Agricultural Issues and Controversies

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Agricultural Adjustment Act

The experimental Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) was the cornerstone farm legislation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agenda and was steered through the U.S. Senate by Joe T. Robinson, Arkansas’s senior senator. In Arkansas, farm landowners reaped subsidy benefits from the measure through decreased cotton production. Arkansas sharecroppers and tenant farmers did not fare as well, bringing about the establishment of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union (STFU). Upon taking office in 1933—during the fourth year of the Great Depression, on the heels of the Drought of 1930–1931, and amid the full force of the Dust Bowl—Roosevelt promised “a new deal for the American people” centered on “relief, recovery, and reform.” Counseled by advisors dubbed the “brain trust,” Roosevelt fashioned …

Agricultural Wheel

The Agricultural Wheel was a state farmers’ union, founded in the Arkansas Delta, which expanded into ten other states, mostly in the South but reaching as far north as Wisconsin. Although the Agricultural Wheel was short-lived as an independent farmers’ union, it influenced the future formation of other such unions in Arkansas and led, in part, to the rise of the Populist movement in the state. After the Civil War, Arkansas (and Southern) farmers returned to growing primarily cotton, in part because bankers had insisted on farmers raising a cash crop as a condition for providing them with financing. Cotton acreage therefore increased, but prices fell due to overproduction, leading farmers to compensate by planting yet more cotton, which led …