Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The 98th Anniversary of the Government Dust Bowl

98 years ago, tomorrow, one of the largest dust storms in recorded history hit North America.  The cause of it was largely man-made.  More importantly, it was GOVERNMENT made.
In 1914, the government began pursuing a policy of agricultural growth.  Funding was given to educate more farmers and to cultivate millions of acres of previously fallow soil.  By 1930, 300% more farmland was being cultivated. 

By 1932, the topsoil in these areas, once covered and held in place by miles and miles of prairie grass, had been forever changed by constant exposure to the elements.  In one month, between mid-April and mid-May, two large dust storms destroyed crops and farmland in the midwest, much of it the newly cultivated fields.

For days, many cities and small towns sat in dark clouds blown in from the fields.  Chicago and Cleveland were coated with the dust.  The soil filtered into auto engines, rendering them useless.  Houses were covered by dark drifts of soil.  Livestock died from ingesting the dust.  Worst of all were the deaths of those farmers and others who were caught out in the sudden dust storms, unable to find shelter quickly enough to survive.

Finally, the government reacted with more directives... But not before 650 million tons of topsoil were blown away.  The policies did little, if anything, to improve the situation.  When the rains finally began again in 1938, nearly 9 million acres of dust covered an area where once had been rolling plains.  Within a year of regular rain, that number fell to a little over 1 million acres.
What the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 did to the financial sector, the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 had done to the agricultural sector.

It was now time for the government to come in and play savior to a crisis it had, itself, created.

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