Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression, Updated and Expanded
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At no time during the Great Depression was the contradiction between agriculture surplus and widespread hunger more wrenchingly graphic than in the government's attempt to raise pork prices through the mass slaughter of miliions of "unripe" little pigs. This contradiction was widely perceived as a "paradox." In fact, as Janet Poppendieck makes clear in this newly expanded and updated volume, it was a normal, predictable working of an economic system rendered extreme by the Depression. The notion of paradox, however, captured the imagination of the public and policy makers, and it was to this definition of the problem that surplus commodities distribution programs in the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations were addressed.
This book explains in readable narrative how the New Deal food assistance effort, originally conceived as a relief measure for poor people, became a program designed to raise the incomes of commercial farmers. In a broader sense, the book explains how the New Deal years were formative for food assistance in subsequent administrations; it also examines the performance--or lack of performance--of subsequent in-kind relief programs.
Beginning with a brief survey of the history of the American farmer before the depression and the impact of the Depression on farmers, the author describes the development of Hoover assistance programs and the events at the end of that administration that shaped the "historical moment" seized by the early New Deal. Poppendieck goes on to analyze the food assistance policies and programs of the Roosevelt years, the particular series of events that culminated in the decision to purchase surplus agriculture products and distribute them to the poor, the institutionalization of this approach, the resutls achieved, and the interest groups formed. The book also looks at the takeover of food assistance by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its gradual adaptation for use as a tool in the maintenance of farm income. Utliizing a wide variety of official and unofficial sources, the author reveals with unusual clarity the evolution from a policy directly responsive to the poor to a policy serving mainly democratic needs.
have allowed states to impose new work requirements and to retain half of any savings achieved by withholding benefits from recipients who failed to comply.124 This proved to be a deal breaker for some Democrats who had planned to vote for the bill. Republicans had a narrow majority in the House, and some Tea Party–inspired Representatives had indicated that they would not support the bill, but Speaker Boehner had calculated that he had enough Democratic votes to make up the difference. When the
FERA Files; Kerr, “Production-For-Use,” pp. 7, 8; FERA, “The Federal Surplus Relief Corporation,” pp. 22, 23; Lambert, “The Drought Cattle Purchase,” pp. 88, 89. 46. Westbrook to Hopkins, June 27, 1934, FSRC Files; FSCC, Report, Calendar Year 1935, p. 5; Nourse et al., Three Years of the AAA, p. 201. 47. “Relief Factories; An Issue,” U.S. News, p. 5. 48. Schlesinger, New Deal, p. 278; Philip Murphy to Keith Southard, memorandum, September 18, 1934, FSRC Files; “Shoes for Needy; Private
Section 32 and, 205–206, 218–219, 220, 225, 232; shipping of produce and, 221–222; unresponsiveness toward poor and, 224–225, 233 Federal Surplus Relief Corporation (later the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation): authorization of, 130–131; beef canning project and, 165–167; board of directors of, 133, 197; charter of, 131; competition with private enterprise and, 155–157, 162–163, 164–165, 166–170, 175; cooperative self-help and, 159–160; corporate powers of, 154–155; CWA and, 160–161,
disagreements over the organization’s operating style, and conflicting personalities hampered the AAA from its inception. As chief of the new agency, Roosevelt appointed George Peek. A hero among farm leaders because of his tireless work on behalf of the McNary-Haugen plan, Peek had many supporters on Capitol Hill. Furthermore, he had the backing of Bernard Baruch, under whom he had served on the War Industries Board in World War I, and thus of other powerful Democrats influenced by Baruch.
types of food we plan to issue for the food will include everything necessary for healthful living,” he told newspaper reporters in a press conference after his Hyde Park meeting with Roosevelt.13 Wallace, on the other hand, had referred to the plan in internal memoranda as “the President’s direction to me to cooperate with the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in removal of surplus commodities.”14 The fact that the secretary of agriculture and the Federal Emergency Relief administrator