What Did the U.S. Government Do About the Dust Bowl?

Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. government had two responses to the Dust Bowl: creating agencies and laws to help alleviate financial burdens of migrants and farmers affected by the Dust Bowl; and addressing the environmental issues that created the Dust Bowl. Through the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration, they provided subsidies and purchased sub-prime land to give money to the farmers and restore grasslands to over-farmed wheat fields.

In his first 100 days in office, Roosevelt addressed soil conservation, the key to turning around the Dust Bowl conditions, by creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Soil Erosion Service. The establishment of the Soil Erosion Service was the first major federal commitment to the preservation of privately owned natural resources. In 1935, Roosevelt started the Prairie States Forestry Project to plant nearly 220 million trees, a project undertaken by the U.S. Forestry Service, the CCC, the new Works Progress Administration (WPA) and local farmers. The seven-year project created over 18,000 miles of windbreaks on 30,000 farms, a so-called “shelter belt” from the Texas Panhandle to Canada. These agencies and this response were a part of a larger effort to address the Great Depression: the New Deal, Roosevelt’s legacy.