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NRCS Historical Articles - Great Plains Conservation Program, 1956 - 1981

A Short Administrative and Legislative History

by Douglas Helms

Reprinted from Great Plains Conservation Program: 25 Years of Accomplishment. SCS National Bulletin Number 300-2-7. November 24, 1981.

Enthusiastic supporters of the Great Plains Conservation Program recently gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the authorizing legislation, signed August 7, 1956. The program was the latest of the nearly three-quarters of a century of local, state, and federal efforts to deal with drought, dust storms, and the resulting agricultural instability on the Great Plains. The novel feature of the program was that it provided for the government's sharing the cost of conservation measures with farmers and ranchers under a contract.

Settlement and Early Droughts

The proponents of this new concept had reason to believe that something new was needed to adjust man's agricultural endeavors to the climatic and geographic realities of the plains. Most had witnessed the drought of the 1930s and had heard tales of the ones in 1887-97 and 1910-13. The emphasis in the new program on developing enduring conservation practices rested on an understanding that drought would return to the Great Plains. A review of earlier periods of climatic stress is important because the understanding of recurring drought shaped the thinking of the people who devised and administered the Great Plains Conservation Program.

Reports from 19th century military expeditions led Americans to regard the area between the 100th meridian and the Rocky Mountains as the "Great American Desert."  Major Stephen H. Long, after crossing the area, declared it "almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence." Soldiers returning from the Civil War had plenty of the fertile tall grass prairie left to settle.1  Eventually settlement pushed westward to the plains as promoters tried to dislodge the notion that the region was not fit for agricultural settlement. The few who had pushed out onto the plains in the mid-1870s had to withstand both drought and grasshoppers.2

With the return of favorable weather in the 1870s, movement into western Kansas and Nebraska intensified. In Ellis County, Kansas, it was observed that "incessant breaking for wheat can be seen in all directions."3  The boom in settlement peaked in the mid-1880s. There were 3,547 homestead entries in Kansas in 1884. New entries in 1885 and 1886 numbered 9,954 and 20,688, respectively. As the boom receded in Kansas it continued in Colorado. There had been only 1,808 homestead entries in 1886; the number increased to 5,081 in 1887 and peaked at 6,411 the following year. During the latter two years, 4,217,045 acres, predominantly in the plains, were filed under the Homestead Act and the Timber Culture Act. The lack of capital and insufficient knowledge about farming in semiarid conditions took its toll when the drought resumed in the late 1880s. That many settlers had departed and that many never took up residence on their claims was evident in the 1890 census. There were only 3,535 farms reported in fifteen eastern Colorado counties. Quite a number of these farms were along the Arkansas and Platte rivers.4

The western movement was turned back with the drought that began in the late 1880s and lasted ten years with a few good years interspersed. Population statistics revealed the impact but not the suffering involved. Western Nebraska had a decline of 15,284 residents during the decade of the 1890s. During the same period the western Kansas population dropped from 68,328 to 50,118, and a considerable number had left before the census was taken in 1890.5  According to one estimate, half the population of western Kansas departed between 1888 and 1892. Twenty vacant towns stood witness to the effects of drought on the entire economy.6

Farther south in Texas, farming had not supplanted ranching to any great extent. Generally, the farms were larger than those of the other plains states which had been limited in size by the homestead laws. Having larger farms, Texans were better able to persevere through the drought.7  Drought also struck the northern plains, and population declined in some areas. As would be the case in the future, drought was not as devastating as it had been in Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado.8  Emergency relief measures did not begin with federal assistance in the 1930s. Already in the l9th century state governments were being called upon for assistance. A Mendota, Kansas, housewife wrote to Governor Lewelling in 1894, "I take my pen in hand to let you know that we are starving to death. It is pretty hard to do without anything to eat here in this God forsaken country....My husband went away to find work and came home last night and told me that he would have to starve....If I was in Iowa I would be all right." With such conditions widespread, several state and private organizations undertook relief measures. The Nebraska legislature appropriated $200,250 in 1891, mainly for food and grain. Colorado provided $21,250 to supply farmers in eight counties with seed for the 1891 planting season.9  Kansas spent $60,000 for the same purpose in 1891. In response to the 1886 drought in Texas, the state gave $100,000 in aid to 28,000 individuals.10

The drought dislodged the belief among farmers as well as the scientific community that rain followed the plow; that growing crops and plowed fields induced greater rainfall.11  With that faith destroyed, farmers and agriculturalists were ready to make concessions to the climate and turned their attention to adjustments in farm management, cultivation methods, and drought resistant crops.

The hardy qualities of the "Turkey Red" wheat brought to the plains by Russian-German immigrants around 1873 became obvious during the dry years. Mark Carleton and others now set out to discover other crops suitable to the area.12

Farmers began to adapt their cultural practices to the climate. Hardy Webster Campbell became the chief promoter of dry farming, although some of the measures predated his involvement in the campaign. Campbell's Soil Culture Manual (1902) recommend deep fall plowing, thorough cultivation before and after seeding, light seeding, alternating summer fallow, tillage during fallow and crop years, sub-surface packing, and inter-row cultivation.13

With the return of favorable weather in the first decade of the 20th century, dry farming spread across the plains. Cattle raising was also prospering. Both ventures received a shock with the return of drought in 1910. The dry farming method had some sound elements, but it was no panacea for withstanding drought The dry farming movement was practically destroyed in South Dakota, leading one critic of its more exaggerated claims to surmise that it was time to "to cut out the cheap talk about dry farming and talk cows."14  Actually the cows were not fairing all that well either. Selling during the drought, 1910-11, and losses during the winter of 1911-12 reduced Great Plains herds seventy percent. The reduction drove many ranchers out of the business. The turnover of ownership benefited the land. Newcomers had a better idea of the value of good range management, both to their pocketbooks and to the conservation of the range.15

The 1910-13 drought in the southern Great Plains brought another problem. A small "dust bowl" developed in Thomas County, Kansas. Although dust storms were not confined to Thomas County, the storms that swept over 65,000 acres from 1912-14 were probably as severe as any since. Responding to the need to reduce dust storms, Kansas State College issued its first bulletin on wind erosion control in 1912.16

The return of rain in 1914, high prices, and government exhortations to produce for the war effort led to an expansion of wheat growing in the Great Plains. The wheat acreage in the plains areas of Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota increased from 2,563,000 acres in 1909 to 4,903,000 acres in 1919.  Nationwide profits on wheat rose from $56,713,000 in 1913 to $642,837,000 in 1917. Between 1909 and 1924 plains farmers increased the wheat acreage by 17,000,000 acres. Even the drought in 1917-1921 did not measurably slow the change. Many settlers gave up in the northern plains but acreage figures for wheat held steady. Nor did the drop in wheat prices in the early 1920s have much effect. Farmers responded to declining prices by planting more to recoup dwindling profits. Another 15,000,000 acres went from grass to wheat between 1924 and 1929. Much of the expansion in the late 1920s took place in the southern plains where wheat acreage increased 200 percent between 1925 and 1931. With only a few interruptions the years 1914-1931 had been good in terms of weather.17

