Burying White Gold: The AAA Cotton Plow-Up
Campaign in Texas
KEITH J. VOLANTO*
ACCORDING TO THE 1931 Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide, 70
percent of Texas's population in the early 1930s was primarily
dependent upon cotton for its livelihood. Included among this 70 per-
cent were not only cotton farmers, but also a large number of ginners,
shippers, merchants, financiers, and their employees. The collapse of
cotton prices that occurred at the onset of the Great Depression obvi-
ously threatened to deal a terrible blow to the entire Texas economy. By
1933, a combination of overproduction, decreased foreign and domes-
tic consumption, and a large carryover of unconsumed southern cotton
had joined to create potentially ruinous prices for Texas growers. The
declining cotton market also threatened the economies of other cotton-
producing states of the South. Meanwhile, by the spring of 1933, paral-
lel situations arose to create panic in the markets of most other agricul-
tural commodities produced throughout the nation.' Unless their
incomes were somehow augmented, a majority of Texas cotton farmers
faced the prospect of either losing their farms (if owners) or their
sources of employment (if tenants or sharecroppers). As hard times
threatened the state's cotton growers, many other Texans also were
placed in a precarious position.
Yet, for all its sudden fury, the Great Depression had merely exacer-
bated existing problems for American farmers. The "Roaring Twenties"
were hardly roaring for a majority of America's agricultural producers.
American agriculture was suffering through a decade-long slump in
prices before the infamous stock market crash sounded the beginning of
* Keith J. Volanto is currently a lecturer in the history department at Texas A&M University.
He is writing a book about the Agricultural Adjustment Administration cotton programs in
Texas, which was the subject of his doctoral dissertation at Texas A&M. The author would like to
thank Larry Hill, Robert Calvert, and Walter Kamphoefner for their help and guidance.
Research for this article was funded in part by grants from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential
Library and the Texas A&M history department.
I 1931 Texas Almanac and State Industrial Guide (Dallas: A. H. Belo, 1931), 166.
VOL. CIII, NO. 3 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed April 26, 2015.