Texas, Cotton, and the New Deal
Texas History - Agricultural History
6 x 9, 216 pp.
8 b&w photos., 2 tables., 8 cartoons. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 12/07/2004
Sam Rayburn Series on Rural Life, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Commerce
  cloth
Price:        $35.00 s

978-1-58544-402-1
  paper
Price:        $22.95 s

978-1-60344-299-2

Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Texas, Cotton, and the New Deal

By Keith J. Volanto

Cotton supplied the Native Americans with clothing fibers before the Spanish ever entered Texas. It drew Southern settlers fleeing U.S. antislavery trends during the Mexican Republic in the 1820s. By the early 1930s, cotton was produced in 223 of the 254 counties in Texas and was a central element in the Texas economy. The Great Depression created a major disruption that threatened to destabilize the entire Lone Star State.

In this book, Keith J. Volanto relates the story of the New Deal’s efforts to aid Texas cotton farmers, specifically with the production-control policies introduced by the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). He explores the reasons the AAA cotton programs in Texas were instituted, the implementation problems the AAA encountered and how they were resolved, and the results of the programs. He draws conclusions concerning how well Texans benefited from the AAA cotton programs and about those who were actually harmed by them. In addition, he also examines the role of Texas politicians and bureaucrats in formulating the policies in Washington and the importance of Texas to New Deal cotton policy broadly.

Volanto’s study of the AAA cotton programs in Texas is a study not only of agriculture policy but also of the New Deal itself. The AAA provides an example of how the New Deal attempted to solve a natural problem in a largely experimental fashion. The experience of the AAA—the political, economic, and legal constraints it faced—provides new insight into the nature of New Deal commodity programs. It also demonstrates how the New Deal’s typical “broker state” priorities tended to address the concerns of organized groups, often to the detriment of unaffiliated individuals.

From the initial farm subsidy programs and their impact on Texas during the 1930s to the AAA’s cotton programs that were implemented at the state level, very little has previously been written on this important period in Texas’ history. Texas, Cotton, and the New Deal fills this void.

Keith J. Volanto holds a PhD in history from Texas A&M University. He is currently chair of the history department at Collin College in Plano, Texas.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Readers interested in American agriculture, The New Deal, The South, the cotton industry and of course, Texas will find it of inestimable value. . . it is so well written.”—Richard Lowitt, University of Oklahoma

“Readers interested in American agriculture, The New Deal, The South, the cotton industry and of course, Texas will find it of inestimable value. . . it is so well written.” —Richard Lowitt, University of Oklahoma

“A comprehensive coverage of the revolutionary New Deal cotton program in the Lone Star state. Drawing upon a variety of sources, Volanto puts the Texas story into national context while not overlooking the disagreement among cotton interests in the state over the merits of the program. A valuable contribution to a long neglected aspect of modern Texas history.” —Clayton Brown, Texas Christian University, and author, Electricity for Ru

“At long last the New Deal's most important program for the rural South has its historian Keith Volanto has written a compelling study of the AAA's cotton program in the state which produced one third of the nation's crop. No other historian deals so effectively with the AAA's most urgent function: economic relief and recovery for hard-pressed farmers. No other historian conveys so powerfully the experimentation, haste and confusion which tried the patience, but ultimately won the support, of the state's cotton farmers.” —A. J. Badger

“If you have cotton in your background get a copy of Texas, Cotton, and the New Deal and you gain an understanding of the time and the problems.” —Mexia Daily News

“Not to read Volanto’s book is to bypass a superb opportunity to view a pernicious and debilitation crisis from the perspective of its participants to miss the story of those who suffered and those who sought to end the pain.” —East Texas Historical Association

“A judicious, informative, and well-researched appraisal of an important aspect of the New Deal and agriculture.” —The Journal of American History

“This book is a useful contribution to agricultural and New Deal history.” —The Journal of Southern History

“..an enjoyable and informative read. Volanto’s description of the struggles, success, and failures at the local level in Texas to implement a program that was constantly evolving and being reinvented at all levels adds real-life color to the story of the AAA.” —EH.NET

“A welcome addition to the historical literature that examines life in Texas and rural America during the Great Depression.” —Southwestern Historical Quarterly

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