The Dust Bowl

The 1930s ushered in another prolonged drought. Scant use of structural, cultural, and vegetative water conservation measures further complicated the problem. The lack of rainfall prevented good stands of wheat and left the ground barren for wind erosion. By August 10, 1933 there had been thirty dust storms in the vicinity of Goodwell, Oklahoma. Another year of drought in 1934 left 97,000,000 acres in eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma susceptible to wind erosion. Newspaper reports brought the storms national attention. A reporter for the Washington (D.C.)  Evening Star supplied the term "dust bowl" to describe the area.18  The dust bowl, or the worst of the general blow area, was in Baca County, Colorado; the six most southwestern counties in Kansas; Cimarron and Texas counties, Oklahoma; Dallam and Sherman counties, Texas; and a portion of Union County, New Mexico.19

The Soil Conservation Service and its predecessor, the Soil Erosion Service, had increasingly turned their attention to the area. By the end of 1936, SCS had established fifty-five demonstration projects in the Great Plains with a heavy concentration in the worst wind erosion areas. When the projects began in 1934, only 10,454 acres in the project areas were being farmed using soil and water conservation measures. With its large force of Work Projects Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps labor, plus the work of farmers, the Service made progress. The results at the conclusion of 1936 were impressive--conservation measures in place on 600,000 acres--including 155,000 stripcropped acres, 200,000 contour tilled acres, contour furrows on 85,000 acres of grasslands, and 3,600 miles of terraces on 65,000 acres. Additionally, 200,000 acres of grassland were under management to prevent overgrazing. The acreage of erosion retarding crops had been increased twenty-eight percent. With the adoption of conservation district laws by the states, beginning in 1937, the Service extended its technical assistance to areas outside the demonstration projects. The Service assisted in contour listing (an emergency wind erosion control practice) 2,500,000 acres in 1936.20  The federal government spent $793,000 for emergency wind control measures under its Agriculture Conservation Program in 1938. The total drought emergency expenditures for cattle and sheep purchases, feed and forage, seed, loans, and erosion were $212,916,000 in 1936, $2,735,000 in 1936, $515,000 in 1937, and $1,000,000 in 1938.21

Other government programs involved planting windbreaks in the shelterbelt project supervised by the Forest Service. The Farm Security Administration and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics purchased what were termed "submarginal lands" under the land utilization program. After revegetating the land, the government proposed to lease it for grazing. SCS eventually assumed leadership of both programs.

The Plains in the 1940s

Again the rain and war seemed to arrive at about the same time. Weather in the Great Plains improved in 1940. The government called on farmers to produce food for the military forces and the allies when World War II began. As SCS employees entered the armed forces, the reduced staff was instructed that "Emphasis should be given to the widespread application of conservation practices that contribute the most to maintaining or increasing yields and that can be (1) applied with little or no additional use of farm labor, equipment, power and production supplies and (2) furthered with the minimum of technical assistance." Nationwide, World War II had varying effects on soil conservation. The situation in the Southeast and Mississippi Delta improved in 1943-44 when compared to 1935-39, due partially to the reduction of row crops. The Corn Belt had significant losses compared to 1935-39. The Great Plains showed little change after the recovery from the dust bowl but there was cause for concern about the future.22

H. H. Finnell, regional conservationist at SCS's Amarillo (Texas) office and an authority on wind erosion control, was concerned. He conceded that the World War II plow-up had not been as extensive as that of World War I. Nonetheless, he saw future problems. Farmers had planted pinto beans on loose, sandy soils in New Mexico, cotton on sandy land in Texas, and wheat on thin soils in Colorado. Finnell particularly directed his ire at absentee land speculators in Colorado, who had tried to get Colorado's soil conservation law nullified in the state supreme court and who were lobbying to have the lands reclaimed under the land utilization program put up for sale.

Not only was the use of submarginal land for crops detrimental to the soil, according to Finnell, but also it could not be justified economically. The profits from wheat for a few years would not compensate for revenue lost on grazing while the range was being re-established. Finnell called for a special type of agriculture for the area:

A more logical and permanent remedy would be the development of an intermediate type of agriculture to use marginal land. This land is just as capable of being efficiently operated as any other lands, provided the demands made upon it are kept within its natural moisture and fertility capabilities. Ranching is not intensive enough to resist temporary economic pressures; while grain farming is too intensive for the physical limitations of the land. A special type of agriculture for marginal land is needed. It must use the land more intensively than ranching and at the same time more safely than grain farming. Men of stable character and more patience than those who ride on waves of speculation will be needed to work this out.23

The trend continued as prices held up after the war because of demand from countries where war had disrupted the agricultural economy. Between 1941 and 1950 farmers broke out about 5,000,000 acres. The estimate was that 3,000,000 acres of this land was not suitable for cultivation. In fact, some of it had not previously been in crops.24

Drought of the 1950s

An extended drought and dust storms returned in the 1950s. Western Nebraska ranchers travelling to their annual convention on June 8, 1950 had hazardous driving conditions and saw roadside ditches filled with soil. Most of the 100,000 windswept acres in Scottsbluff, Box Butte, Morrill, and Sioux counties were summer fallow fields with no conservation practices or irrigated sandy land for beets and beans.25  The worst blowing of the 1950s was yet to come. SCS surveyed the plains and located the most susceptible areas. The survey cited the bean growing area of Colorado--Pueblo, Crowley, El Paso, and Lincoln counties. The wheat had died over large parts of the Oklahoma panhandle. Chase and Perkins counties, Nebraska, were listed as critical, as was central Kansas. There were problems in the cotton growing areas of Lamesa-Lubbock, Texas. Eastward across the plains, the western cross timbers of Oklahoma and Texas planted in cotton, wheat, peanuts, and watermelons had also experienced blowing.26

The Department of Agriculture set up a Great Plains Committee in April 1950 to study the problem and make recommendations. The drought continued, leaving acre after acre without any vegetation to protect it from erosion. The dust storm that signalled the national awakening to the "filthy fifties" occurred on February 19, 1954. H. H. Finnell observed the storm from Goodwell, Oklahoma. He wrote to Tom Dale of SCS:

... conditions in the marginal zone are worse than in the 1930s because poorer lands under more arid conditions have been exposed to wind erosion in a wider territory than in the will be more difficult to subdue than the wild lands of the 1930s. Catastrophe to the land has already exceeded that of the 1930s, but due to the absence of financial straits and hysteria which existed in the 1930s, farm abandonment has been much slower to gain headway....I had hoped the lessons of the 1930s would be more widely grasped and acted upon than they have been. I don't know how many times this thing will have to happen to the Southern High Plains before the idea of safe land use soaks in. The agricultural potential of the area was measurably lessened by the experience of the 1930s and will be again. Too much Class IV land is being physically transformed into Class VI and VII.27

