Reconstruction in the Dust Bowl

August 3, 1937

Report Outline
New Attack on Wind Erosion Menace
Causes of Distress in the Dust Bowl
Proposed Methods of Reconstruction
Progress of Federal and State Programs

New Attack on Wind Erosion Menace

Coordinated Program of Department of Agriculture

A Long-Range Program of reconstruction, designed to check the rapid spread of wind erosion and to mitigate the effects of future droughts, is at present being undertaken in the “Dust Bowl” of the Southwest by the Department of Agriculture. The new program involves the coordination of separate programs being carried on in the region by four different agencies in the department—the Soil Conservation Service, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Extension Service, and the Resettlement Administration. Early in June, headquarters were set up at Amarillo, Texas, and Roy I. Kimmel, who had been in charge of the rehabilitation program of the Resettlement Administration in the Southwest, was designated by Secretary Wallace as field coordinator of the regional program.

The region included in the present program consists of about 105 counties in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, with a total area of 140,000 square miles, or more than three times the size of New York state. Since 1930, the effects of the severe droughts which have afflicted this region have been aggravated by a new phenomenon—dust storms. These storms have not only caused great human suffering but have done incalculable damage to the soil, as well as to crops, buildings, and farm machinery. Some localities have been made uninhabitable, many thousands of families having been forced to abandon their farms and move elsewhere. Last January, in reporting on a survey of wind erosion in 25 counties in the heart of the Dust Bowl, Arthur H. Joel, of the Soil Conservation Service, wrote:

The conditions around innumerable farmsteads are pathetic. A common farm scene is one with high sand drifts filling yards, banked high against buildings, and partly or wholly covering farm machinery, wood piles, tanks, troughs, shrubs, and young trees. In the fields nearby may be seen the stretches of hard, bare, unproductive subsoil and sand drifts piled along fence rows and across farm roads, Numerous livestock have died as the result of strangling, eating excessive amounts of grit, and from starvation, all associated directly or indirectly with wind erosion and drought. The costs and difficulties of travel in the area have been seriously increased. Numerous roads become impassable after a few serious dust storms, and many cars have been ruined or badly damaged…. To all of this add poverty, heavy indebtedness, enormous relief costs, and other social and economic difficulties, and the picture in many localities is a most discouraging one.