Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience

By John R. Wunder; Frances W. Kaye et al. | Go to book overview

AGRARIAN RADICALS: THE UNITED FARMERS
LEAGUE OF SOUTH DAKOTA

Allan Mathews

Agricultural recessions have caused distress on several occasions among farmers in South Dakota and have given rise to protest movements that sounded the call for economic justice. The People's Party, the Nonpartisan League, and the Farmer-Labor Party were among these movements. In the 1890s South Dakotans joined the People's Party and helped elect Populist-Democrat Governor Andrew E. Lee for two terms. 1 Just prior to World War I farmers joined the reform-minded Nonpartisan League in the search for relief and supported the candidates of the League. This support diminished when Progressive Republican Governor Peter Norbeck adopted many of the programs of the League as his own. In the mid-1920s farmers formed the Farmer-Labor Party, and soon other reform movements followed. 2

The threat of foreclosure was the main reason for unrest in the 1920s. Farmers had earlier plunged into debt to enlarge their farms as heavy rains produced bumper crops and world markets sustained high prices. Suddenly, about 1924 rains diminished and prices dropped because of world-wide overproduction. Soon banks failed and foreclosure threatened.

Governor Warren Green later described the situation as “the most serious [that] has confronted our state in recent history.” 3 Urging responsible actions, the governor called leading citizens together at Huron to seek solutions to the distress. The Committee of Twenty-two responded with a plan whereby boards of county commissioners could issue farmers, living in hard hit areas, warrants to buy feed for their livestock. 4 However, the governor's action was not enough to appease

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