May 1, 1933
Members of the National Farmers’ Holiday Association march on Saint Paul. Arguing that drought and bad economic conditions are beyond their control, the farmers demand an end to mortgage foreclosures and the development of a refinancing program.
John Bosch of Willmar leads the state’s Farmers’ Holiday movement. He promotes the nonviolence of Mohandas Gandhi. On May 1, 1933, the legislature—at the urging of Governor Floyd B. Olson—passes an emergency law stopping farm foreclosure sales until farm prices rise.*
Thesis. Counter-thesis. Synthesis. Though we try Lord, we cannot live in a vacuum. We are individual cells that must function as a body. Will You give inspiration and insights into this Minnesota event today? Will You give revelation of the hearts of those involved and their inner motives?
Let’s start with getting a grip as to what motivated the Farmers Holiday Association. It’s national presence was started by Milo Reno, and soon permeated the Midwest. Its’ adherents believed that withholding crops and livestock from the market would drive prices up. A slogan from the time read, “Lets 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”.**
To provide further backdrop, please read the following except from Robert P. Murphy’s “Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal.”
“Murray Rothbard argues that if one looks at content, rather than labels, then a fair case can be made that the “New Deal” program of farm intervention began under Herbert Hoover, not Franklin Roosevelt. Hoover had supported the farm bloc throughout his political career, and during his first presidential campaign promised he would institute a price-support program. He proved true to his word in June 1929 ( three months after he was sworn in as President) with the creation of the Federal Farm Board (FBB). The FBB was initially allocated $500 million to give low-interest rate loans to farm cooperatives, and it also had the power (through corporations it had created) to buy surplus farm products off the market and hence prop up their prices. (Hoover won an additional $100 million for the FBB in the spring of 1930.)
As usual, throwing tax dollars at the problem only made it worse. In a market economy, if a particular group of producers, even the cherished farmer, can’t make a living, then it means that there are too many people in that line of work. Heartless as it sounds, the only sustainable solution to the problem of inadequate farm income was for the least efficient farmers to find other careers. Actual and promised government “support” allowed these marginal producers to limp along, so that there really was overproduction in the subsidized crops. (This is different from the belief that the Depression was due to a general overproduction in that sector but underproduction elsewhere.) Realizing that this practice of “buy high, sell low” was wasting tax dollars, and that the price supports were leading to ever-growing stockpiles in government silos, the FBB took the next “logical” step of ordering output restrictions (while maintaining price supports!)***
So now we know the big picture, but how does it apply to our State? Mr Bosch had a friend whose farm was to be auctioned off. To help this friend, local farmers would crowd so many around the auctioneer that no one else could hear the bids, and then they would bid “one cent” per each item so that their neighbor could buy his property back for a few cents and keep his way of life. Another foreclosure was stopped using similar tactics.
Bosch then pondered how to improve the plight of farmers. He came up with the following program:
“1) the farmers demanded a mortgage moratorium at once, 2) a price level for farm products equal to the cost of production, 3) abolish the Federal Reserve system, and 4) in the event of war all corporation profits involved in the manufacture of war materials were to be taxed 100%.” ****
Farmers were asked not to sell any farm products nor pay any mortgage debts until these demands were met. Also, they went further in blockading U.S. Highway 12 near Atwater, and asking drivers to return their shipments as a sign of support. These actions were recognized by the Roosevelt administration and led to remedial legislation. ****
So we pray to the Lord, Will You forgive our offenses to You through the broken relationships in the production, buying, selling, and distribution of food? Your Words tell us very clearly, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” NASB ***** Yet, we have met offense with counter-offense, and an escalation of pain. Have mercy.
Will You forgive our politicians, both locally and nationally, of ways they benefitted from this problem? Both Hoover and FDR wanted to micromanage a problem that their policies had created. They wanted votes and support for their solutions, but did not do so within the bounds of the Constitution. Will You give honor to them where it is due, and rebuke to the vanity of our Federal government? Though the role of our Federal government is clearly defined, it has continually broken its boundaries with the American farmer. Have mercy, the government is not our Savior!
Will You forgive the offenses of these farmers, and the wider offenses of society towards them? No one faults a man who fights for his life. Will You forgive these farmers the pain their righteous indignation caused others who had not caused them harm? O G-d, we do it over and over again, we are most vulnerable to the Enemy of All when we are the victim. We do not forgive because we do not realize our depth of offense against the Only Just One. We transfer our victimization onto our neighbor, who transfers it to the next victim, and the next! Will You forgive these sins of the “good guys” in agriculture?
Will You forgive our bankers and financiers their contributions to this painful event? It is an interesting note that Bosch lists the Federal Reserve as an enemy worth abolishing. Though created to stop the manipulations of our currency, and the excesses of stock market driven panics, it has failed to do either.
It drives the value of the dollar to only a few cents of its former gold and silver backed value, drives the hidden tax of inflation, and silently confiscates the wealth of generations of American families and farmers! Which of our great grandparents would think that we show economic responsibility by our level of debt? Yet, we can scarcely buy or sell any large ticket item without the assessment of our credit? We have mostly accepted this false premise as citizens of Minnesota and the United States. Will You help us to reject it? Will You make us creditors rather than debtors? Will You call the FRS to account for the legalized slavery of Your people, Your assets, and Your natural resources?
We invite Your Farmers Holiday on all who grow, ship, or buy food! Help us tear up the other guy’s mortgage, and remain humbly grateful for the bounties of Minnesota! Amen.
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
*** Robert P. Murphy, A Politically Incorrect Guide to the Depression and the New Deal. (Washington D.C.: Regenery, 2009) pp 55-57