Newspapers treated the nation to stories that depicted little difference between the drought of the 1950s and that of the 1930s, except for the absence of outmigration. The Washington (D.C.) Daily News proclaimed that the "new dust bowl" was "in roughly the same place on the map as the old one."28 Actually there had been some significant changes. The area subject to wind erosion was larger and encompassed all of the area of the 1930s. More significantly the centers of the worst areas had shifted and expanded. The area in New Mexico stretched from Quay down to Lea County. Adjoining it in Texas, the blow area was bounded by Palmer County on the north and Ector County in the south. The Colorado blow area extended from the eastern border to El Paso and Pueblo counties. The points of the triangular area in Kansas were Wallace, Finney and Morton counties. With the exception of Baca County, Colorado, and Morton County, Kansas, most of the earlier dust bowl was not included. The conservation measures of the 1930s had obviously helped. After another three years of drought, some of the older dust bowl had been included, but the problems were not as persistent as those of the newer areas that Finnell had pointed to in his 1946 article.29

The Colorado legislature made $1,000,000 available to dust bowl farmers in March 1954. The U.S. Department of Agriculture spent $13.3 million on emergency tillage in 1954 and another $9,275,000 in 1955. The Agriculture Conservation Program funds spent on drought emergency conservation measures in twenty-one states, 1954-56, totaled $70,011,000. Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas used $37,848,000 of the funds. Additional funds went to other drought relief measures.30

USDA and the Great Plains Agricultural Council

While the relief measures were being extended to the plains states, the USDA continued working through its committee on land use problems in the Great Plains to develop a program to reduce the need to respond periodically with emergency measures. The Soil Conservation Service suggested to the committee that the government use "financial assistance to encourage farmers to convert cropland to grass with the federal government paying at least 50 percent of the cost and making an agreement to continue the program over a 5-year or longer period."31  The full committee elaborated on the proposal. The report recognized that "diverting the 6 to 8 million acres of cropland that are unsuited for cultivation to grassland is largely a problem of voluntary action or land use regulation, hence it must be handled mainly by State and local governments and individual owners." But "cost-sharing payments....might be increased and spread over a period of 3 to 5 years while grass is being established." To discourage a subsequent plow-up it might be necessary to use "restrictive covenants and surrender of eligibility for allotments, loans and crop insurance."32

Meanwhile, the Great Plains Agricultural Council, born during the drought of the 1930s, had begun to develop a long-range program. Representatives of the USDA met with council members on May 31-June 2, 1955, to develop a program. A later meeting, July 25-27, refined the proposals. President Dwight D. Eisenhower transmitted the council's "Program for the Great Plains" to Congress on January 11, 1956. The program did not specify that cost-sharing for conservation practices would be offered through contracts with farmers and ranchers. It did, however, call for sharing the cost of "installing and establishing those practices which are most enduring and most needed but which are not now a part of their normal farm and ranch operations. The ACP cost-sharing program on those practices that are intended to bring about those land use adjustments required for a long-range program will be accelerated and rates of payments made more flexible."33

The Department of Agriculture was already considering the specifics of how the program might be implemented, including long-term contracting. Donald A. Williams, Administrator of the Soil Conservation Service, wrote to Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Ervin L. Peterson that the soil conservation districts would be a perfect device for implementing whatever plan Congress adopted. Williams made it clear that the districts could incorporate these new activities into their existing programs so as "to insure a permanent, sound coordinated land use and management program in the Great Plains area." To emphasize SCS's interest in the new program Williams made it clear that he was "prepared to ask SCS personnel to aggressively work with the district governing bodies to the fullest extent possible in this effort."34

Public Law 84-1021

Congressman Clifford Hope of Kansas introduced a bill (H.R. 11833) on June 19, 1956, that was to become the Great Plains Conservation Program. The bill provided that the Secretary of Agriculture could enter into contracts, not to exceed ten years, with producers. No contract was to be signed after December 31, 1971. The Secretary was to designate the counties in the ten Great Plains states that had serious wind erosion problems. The contracts would outline the "schedule of proposed changes in cropping systems and land use and of conservation measures" to be carried out. The bill further stipulated the obligations of the grower and made the provision that any acreage diverted to grass would not affect commodity acreage allotments for the time of the contract. Not more than $25,000,000 was to be spent in any year, and the total could not exceed $150,000,000. Assistant Secretary Peterson testified before the House Committee on Agriculture on June 28, 1956. Peterson responded mainly to questions concerning how the program differed from the new Soil Bank. Representatives from beef producing states expressed concern over the effects of putting more land to grazing purposes when cattle prices were already depressed.

Karl C. King, a Pennsylvania congressman, but a native of Reno County, Kansas, thought that buying the land would be cheaper than applying conservation measures. Congressman Hope interceded to explain what the program planned to accomplish in terms of farm management. One of the problems of the plains had been the pattern of outmigration during drought followed by a wave of new settlers when the weather improved. Each new group had to learn the tough lessons that came with the drought. The proposed program, as Hope explained it, would assist farmers and ranchers through the drought, improve farming and ranching techniques, and lessen the impact of future droughts.

The hearings concluded after John A. Baker of the National Farmers Union testified in favor of the legislation. Baker, who would later oversee the Great Plains Conservation Program as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, had some reservations. He wanted it known explicitly that the new program would be a "partial supplement, not a substitute for existing programs." The possibility that the Farmers Home Administration could deny credit to farmers who did not follow a conservation plan was also of concern. Baker stated that plains farmers and ranchers had "some qualms and some apprehensions about these master plans." Nonetheless, the Union supported the bill.35

In reporting out the bill on July 7, the committee emphasized that the program was voluntary and that participation would not be a necessary condition for making acreage allotments, FHA loans, agricultural credit, or eligibility for other Department of Agriculture programs. One proposal to speed up the conversion of land not suited for cropping back to rangeland had been to make crops on that land ineligible for federal crop insurance. Although the committee did not specifically mention the insurance program, the report gave their view on possible linkage of USDA programs.36

The House of Representatives passed the bill on July 23, and the Senate concurred without changing the bill on July 26. President Eisenhower signed Public Law 84-1021 on August 7, 1956, with the statement that the act authorized the "Secretary of Agriculture to enter into long-term contracts with farmers and ranchers in the Great Plains states to assist them in making orderly changes in their cropping systems and land uses which will conserve soil and water resources and preserve and enhance the agricultural stability of that area."37

