Farm Holiday Association
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Organized in May of 1932, the National Farmers’ Holiday Association sought to raise prices of American farm products by withholding products from the market and driving up demand. It was a popular idea in the American Midwest, where many state-chartered organizations sprang up.
That same year, the groups called for a Farmers’ Holiday similar to the National Bank Holiday ordered that March by Franklin Roosevelt. During the proposed holiday, farmers would halt production and transportation of all farm goods, hoping the interruption in supply would increase demand, ultimately leading to higher prices.
In Depression-era North Dakota, many farmers were not able to meet their mortgage and tax payments, and felt that the Government’s New Deal favored the wealthy bankers, while largely ignoring the needs of farmers. By October of 1933, some grain elevators in the state were only offering around 30ȼ a bushel for wheat. North Dakota Congressman William Lemke, angry that the bankers had been granted a holiday while their perceived victims, the farmers, were granted none, proclaimed, “The President drove the money-changers out of the Capitol on March 4th, and they were all back on the 9th.” When Governor Langer declared a state wheat embargo on October 18th, halting shipments of wheat from the state, farmers began clamoring for their own North Dakota Holiday Association, which was organized in Bismarck on this date in 1933.
Farmers across the Midwest called for a strike. A popular chant of the Association went, “Let’s call a Farmer’s Holiday, a Holiday let’s hold. We’ll eat our wheat and ham and eggs, and let them eat their gold.” Of course, not all farmers agreed; several violent incidents were reported as Holiday members attempted to blockade roads, prevent farm foreclosures, and stop trains hauling agricultural products. One Iowa judge was dragged from the bench and physically assaulted for failing to halt foreclosures. Members even went so far as to destroy railroad bridges and trains. Responding to the Association’s demands, President Roosevelt said, “I do not like to have anybody hold a pistol to my head and demand that I do something.”
Eventually, federal intervention prevented the Farmer’s Holiday from becoming a reality, and by 1934, the Association largely disbanded.
Dakota Datebook by Jayme L. Job
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Roosevelt, Vol. II. Houghton Mifflin Company: New York.
Stock, Catherine McNicol. 1992 Main Street in Crisis: The Great Depression and the
Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains: pp. 132-145. The University of North
Carolina Press: Chapel Hill.