Brief History of the USDA Soil Bank Program
During the mid-1950's farm commodity surpluses were increasing and net farm income was declining. The Department of Agriculture, under Secretary Ezra Taft Benson's leadership, favored reducing production of surplus commodities by lowering price supports, but Congress resisted this approach. The USDA administration was philosophically opposed to production control through either acreage allotments or marketing quotas. But the Congress and the administration did agree on an alternative--voluntary land retirement through acreage rental payments to farmers. The Soil Bank (Title I of the Agricultural Act of 1956) had multiple purposes--reducing production of basic crops, maintaining farm income, and conserving soil. This paper provides a brief overview of the Soil Bank program and its long term value for conservation.