The Farmers' Cooperative Demonstration Work conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Plant Industry was inaugurated under authority of Congress in January, 1904, primarily because of the depredations of the Mexican cotton boll weevil in the State of Texas. By the rapid spread of this pest east and north it had then become evident that it would in time invade all of the cotton-producing States. This occasioned a general alarm among the cotton planters and in the industrial centers of the entire country. For a number of years prior to 1904 the Mexican boll weevil had been steadily encroaching upon the cotton-producing lands of Texas, until it had spread from the Kio Grande to a short distance beyond the eastern boundary of the State and threatened the entire cotton industry of the South. In sections where cot-ton was the sole cash crop the invasion of the weevil and the consequent loss of the cotton crop brought disaster to every interest and so completely demoralized financial conditions as to produce in some sections a panic.
The cotton crop had been generally produced upon a credit system by securing advances from merchants and bankers. Upon the advent of the boll weevil, confidence in securing a cotton crop was impaired and in some districts almost totally destroyed. The usual advances were either withheld or limited; labor became discontented and sought other sections or other States, and tenant farmers unable to obtain advances removed to noninfested districts, a marked decline in property values resulting.
These circumstances created a demand for immediate relief which appealed to the entire country, as the loss of the cotton crop would be a national calamity. In response to this appeal Congress made an emergency appropriation in January, 1904, which has been continued each year, thus affording opportunity for the growth and enlargement of the work.