SCS Selected to Administer Program

It then fell to the Department of Agriculture to develop a plan for administering the program. Actually, the agencies within the Department were at work on plans before the President signed the legislation. Donald Williams of SCS and Paul Koger of the Agricultural Conservation Program Service had discussed implementation. They agreed on a number of points but could not agree on which agency should administer the program. Both wrote to Assistant Secretary Peterson in early August. Williams presented a detailed proposal for administering the program with SCS as the lead agency. Koger pointed out that ACPS had traditionally dealt with the cost-sharing aspects of conservation programs. Both agencies continued to work on plans and awaited the decision. The Commodity Stabilization Service supported the ACPS. The Great Plains Agricultural Council suggested that the county Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation committees handle the cost-sharing aspects of the services.38

Peterson resolved the issue in Secretary's Memorandum No. 1408 on December 10, when he assigned responsibility to SCS. He also announced the creation of the Great Plains Inter-agency Group, composed of all the cooperating USDA agencies, to develop the policies and procedures. The same day Williams appointed Cyril Luker to chair the group and called a meeting of the state conservationists of the ten Great Plains states to work on the new program.39  Assistant Secretary Peterson attended the first meeting of the Inter-agency Group on December 17 and reiterated what he expected from it. He emphasized that "short term activities must be consistent with the long-range objectives." Whatever the group developed had to have the understanding and support of the Great Plains Agricultural Council.40

Luker appointed task forces on information, cost-sharing and contracts, farm and ranch planning, and meshing the legislative authorities of the various agencies. The group sought and received advice from outside. Federal, state, and local officials and representatives from cattle and sheep raising groups and farm organizations held a January meeting in Denver to draw up suggestions. During the next weeks the task forces met and reported back to the full group with their majority and minority findings. Again Peterson met with the group and stated that the matters on which there was no unanimity had left the group on "dead center." The differing views should be documented and presented to him for resolution. Peterson resolved several issues at the meeting. The scheduling of practices was a technical matter and should be included in the farm plan, because the single practice concept conflicted with the long-range good of the program. Certification of installment of measures would be the responsibility of SCS.41  As the work of the group progressed the Assistant Secretary was called on for additional decisions, the main one being whether SCS would serve as the contracting agency because it had responsibility for helping the owner develop the farm and ranch plan for the entire unit. Therefore, SCS should have responsibility for insuring that the practices were installed as scheduled and that they be maintained throughout the life of the contract.

The SCS people participating in drawing up the list of cost-share practices could draw upon over two decades of experience of working with farmers and ranchers. Also, managing the lands acquired under the land utilization program gave SCS technicians an opportunity to test various conservation measures. The conservation practices in GPCP accordingly reflected this field experience.42

Great Plains Inter-agency Group

Not surprisingly, the question of cost-sharing for irrigation came up for discussion. The majority of the Farm and Ranch Planning Task Force wanted to exclude irrigation, but J. B. Slack of the Farmers Home Administration and Jefferson C. Dykes of the SCS disagreed. They pointed out that irrigation was needed on some small ranches to achieve the goal of economic stability by providing supplemental feed. It would help bring about the desired land use change on the rest of the farm. The fear that it could encourage carrying more animals than the ranch could support would be corrected in the contract. The minority view prevailed, and irrigation was included.43

The matter of establishing the exterior boundaries for the program did not occasion much controversy. The criteria developed by the group included physical and climatic conditions that made crops undependable, erosive and deteriorated soils, and the need for land use change and conservation measures. The group solicited the states' suggestions on counties to be included under the criteria. Under this criteria, the boundary generally corresponded with the one proposed in the Great Plains Agricultural Council's program for the plains. As to which counties would initially be designated, the group added the element of local interest and initiative. It would be better to get the program off to a good start in counties where farmers were asking for assistance and then expand to the rest of the area.44

With many of the details worked out, those who worked on the program anxiously awaited the appropriations hearings. Peterson and Williams testified before the House Committee on Appropriations and requested $20 million per year. Again they were called upon to explain how the new program differed from the Agricultural Conservation Program. Peterson emphasized the hope that the money spent on GPCP would reduce the amount needed for emergency drought programs. The committee appropriated $10 million for the year.

In the months following the hearing, the group firmed up the policies and procedures, refined the list of practices, established the percentage of cost-shares for each practice, developed a handbook, and trained the SCS staff in drawing up contracts. The work unit conservationist was well acquainted with developing conservation farm plans, but the element of contracting was new.

Beginning of GPCP

Berthold Sackman of Stutsman County, North Dakota, signed the first contract on December 19, 1957. The same day, Walter L. Wood and Robert H. Hunt of Gaines County, Texas, signed contracts.45  These three and the subsequent contracts were to provide from 50 percent up to 80 percent of the average cost of conservation measures and included a schedule for the coordinated implementation of measures. The plans called for an assortment of complimentary conservation measures to stabilize the farm or ranch in accordance with the owners' objectives.

There were cost-sharing items for establishing vegetation on lands previously cropped and for reseeding range. Irrigation for pasture and forage, fencing, and development of water supplies supported the shift to rangeland and were designed to prevent overgrazing. Conservation measures for cropland included contour stripcropping, terracing, grassed waterways, land levelling, reorganizing irrigation systems, and windbreaks. The terms "permanent" and "enduring" were used to describe the conservation measures. GPCP architects hoped that farmers and ranchers would maintain the measures after the expiration of the contract. The fact that they were willing to pay part of the cost of installation boded well for long-range retention.

Such reluctance as there was on the part of owners centered on the contractual aspects of the program. Farmers had over twenty-five years of experience in dealing with government supervised acreage allotments and commodity price support programs. The notion of entering into a contract with obligations on both sides was a novelty. The work unit conservationists, as they were called in the 1950s, explained the new approach and pointed out the benefits.

Any reluctance to enter into a contract soon withered as farmers and ranchers saw the benefits neighbors derived from signing up. It was not long before the applications exceeded the amount of money available--a condition that has continued throughout the history of GPCP. By September 1959, twenty months after the first contract was signed, there were 3,142 contracts covering 8,597,385 acres with a federal obligation of $16,794,041. There were 2,579 applications for assistance in SCS offices throughout the Great Plains states.46

Limitation on Irrigation and Contract Size

Despite the impressive start, Williams and Luker found reason to reevaluate some aspects of the guidelines. Some of the early contracts had been larger than anticipated, with a substantial part of the funds going to irrigation. Actually, accelerated land treatment could be carried forward more rapidly under large contracts, but the trend held some dangers for the continuation of the program. With limited funds going into the large contracts, many applications would go unserviced. Eventually, there would be criticism that GPCP was only for large farmers and ranchers. Expensive irrigation construction could easily absorb most the money provided in individual contracts. There was a fear that the package of inter-related conservation measures for the whole land unit would be neglected and that critics would regard GPCP as a production, not a conservation program.

