Drouth and depression during the 1930’s brought to the surface many economic problems, and among them many serious problems of agricultural land use. Unfavorable price relationships and unfavorable weather conditions both contributed to the creation of large areas of rural poverty and discontent. Some of these areas, so called "submarginal" areas for cultivation, became the object of a federal program of land acquisition and land use adjustment beginning in 1933. In many of these areas the situation called for immediate and drastic action. Poverty, soil erosion, abandoned land, and wholesale tax foreclosures prompted the federal government to undertake purchase of large areas of land where the situation appeared most serious. Most of the area acquired was in the Great Plains, although numerous smaller purchase-projects dotted the remainder of the United States, This program did not result in the purchase of all "submarginal lands," as they were described at that time. The term "submarginal land" was applied in the 1930’s to areas where farming had been unsuccessful and where it appeared that a less intensive use should be made of the land. Since the acres purchased were only a small proportion of the land called submarginal, many of the projects had their greatest utility in demonstrating to surrounding operators the best land use for that area. Purchase of these lands continued until about 1941, and during this period much thought and planning was devoted to the program. Many of these projects, particularly the later ones, were carefully planned and administered by competent individuals. The programs were generally popular both locally and nationally at the time of purchase. The land use adjustment projects as they evolved were essentially experiments in land economics. A problem of adjustment in land use existed in these critical areas. Since the major adjustment involved was from an intensive to an extensive use, it was full of complexities and not very apt to be completed without some personal loss and family displacement, regardless of the method used. In the most critical areas, public acquisition appeared to be the least painful and the most rapid means for bringing about the desired adjustment. Out of this situation then emerged the Land Utilization or L. U. projects as they are called.
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South Dakota State College
Glover, Loyd, "Experience with Federal Land Purchases as a Means of Land Use Adjustment" (1955). Agricultural Experiment Station Agricultural Economics Pamphlets. 172.