The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 328
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
the nationwide economic downturn. Overproduction and undercon-
sumption had begun with the end of World War I. In the case of cotton,
underconsumption resulted from a variety of factors, especially declin-
ing exports due to high American tariffs, a reluctance of American
bankers to provide loans to help war-torn Europe purchase American
cotton, and synthetic fiber competition from the producers of rayon.
Cotton overproduction in the United States resulted in large part from
tremendous increases in acreage in new cotton areas, especially south-
western Oklahoma and northwestern Texas.2
Beginning in the mid-192os, five years before the Great Depression
began, the increasing hardship placed upon American cotton farmers
forced many of them to support programs designed to correct problems
caused by overproduction. These pre-New Deal undertakings alternated
between attempts to reduce cotton acreage and schemes to improve cot-
ton marketing techniques. None of these efforts were satisfactory.
In 1926, after cotton prices began to tailspin due to a record-breaking
crop of 18 million bales, a group of Texas bankers organized private
pools to purchase Texas cotton to relieve the glutted market in
exchange for pledges by growers to reduce their 1927 acreage by 25
percent. Bankers made similar efforts in other cotton states. The 1927
cotton acreage dropped by 11 percent in Texas and 12.4 percent in the
South, respectively. This figure, however, represented no greater
decrease than what normally occurred after a low-price year. Only par-
tially as a result of the bankers' efforts to reduce acreage, farmers saw
the return of twenty-cent cotton in 1927. This price would not last, how-
ever, because Texas farmers and their southern brethren increased their
cotton acreage again in 1928 and in every subsequent year up to 1932,
despite warnings of a return to 1926 conditions or worse.3
In the years following 1926, attention on how to aid the American cot-
ton farmer shifted from acreage reduction plans to efforts designed to
assist farmers in marketing their goods. The first attempts along these
lines were the various McNary-Haugen bills in Congress. This proposed
legislation had actually been a highly-debated topic in agricultural poli-
tics for five years before southern politicians lent their support following
the 1926 deterioration of cotton prices.
In 1922 two executives of an Illinois plow company-George N. Peek
and Hugh S. Johnson-began publicizing a plan for the relief of agricul-
ture that would eventually emerge as the McNary-Haugen bills. Peek and
Johnson's proposal called for a combination of an agricultural tariff and
2 Van L. Perkins, Criss in Agriculture: The Agricultural Adjustment Admznzstratzon and the New
Deal, 1933 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 18-21; Henry I. Richards, Cotton and
the AAA (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1936), 10-29.
s Gilbert C. Fite, "Voluntary Attempts to Reduce Cotton Acreage in the South, 1914-1933,"
Journal of Southern History, 14 (Nov., 1948), 481-97.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/374/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.