Farm Security Administration (FSA)

By Maddy and Paula

When was it created and why?

The Farm Security Administration (FSA), created in 1937 under the Department of Agriculture, helped with rural rehabilitation, farm loans, and subsistence homestead programs. The FSA was not a relief agency, but instead it relied on a network of cooperation between states and county offices to determine which clients needed loans that could not get this credit somewhere else. Farmers could use these loans to buy land, equipment, livestock, or seeds. Additionally, the FSA assisted families by providing healthcare, education, and training programs for participating families. The goal of these measures was to help families become self-sustaining. Many people including the Farm Bureau, denied the FSA. The FAA turned into a program to help poor farmers buy land, and that program continues to operate in the 21st century as the Farmers Home Administration. It was a relief and helped the farmers after the drought. It focused on improving the life of sharecropper, tenants, poor landowning farmers.

Elroy Hoffman of York

He was one of the farmers who took out a loan from the FSA to help him restart his farm. He remembers how it troubled him to go into debt. " When I got that FSA loan, it was for a $1,020, and I looked at the check and thought, 'Oh, my God, I'll never on God's earth pay that off, you know.' And now, what's $1,000 now?"

What Actions did they take?

The FSA loaned money to tenant farmers (renters) at low interest rates. The FSA also built model cooperative farmsteads for farmers who had been forced to receive relief (now known as "welfare"). The agency built camps in California for Okies and other migrant workers. The loan program was the main effort of the agency and thousands of tenant farmers were able to stay on the land because of them. Many were able to earn enough ahead to actually buy their farms outright. Elroy did not. He remained a renter all his life, but he was able to make a living.

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Unfortunate effects

The bought the small farms and moved them to bigger farms to where they would learn how to farm better and gain a bigger profit. This, unfortunately, cause a loss of the farmland to become overused and when it would run out of nutrients, it would be abandoned. This contributed to a huge area of land that, when massive winds blew on, it would cause hazardous storms. This area was know as the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl in the Great Plains displaced thousands of sharecroppers and laborers tenant farms moved on to California.

Madge Mary and her husband Lynn of Hickman, Nebraska

They borrowed money from the FSA in the late 30's. The loan allowed them to stay on the farm and gradually develop other businesses. Madge began selling the chickens she was raising, killing and cleaning. She sold them in town for "a dollar and a half a chicken. It's like our whole life started over again. We were given a new chance." Lynn started a feed franchise and then a propane gas delivery business. All the way along, Madge used the bookkeeping skills she had learned from the FSA. Finally, she went to work in Lincoln and became the head bookkeeper for a high-end clothing store.


One of the most memorable programs of the FSA is the collection of photographs that document the rural conditions from the Information Division of the Resettlement Administration. These photos helped to not only promote the programs of the RA, but to also show the people, cultures, and landscapes of rural America. However, this objective was unpopular among the majority in Congress as it appeared to be socialistic to some and threatened to deprive influential farm owners of their tenant workforce. Its focus then changed to building relief camps in California for migratory workers, especially refugees from the drought-struck Dust Bowl of middle America and the Southwest

Reaction of American People/ Government to Agency/Effort

Though the program assisted some 75,000 people, they were only a small share of those in need and were only allowed to stay temporarily. In the end, the program failed because the farmers wanted ownership and when the United States entered World War II in 1941, millions of jobs were available in the cities. By 1943, Congress greatly reduced FSA's activities and the following year, transferred its remaining responsibilities to the Office of War Information. During the FSA's existence was a small but highly influential photography program that portrayed the challenges of rural poverty. The program was managed by Roy Stryker, who initially headed the photograph division of the Resettlement Administration. When that program moved to the FSA, Stryker went wit it. Under him, the Information Division of the FSA adopted a goal of "introducing America to Americans," via a focus on photography and written narratives. At first, the photo division focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and of migratory agricultural workers in the Midwestern and western states. However, the scope of the project expanded over time and the photographers turned to recording rural and urban conditions throughout the United States and mobilization efforts for World War II.


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