Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Federal Government Works on Soil Conservation Plans for Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Federal Government Works on Soil Conservation Plans for Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Local eyes watched the federal government with suspicion as it appeared out of the dark clouds of the Dust Bowl.

The outsiders talked about a New Deal with plans to ground the blowing soil and plant new hopes.

Little did the farmers know that at the turn of the century those conservation plans and a whole new crop of government officials would be as integral to Oklahoma agriculture as themselves.

"It's part of farming," said Jack Carpenter, who farms 2,500 acres in Custer County. "We've done a great amount of work in preserving the soil. But, we're not finished."

The policy of conservation that helped create the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service remains strong in Oklahoma 64 years later.

The state has yet to recover from the devastation of the 1930s. It takes about 200 to 500 years to build an inch of soil, said Dewain Phillips, spokesman for the federal agency in Oklahoma.

"Most of the farmers have a true love of the land, and they want to pass it on to the next generation," Phillips said. "We want to make sure the land is still there to do that. It's a service for our country, not just the farmers."

The land almost didn't make it.

It was put to the test with one of Mother Nature's fiercest and most destructive beatings. During the 1920s, farmers across the Midwest sowed wheat to meet the demands of World War I. But farm practices did not protect the ground against wind erosion.

A drought hit. Dust from the overplowed and overgrazed land began to blow.

"I remember the black clouds rolling. The soil from southeastern Colorado was a different color, a charcoal," Ed Tippens said, recalling the 2-feet-high piles of dirt that collected at the doorstep and along the fence posts of his family's Custer County homestead.

Dozens of dust storms coated the Midwest. Visibility was less than one-half mile with wind speeds reaching 50 mph. There were deaths reportedly from suffocation.

When the severity of the storms finally blew east to the nation's capital, President Franklin Roosevelt's began to put his full weight behind new farming techniques.

Congress declared soil erosion "a national menace. …

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