Williams and Luker proposed to the state conservationists in the Great Plains states that the amount spent on irrigation in individual contracts be limited to one-fourth of the contract with a $2,500 maximum. They developed a set of priorities to be used in selecting contracts to fund. Units having difficulty converting from cropland to permanent vegetation; units having wind and water erosion problems on rangeland or cropland suited to continuous cropping; and units having erosion problems requiring cooperative action by several owners would have priority. They further advised that the size of the farm or ranch should not determine the priority of assistance but that "a sufficient number of medium and small farms and ranches should be scheduled to provide a representative balance in the use of resources."47

State conservationists Lyness Lloyd of North Dakota and H. N. "Red" Smith of Texas objected to the percentage limitation on irrigation practices. Lloyd stated that the change would hinder the stabilization of ranches while the conversion to ranching was being made. Irrigation was needed to provide cattle feed and pasture while former cropland was being returned to range.48 Smith said the alteration in the program would reduce support for GPCP and eliminate a large part of the state from participation. He wrote, "The principal leadership in the Great Plains portion of this state have a strong interest in irrigation farming....The proposed fund limitation for irrigation practices would particularly eliminate irrigated cropland in this state from participation."49  Objections notwithstanding the limitation of cost-sharing on irrigation practices went into effect. A year later on May 29, 1959, SCS placed a $25,000 limit on individual contracts.50

Protecting the Cropland History

The supporters of GPCP managed in 1960 to correct an aspect of the legislation which was viewed as an impediment. Some farmers who were willing to convert cropland to grass or to crops better suited to the land nonetheless wanted to retain the option of keeping the crop allotments and any payments due them. Public Law 1021 had protected the cropland history of the farm for the period of the contract. President Eisenhower signed Public Law 86-793 on September 14, 1960, to protect the cropland history for twice the length of the contract.

Diversity of GPCP Contracts

While the Washington office and state staffs wrestled with administrative and legislative details, significant progress in implementing conservation measures was taking place. GPCP contracts reflected the geographical diversity within the plains, the various types and sizes of agricultural units, and the objectives of individual farmers and ranchers.

D. H. and Charlene Dean of Claunch, New Mexico, made a total conversion from cropland to ranching. To convert 2,000 acres to grazing land, the Deans installed three ponds and three miles of water lines for livestock, six miles of cross fences, and controlled brush on 845 acres.

Rancher-farmers had more of a mixture of conservation measures for cropland and range. Walter Markel of Gray County, Kansas, had an 804 acre farm. He added 1,800 feet of diversions, installed 21,000 feet of terraces, and contour farmed and stubble mulched 231 acres. Thirty-nine acres were furrow seeded. For better grazing distribution he added 330 rods of fences. Markel had belonged to the local soil conservation district since 1949. He was in some ways typical of many who used GPCP to make progress on a farm conservation plan that they had envisioned for years.

GPCP contracts were used near Dumas, Texas, to solve flooding in the town. Ten farmers constructed 22,120 feet of waterways. In the process, 2,560 acres of irrigated cropland were also protected.

In addition to individuals, it was also possible for groups to sign contracts. A dozen FmHA-financed grazing districts in Montana held GPCP contracts in 1968. The contracts called for over 10,000 acres to be seeded and reseeded and for putting up 39,000 rods of fences. The reseeded range provided twenty-five percent more forage by 1968, with other acres remaining to be reseeded under the contracts.51

The use of a GPCP contract on the Dee Hankins farm in Wichita County, Texas, demonstrated the rehabilitation, both physically and economically, of worn-out land. The 815 acres (665 cropland, 140 acres rangeland 10 acres farmstead) had been sold six times in four years. Much of the farm was waterlogged and denuded because of salt deposits. The plan called for 65 irrigated acres, 267 dryland crop acres, 161 acres of irrigated pasture and 312 acres of rangeland. Concrete irrigation ditches were used for water conservation on the irrigated part. Two hundred acres of waterlogged and salt denuded land was seeded to sideoats grama and native grasses. The acres planted in coastal Bermuda grass were hayed, grazed and provided strips of sod to sprig other farms. The farm became economically viable and remained so until Hankins sold it for suburban development.52

State Trends in GPCP Contracts

Although there was much diversity of conservation practices established on individual farms and ranches, there were some state and regional trends in the 1960s. Based on the percentage of total expenditures for each practice (1957-1972), North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Nebraska led in establishing permanent vegetation on former cropland. Oklahoma and Texas were by far the leaders in reseeding rangeland. Only in North Dakota was stripcropping significant. That state also led in establishing windbreaks, followed by South Dakota. Leading in percentage expenditures on terracing were Kansas (30%), Nebraska (20%), and Texas (17.5%). New Mexico and Wyoming had the most activity in dam construction for erosion control, and Montana easily spent the most on waterspreading. Land leveling was most prevalent in Colorado and Kansas. Only Montana spent over 10 percent of its money on fences. Controlling invading mesquite and other undesirable shrubs was understandably highest in the two southwestern states, New Mexico and Texas.53

Congress Extends GPCP

The program had become so popular that each year's allocations to states were usually obligated early in the year for contracts that had already been written. As the expiration date of P.L. 1021 approached, farmers, ranchers, conservation district supervisors, and state officials hoped and worked for the extension of the program. All groups had some idea how the program might be improved, but the main objective was to have it extended. Most senators and representatives from the Great Plains states cosponsored the legislation. At the hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture, Congressmen George H. Mahon and Richard C. White of Texas and Thomas Kleppe and Mark Andrews of North Dakota testified for the extension. Several other congressmen inserted statements into the record. Norman A. Berg, Associate Administrator of SCS, testified for the Department of Agriculture.

Berg could point to 56,601,700 acres covered by 31,122 contracts. Thirty-seven percent of the funds had been spent to establish vegetation or for reseeding. The average contract had been about $3,500, covering 1,822 acres. Earlier Congressman Richard Crawford had inserted even more impressive information from "Red" Smith of Texas concerning the long-range objective of the program. A survey of the 4,050 expired contracts in Texas determined that 93.3 percent of the conservation measures had been maintained. Many of the 271 owners who had not maintained conservation practices did so in order to participate in commodity allotment and diversion programs.

Along with requesting the extension, Berg supported changes that would confirm the contribution the soil and water conservation districts had been making to GPCP. Farm conservation plans, developed with district assistance, had been used as the basis for contracts. The change in legislation acknowledged this arrangement. Another provision would allow contracts on non-agricultural land that had erosion. Enhancement of fish, wildlife, and recreation in the plains would be eligible for cost-sharing.54

At the 1956 hearings, only the National Farmers Union had supported the GPCP. Now the Farm Bureau and National Grange added their support to that of the Union. The National Association of Conservation Districts enthusiastically supported the extension. Lyle Bauer, Area Vice President, spoke for the extension and the provision to define the role of soil and water conservation districts. The House reported out the bill. After a conference to work out some changes suggested by the Senate committee, the legislation was signed on November 18, 1969. Public Law 91-118 extended the program ten years with a ceiling of $300 million and an annual budget not to exceed $25 million.

