during the coming harvest season agriculture may have at its disposal up to a million fewer workers than during the peak labor season in 1941,” and in March Secretary of Agriculture Wickard said the farm labor situation “is going to grow worse and worse.” On the other hand, M. Clifford Townsend, former governor of Indiana and now director of the Office of Agricultural Defense Relations, told the Northeastern Dairy Conference on March 4 that

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Farm Labor
Oct. 08, 2004  Migrant Farmworkers
Jun. 03, 1983  Migrants: Enduring Farm Problem
Feb. 11, 1959  Migratory Farm Workers
Apr. 04, 1951  Farm Manpower
Apr. 19, 1950  Migrant Farm Labor
Oct. 13, 1948  Collective Farming
Jan. 23, 1943  Farm Labor and Food Supply
Mar. 14, 1942  Farm Labor Supply
Farm Produce and Commodities
General Employment and Labor
U.S. at War: World War II