See more from this Session: 75 Years of Soil Erosion and Conservation: A Celebration of NRCS’s 75th Anniversary: I
Monday, November 1, 2010: 8:15 AM
Hyatt Regency Long Beach, Beacon Ballroom A, Third Floor
April 27, 2010, marked the 75th anniversary of the creation of Soil Conservation Service (SCS), now the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Hugh Hammond Bennett was the person most responsible for this act; thus he became known as the father of soil conservation. This presentation discusses Bennett’s career with special emphasis on the events of September 19, 1933, to April 27, 1935, when Bennett was Director of the Soil Erosion Service (SES). Bennett had a nearly 30-year career as a soil surveyor in USDA before becoming Chief of SCS. Soil surveying in the United States and abroad convinced him that soil erosion was a threat and that a national soil conservation program was needed. The New Deal and Great Depression presented Bennett with an opportunity to put his plans for conservation into operation when $5,000,000 from the National Industrial Recovery Act was allocated for soil erosion control work. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes selected Bennett to lead the Soil Erosion Service in September 1933. As Bennett and colleagues in the SES established demonstration projects, the young agency overcame many obstacles. In the beginning, USDA and state agricultural institutions argued that this work belonged in USDA. Throughout the controversies the cadre of soil conservationists won approval in the countryside and thereby built support in Congress for expansion of the soil conservation work on a permanent basis. The pending expiration of SES’s emergency employment funding in June 1935, gave an air of urgency to legislation for a permanent agency. Finally, drought in the Great Plains and dust clouds sweeping eastward to the federal city dramatically demonstrated the need for soil conservation. Although success was by no means assured, Bennett employed persistence and passion in securing a national policy on soil conservation.