Boundary Extended

The House of Representatives hearings in 1969 created a new "legislative history" that allowed expansion of the exterior boundary. Most of the counties within the original boundary had finally been included. In fact, SCS had already added five outside the boundary. Within a month of the signing of the first contracts, SCS recommended adding an additional 22 counties. Donald Williams explained the situation to Assistant Secretary Peterson. "The interest of local people had not developed sufficiently to include this list of counties at the time the initial list was submitted for consideration July 3, 1957."  By the end of 1958, the Secretary had approved another 78 counties.55  Thereafter, there was steady growth until there were 417 designated counties on January 1, 1968. State conservationist "Red" Smith proposed in 1963 that the boundary be extended to include the western cross timbers where there had been wind erosion in the 1950s. He made a good case for the needs of the area. Williams responded that the legislative history would not permit such an extension and that, before any extension, the whole boundary should be studied. Furthermore there was already a backlog of applications, and the lower than authorized appropriations created a "need to concentrate the program in the 422 counties within the original approved boundary."56

F. A. Mark summed up the feeling of the state conservationists. Unless additional funds could be had, any extension would "play havoc with needs in the existing authorized area."57   The National Association of Conservation Districts favored extending the principles of GPCP but favored keeping the original boundary. The Great Plains News informed district members that the original boundary should probably have been drawn farther west in the northern plains and farther east in the southern plains. They asked rhetorically, "once the boundary is changed where can the stopping point be?"58 With the new authority provided in the GPCP extension, the number expanded from 424 in January 1970 to 469 counties in 1972. The number remained there until Public Law 92-263, signed on June 6, 1980, extended GPCP for another ten years. Another 49 counties then entered the program, bringing the total to 518.59

Contract Size Increased

The matter of the limitations on contract size and irrigation costs have continually been discussed throughout the life of GPCP. On one side have been state and local people who favored an increase. But the administrators of the program have had to be attentive to criticism during the 1960s of large payments to individual farmers. The differences in the conservation program and its long-term goal and in commodity programs has not always been obvious to those unfamiliar with the specifics of the programs. The fact that plains farms and ranches were, of necessity, larger than those in humid areas has also led to misunderstanding. A group of state officials and other GPCP leaders suggested in 1975 that the contract limitation be raised to $40,000 and irrigation practices to $7,500. There was little consensus among the state conservationists responding to the proposal. Some wanted the increase; some did not. Some said that the change would neither hinder nor help GPCP. Interestingly, the attitude in Texas had changed. Edward Thomas, state conservationist, wrote that "some restraint is needed to keep the use of irrigation practices compatible with the legislative intent of the program."60  The limitation remained in effect until Norman Berg, Chief of SCS, raised the limits to $35,000 total and $10,000 for irrigation in November 1980. By then, inflation had more than negated any effect the change would have had on the uniqueness of the program.

Special Practices

Some of the toughest administrative decisions have concerned approving "special practices." These are designed to allow flexibility for state and regional problems for which the standard GPCP cost-share measures are not adequate. Usually the requests are for sound conservation initiatives, but, nonetheless, are recurring, annual practices which do not meet the criteria of being "enduring." Requests to cost-share for stubble mulching and planned grazing systems have been denied. Approval has been given to the construction of stock trails for livestock distribution, initial planting of tall wheatgrass for wind erosion control, and drip irrigation to get windbreaks established. Recently Norman Berg, Chief of SCS, approved conservation tillage as a special practice.61  Considering the durability of farm machinery and the initial investment required, it would seem to fit into the "enduring" category.

Special Areas

The success and popularity of GPCP have been such that it inspired suggestions that other sections of the United States could benefit from similar programs. Programs for other specifically designated areas have not succeeded in Congress. The problem of wind erosion may actually have been a benefit in getting legislation enacted for the Great Plains. The dust storms that blew over cities in the 1930s and 1950s awakened urban residents to the problem in the plains and created a feeling of empathy. The deterioration of resources in other areas has not been as visible to persons outside the immediate area. Thus, these problems have not received similar national attention. But there has been one significant development. The Agriculture and Food Act of 1981, as reported out by the committees, included a special areas conservation program to "identify and correct erosion-related or irrigation water management" problems. If the law is enacted, the Secretary of Agriculture can provide technical assistance and share the cost of conservation measures. Under this program, the areas would not be designated in the legislation. The Secretary would have the discretion of selecting areas to participate.62  It need hardly be noted that the record of GPCP convinced senators and congressmen of the value of a similar program for their states.

Other USDA Programs

Throughout the life of GPCP, there have been suggestions and attempts to merge GPCP with other cost-sharing programs. The argument that has spared GPCP from merger or elimination has been SCS's ability to demonstrate the necessity of linking cost-sharing, technical assistance, and good farm and ranch management to attack a special problem in a special area.

Various cost-sharing and loan programs administered by different agencies need not overlap or create rivalries to the detriment of the conservation effort. During the GPCP Inter-agency Group meetings, the Farmers Home Administration offered to adjust its loan procedures to fit GPCP. This adjustment made it possible to advance FmHA loans in consecutive years to owners and, thereby to assist in carrying out the conservation plan under GPCP. The eligibility of GPCP participants for conservation reserve payments under the now expired soil bank, the long-term agreements, and ACP payments administered by the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service has varied through the past twenty-five years. Cost-sharing funds under ACP could contribute to achieving conservation farming and ranching. However, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) ruled that after January 1, 1979, participants in GPCP would not be eligible for the ACP cost-sharing program.63  Prior to that time the ability and willingness of the SCS district conservationist and the FmHA and ASCS representatives to develop a working relationship has been crucial to coordinating programs for the best effect.

The matter of meshing acreage allotments and the commodity price supports that go with them has been of greater concern to those who framed or directed GPCP. Generally, these programs were regarded as being incompatible with the objectives of GPCP because these programs encouraged farmers to plant land to crops that were better suited by capability to grassland or less erosion inducing crops.

In assessing the impact of acreage allotments, one must consider the total effect of farm prices on conservation. The experience of the late 1920s and early 1930s is illustrative. When farmers who have mortgage payments to meet are faced with declining commodity prices or prices that do not keep pace with inflation, the tendency is to expand production to reap an ever diminishing profit on each acre--regardless of the capability of the land. Without endorsing a particular commodity price system, it should be recognized that a healthy and stable agricultural economy is conducive, even necessary, to good conservation farming and ranching.

The Part of GPCP in SCS History

The Great Plains Conservation Program has been significant in the development of SCS and can be regarded as a third era in its history. The agency began operations through demonstration projects and provided WPA and CCC labor, seed, plants, equipment, and other supplies. The Service then shifted to working through conservation districts. The labor, equipment, and supplies ceased being available with the onset of World War II. The conservation effort then rested on the ability of conservation district supervisors and SCS conservationists to convince land owners of the benefits of conservation. The Small Watershed Act (1954) and GPCP provided SCS with the inducement of cost-sharing to accelerate the conservation work with local governing bodies and individuals. The lessons learned on contracting and cost-sharing in GPCP have been the model used for land treatment in Small Watershed Projects, the Resource, Conservation and Development Program, the Rural Abandoned Mine Program, and the Rural Clean Water Program.

