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Series I, ss 4, USDA History Collection

USDA History Collection

Series I, subseries 4. Documentary Files, 1957-1977 (bulk 1957-1977). ca. 190 cubic ft.


Subseries in Series I:  I.1 | I.2 | I.3 | I.4 | I.5 | I.6   ||   Collection Map  

The fourth subseries covers the period 1957 to 1977. Materials include memoranda, published materials, clippings (including items from the Federal Register and the Congressional Record), press releases, and correspondence. This is by far the largest subseries in the Documentary Files, actively gathered by ARH staff over a period of 20 years. In addition to all the materials listed in the outline, there are original office files and copies of correspondence gathered from officials during the 1960s.

Section I documents the economic conditions in the United States between 1957 and 1977. This includes price levels and changes in farm income. Section II covers the purchase of agricultural products for domestic use, covering the methods and plans to foster purchasing, including the Food Stamp Program.

Production is documented by Section III. Materials tell of governmental involvement with acreage and marketing controls, agricultural labor (especially migrant labor), and supplies of various materials for farm production. Section IV recounts price policies of the period. USDA programs like loans, incentive payments, and other kinds of price support are documented. There are also materials on outside proposals and recommendations to supplement already-existing programs. These other plans include the National Agricultural Relations Act and changes in parity.

Land use and resource conservation are the topics of Section V. There are materials on changes in land use and governmental programs to aid conservation efforts. Some methods documented are wind erosion programs, cropland retirement, reclamation and irrigation, and flood control.

Section VI covers agricultural surpluses and surplus management. The causes and effects of surpluses on farmers, prices, and consumption are dealt with, followed by plans to dispose of surpluses. Some of these plans are donations to school lunch programs and disposition abroad.

Section VII documents emergency relief and disaster plans of the USDA. These include emergency loans of money, equipment, and materials to help farmers bounce back from natural disasters, as well as special projects for flood, hurricane, wind erosion, and drought victims.

Materials on marketing and distribution are found in Section VIII, including records on marketing techniques, and government programs for agriculture-oriented industries such as inspection, grading, and regulation of food preservatives. Food promotion campaigns (both governmental and non-governmental) are also covered. The distribution section has materials on programs like school lunches, export control, and donations to low-income groups. Special consumer programs such as conservation of agricultural production and rationing are also documented.

Section IX documents the international aspects of food and agriculture, including the trade of agricultural commodities, international governmental and non-governmental food organizations, international conferences on such topics as conservation, land reform, and water, the agricultural programs of numerous countries, and the effects of world food and population problems on American agriculture.

Changes in rural and farm life are covered in Section X. Standard benchmarks for comparisonsuch as social security, taxation, health, and education are addressed. Other subjects such as minorities, and farmers' attitudes and opinions are also included.

Section XI concerns the administration of the USDA. There is documentation of legislation, presidential executive orders, and departmental orders concerning the USDA. There are materials on the organizations and agencies within the USDA, including those dealing with agricultural stabilization, agricultural credit, and economic research. The role of the USDA in relation to states, counties, various organized agricultural groups, and the national executive, is also covered.

Freeman Era Staff Files

Included in Section XI are large amounts of original and photocopied material that were gathered from a number of high-level department officials in the 1960s when the ARH staff was writing a history of the USDA during the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. Included are copies of correspondence from the files of Secretary of Agriculture Orville L. Freeman, as well as correspondence, reports, subject files and other materials of a number of assistant secretaries and other officials, including Martin Abel, John A. Baker, Rodney Leonard, George Mehren, Joseph M. Robertson and John Schnittker. There is an additional group of John A. Baker files, measuring approximately 7 cubic feet, that are organized according to a separate outline scheme. To avoid confusion, they are filed following the rest of the material in subseries 4. Further description will be found below.

The Freeman staff files include the following.

  • Martin Abel:   alphabetical subject files, correspondence, reports, memoranda, notes, and publications, 1963-1967.
  • John A. Baker:   correspondence, reports, memoranda, notes, and copies of many speeches Baker made during his time in the USDA, mid- to late 1960s.
  • Rod Leonard:   correspondence, reports, speeches, notes, travel plans, publications (including Congressional bills), and clippings. There are files for chronological correspondence (including memoranda to Secretary Freeman), Subject, Travel, Testimony, Meetings, and Political files. Most material in the Meeting and Subject files relate to aspects of food production and distribution. The Political file contain material on politics in the Democratic party and in Minnesota; the Speeches file includes a large collection of speeches by Orville Freeman while he was the Governor of Minnesota. Materials date from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, and include statements and activities of George Mehren, John Schnittker, John Baker, and Orville Freeman.
  • George Mehren:   correspondence, memoranda, and reports, 1963-1968.
  • Joseph M. Robertson:   correspondence, memoranda, reports, subject files and travel records, mostly relating to administration and organization within USDA, ca. 1955-1969.
  • John Schnittker:   correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, speeches, and articles relating to Schnittker's duties and interests as a USDA official. There is significant amounts of material on rural development and poverty, and a ten-chapter history of the department, complete with notes and corrected drafts, ca. 1962-1968.

Research is the topic of Section XII. There is material on economic, production, and marketing research. Topics include scientific research on plants, animals, nutrition, smoking and tobacco; technological innovations and advances; effects of radiation on crops, soil, and food; and environmental protection programs.

Section XIII consists of materials on credit. There are items dealing with the credit situation, in general, between the years of 1957 and 1977 and material on individual credit programs, such as programs of the Farm Credit Administration, the Farmers Home Administration, and Rural Electrification Administration. Also included are materials on the Federal Crop Insurance Program.

Material on an extensive list of commodities (both food and non-food) are contained in Section XIV. The food subsection is organized by food groups of meat, dairy, fats and oils, fruits and vegetables, poultry, grains and sugar. The non-food subsection consists of such items as fibers, tobacco, lumber, and flowers.

Section XV deals with rural development. Materials cover the problems of hunger, poverty, and housing. There are also items discussing possible solutions such as job development and industrial growth.

Section XVI documents the USDA's defense activities in preparation for nuclear attack. For example, there are items concerning the measures taken to protect timber resources and to ensure food and fiber availability.


Additional files of John A. Baker are found in the addenda section. The material in these files were accumulated while Baker was Assistant Secretary for Rural Development and Conservation (1962-1969), and contain mostly photocopies of correspondence, memoranda, reports, notes, charts, and clippings. These materials were stored in a separate set of cabinets from the rest of subseries 4, and were filed according to a unique classification outline created by Gladys Baker, a member of the Agricultural and Rural History Section staff. This classification scheme is similar to the general outline for the subseries, so to avoid confusion, these additional Baker files have been placed after the rest of the subseries, and the boxes have been numbered A-1, A-2, etc.

Major topics in Baker's files include natural resources, rural-urban balance, rural development, family farms, and anti-poverty programs.

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