GPCP also changed the role of the individual SCS conservationist to a limited extent. The GPCP contract was much like a good conservation farm plan, only more detailed. Under the contractual arrangement, he had to certify that both parties, government and individual, met their obligations. Insuring compliance with some aspects of a contract, such as preventing newly seeded range from being grazed too soon, was a new task for the conservationist. These new management roles brought a closer working relationship between the conservationist and the farmer that eventually benefited the land. Not only did farmers and ranchers learn better farm and ranch management techniques, but also the expertise of the conservationist increased. Improved stewardship of land has resulted.

The contract between the individual and the government has been the aspect of GPCP that made it unique. SCS technicians annually reviewed contracts to insure that cost-sharing monies were spent and practices maintained as specified in the contract. Although breaches of contracts were the exception, SCS in some cases cancelled contracts and collected payments made to violators. Such vigilance, combined with a willingness to make changes in contracts when justified, early established the reputation of GPCP as a unique conservation program.64

A Unique Conservation Program

The burden of keeping GPCP attuned to its objective also fell on the administrators in the Washington office. During the last twenty-five years, national agricultural policy has fluctuated between using various programs to promote production of commodities and de-emphasizing production programs to reduce surplus commodities. It is usually expected that all agricultural programs be adjusted to the goal. GPCP has had to operate in the varying climate of national agricultural policy and yet retain its objective. As SCS and the National Association of Conservation Districts were preparing in 1968 to ask for an extension of the program, William Vaught, supervisor of GPCP operations, spoke to the Great Plains conservation district leaders about retaining the uniqueness of GPCP.

Don Williams, in maintaining a personal interest in the program, has held steadfast over the years in his efforts to keep faith with Congress. And I might add that it has not been an easy thing to do. He has been under constant pressure to relax some of the we move into the process of attempting once again to solicit the support of Congress...we can be thankful for his determination. I think we have kept the faith with Congress and its intent to provide a unique program--regional in nature--to help us solve those tough wind erosion problems.65

The succeeding administrators, Kenneth Grant and R. M. Davis, kept the program on course. The present Chief, Norman Berg, "grew up with the program" and knows the elements that have to be retained to keep it unique. The administrators and chief have relied on specialists to advise and carry out the daily operations of GPCP. Cyril Luker started the program as head of the Inter-agency Group and was followed by Norman A. Berg, William L. Vaught, John W. Arnn, Julius H. Mai, John J. Eckes, and Guy D. McClaskey.

Impact of GPCP

Of necessity, the success of the program must be judged in terms of the land and its condition, compared to the 1950s. What happened to the land? SCS estimated in 1956 that between 11 and 14 million acres were in cultivation in the plains that should be in grass. SCS had to estimate the figure because soil surveys and land capability studies had not been completed. Before the enactment of P.L. 1021, the Service increased the hiring of soil scientists for surveying the plains states. Furthermore, the state conservation district associations concurred in plans to shift experienced soil scientists from the prairie and mountain sections to the plains to accelerate the soil surveys.66  By September 30, 1980, 2,869,062 acres of former cropland had been converted to grassland. An undetermined percentage of this has reverted to crops since the expiration of contracts. Developments in conservation tillage and drought resistant crops have reduced the hazards of cropping marginal lands. With the need to spread the use of conservation tillage, it is desirable not to present it as the new "panacea' that makes complementary conservation measures unnecessary. Drought resistant crops have been of great benefit in controlling wind erosion. However, if the drought is so prolonged on some sandy land that spring germination is impossible, it will make little difference whether the seeds are of drought resistant varieties or not.

Other questions surround the success of GPCP. Did irrigation for pastures and for forage make cattle raising possible for ranchers who did not own enough land for dryland ranching? Have we seen the last of the wild fluctuations in the number of cattle on the range during droughts and good years? Has the program halted the cycles of migration out of the plains during droughts and land speculation in the good years that resulted in each succeeding generation repeating the mistakes of the past? Were farmers and ranchers better able to withstand droughts? Studies in North Dakota and South Dakota indicated that this was the case. In short, did GPCP bring about the agricultural and resource stability promised in 1956? A study of these questions and others would be of interest on the county, state, and regional level. All of them may not be answerable by quantification, or by the numbers. Many who participated in GPCP as farmers, ranchers, district conservationists, or conservation district supervisors believe that the judgment is in the affirmative, or partially so, on many questions.

Donald Williams recently summed up his dual feelings of success and frustration over the conservation movement in general. "It seemed like we would get to a certain point and then something would happen. The war would break out. The price of wheat would go up, and the farmers would go out and plow up the land again. So there you are; you had to back up and start over again in a way. But we never went clear back to where we were before. We had a better starting point so that we were able to get ahead."67  No doubt many regard GPCP as a significant development in the push to "get ahead" with conservation work.


1 Gilbert C. Fite, The Farmers' Frontier: 1865-1900 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966), 3.

2 Fite, 14 and 115; Mary W. Hargreaves, Dry Farming in the Northern Great Plains, 1900-1925 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957), 33-36.

3 Fite, Farmers' Frontier, 113.

4 Fite, 120-124.

5 Fite, 131.

6 Fred A. Shannon, The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture, 1860-1897 (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1945), 308.

7 Fite, Farmers Frontier, 199-200.

8 Hargreaves, Dry Farming, 61-63.

9 Fite, Farmers' Frontier, 129.

10 Fite, p. 200.

11 Fite, 131; Hargreaves, Dry Farming, 52-54.

12 John T. Schlebecker, "Tillage and Crops on Prairies and Plains America, 1830-1960," Journal d'Agriculture Tradionnelle et de Botanique Appliquee 24 (1977): 179-180.

13 Hargreaves, Dry Farming, 87; Wayne D. Rasmussen, ed., Readings in the History of American Agriculture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1960), 167-172.

14 Hargreaves, Dry Farming, 200.

15 John T. Schlebecker, Cattle Raising

on the Plains, 1900-1961 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963), 44-56.

16 Anonymous, "Wind Erosion and Dust Storms on the Great Plains," Great Plains Conservation Program Files, Soil Conservation Service, Washington, D.C.

17 John T. Schlebecker, Whereby We Thrive: A History of American Farming, 1607-1971 (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1975), 209-210; R. Douglas Hurt, "Agricultural Technology in The Dust Bowl, 1932-40," in The Great Plains: Environment and Culture, Brian W. Blouet and Frederick C. Luebke, eds., (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980), 139; Hargreaves, Dry Farming, 545-546.

18 Hurt, "Agricultural Technology," 140-141.

19 Wind Erosion Reports, History Office, Soil Conservation Service, Washington, D.C.

20 The Future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1936), 134-135.

21 Joseph C. Wheeler to Jefferson C. Dykes, December 27, 1954, "Drought Committees," GPCP Files, SCS.

22 Walter W. Wilcox, The Farmer in the Second World War (Ames: Iowa State College Press, 1947), 105-106.

23 H. H. Finnell, "Pity the Poor Land," Soil Conservation 12 (1946), n.p.

24 R. Douglas Hurt, "Return of the Dust Bowl: The Filthy Fifties," Journal of the West 28 (1979), 85.

25 Arthur E. Emerson to Frank Harper, June 9, 1980, "Great Plains Committees," GPCP Files, SCS.

26 E. A. Norton to N. L. Munster, April 1950, and attachment "1950 Spring Soil Blowing in the Great Plains," "Great Plains Committee," GPCP Files, SCS.

27 H. H. Finnell to Tom Dale, March 23, 1954, Wind Erosion Reports, History Office, SCS.

28 Washington (D.C.) Daily News, March 10, 1954.

29 Ray Walker, "Reports of Wind Erosion Conditions in the Great Plains," Historical SCS Reports, GPCP Files; Maps in "Wind Erosion Reports," History Office, SCS.

30 Hurt, "Return of the Dust Bowl," 89-90; Federal Cost-Sharing for Drought Emergency Conservation Measures, 1954-1956, ACP, "Drought," General Correspondence, Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, Record Group 16, National Archives, Washington, D.C. (Hereinafter the abbreviations RG 16 and NA will be used).

31 Recommendations of the Soil Conservation Service to the Departmental Committee on Land Use Problems in the Great Plains, May 12, 1955, "Historical SCS Reports," GPCP Files.

32 Preliminary Report of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Possible Solutions for Agricultural Problems of the Great Plains, May 1955, "Historical SCS Reports," GPCP Files.

33 Program for the Great Plains, U.S. Congress, House Document No. 289, 84th Cong., 2d sess., 1956, 4.

34 Donald A. Williams to Ervin L. Peterson, May 1, 1956, "Drought," RG 16, NA.

35 Great Plains Conservation Program, U.S. Congress, House, Hearings before the Committee on Agriculture, 84th Cong., 2d sess., 1956, 1-36.

36 Great Plains Conservation Program, U.S. Congress, House Report No. 2640, 84th Cong., 2d sess., 1956, 2-3.

37 Press Release, White House, August 7, 1956, GPCP Files, SCS.

38 Donald A. Williams to Ervin L. Peterson, August 3, 1956; Paul Koger to Peterson, August 2 and September 21, 1956; Walter C. Berger to Peterson, October 18, 1956; John Muelbeier to Peterson, November 19, 1956, "Drought," RG 16, NA.

39 Donald A. Williams to State Conservationists, December 10, 1956, "Legislation," GPCP Files, SCS.

40 Minutes, Great Plains Inter-agency Group, December 17, 1956, GPCP Files, SCS.

41 Minutes, February 17, 1957.

42 James D. Abbott to the author, September 22, 1981.

43 J. C. Dykes and J. B. Slack, A minority report from the Farm and Ranch Planning Task-Force, February 19, 1957, "Great Plains Inter-agency Group," GPCP Files, SCS.

44 Ervin L. Peterson to Donald A. Williams, March 13, 1957, "Farm Program 2," RG 16, NA.

45 T. A. Neubauer, "Early History of the Great Plains Conservation Program," (1959), 6.

46 Cyril Luker, "Report on Development in 1959 on the Great Plains Conservation Program," (October 8, 1959), 8-11. "Legislation," GPCP Files, SCS.

47 Williams, Advisory Notice W-74, April 24, 1958, "Advisories," GPCP Files, SCS.

48 Lyness Lloyd to Williams, May 9, 1958, "Advisories," GPCP Files, SCS.

49 H. N. Smith to Williams, May 8, 1958, "Advisories," GPCP Files, SCS.

50 Williams to all SCS offices in the Great Plains Area, May 26, 1958; Great Plains Conservation Program Memorandum SCS-6 (Rev.), May 26, 1959, "Irrigation," GPCP Files, SCS.

51 These four examples are filed under "Information," GPCP Files, SCS.

52 James D. Abbott to William L. Vaught, January 2, 1968, "Information," GPCP Files, SCS; Michael A. Isbell, District Conservationist, SCS, Iowa Park, Texas, to the author, July 23, 1981.

53 A Program Evaluation of the Great Plains Conservation Program, Soil Conservation Service (May 1974):22.

54 Great Plains Conservation Program, U.S. Congress, House, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Conservation and Credit of the Committee on Agriculture, 94th Cong., 1st. sess., Washington (1969), 1-60.

55 Williams to Peterson, January 16, 1958, "Farm Program 2," RG 16, NA.

56 Smith to Williams, December 24, 1963; Williams to Smith, January 14, 1964, "Designation of Counties," GPCP Files, SCS.

57 F. A. Mark to Norman A. Berg, January 22, 1964, "Designation of Counties," GPCP Files, SCS.

58 Great Plains News, National Association of Conservation Districts, April 1964.

59 Robert G. Halstead, "25 Years of Success--GPCP 1956-81," speech to the 35th annual convention of the National Association of Conservation Districts, San Francisco, California, February 3, 1981.

60 Edward E. Thomas to Vic Barry, Jr., August 19, 1975, "Policy Changes," GPCP Files, SCS.

61 R. M. Davis to Allen L. Fisk, December 8, 1977; Victor H. Barry, Jr., to Benny Martin, June 21, 1977; R. M. Davis to Albert W. Hamelstrom, October 3, 1977; Davis to Robert D. Swenson; December 20, 1978; Edward E. Thomas to Albert w. Hamelstrom, March 4, 1977; Norman A. Berg to J. Michael Nethery, July 31, 1981, "Special Practices," GPCP Files, SCS.

62 Food and Agriculture Act of 1981, U.S. Congress, House Report No. 97-106, 97th Cong., 1st. sess., 1981, 320-322; Food and Agriculture Act of 1981, U.S. Congress, Senate Report No. 97-126, 97th Cong., 1st. sess., 1981, 253-254.

63 Section 162-B-3. Agricultural Conservation Program Development and General Provisions. Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.

64 William L. Vaught to John W. Peterson, September 20, 1981.

65 William L. Vaught to Norman A. Berg, September 11, 1968, and attached speech, "National Association of Conservation Districts Great Plains Committee," GPCP Files, SCS.

66 Jefferson C. Dykes, Oral History Interview, April 9, 1981, History Office, SCS.

67 Donald A. Williams, Oral History Interview, June 11, 1981, History Office, SCS.

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