The emergence of federal assistance programs for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in post-World War II America

Effland, Anne
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This study traces the political developments out of which federal assistance programs for migrant and seasonal farmworkers emerged in post-World War II America. These programs arose slowly over a period of three decades, built on the experience of the depression and war years and sustained through the 1950s by persistent interest groups and sympathetic individuals within government. During those decades, the political strength of both opposing and supporting forces rose and fell with the rise and fall of public sympathy for the poverty of farmworkers. Yet throughout the period, particularly in the 1950s when assistance to farmworkers foundered in the face of a powerful farm lobby and public indifference, determined individuals within government played a critical role by fostering public interest and supporting the research and planning that enabled reforms to take place quickly once public support reappeared;This study suggests that the years from 1945 to 1958 served as an incubation period during which a critique of American society's neglect of less-advantaged groups quietly but deliberately developed. This critique became the agenda available for new federal social policies when the political climate changed in 1960. Thus, the federal assistance programs for migrant and seasonal farmworkers that finally emerged in the 1960s depended for their substance on the recommendations for improving farmworker conditions developed in the late 1940s and 1950s;This study also examines the implementation of federal assistance programs for migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Iowa. Although it does not evaluate the effectiveness of Iowa's two quite different programs for migrant farmworkers, the study does illustrate that agencies which offered programs funded from federal sources managed to maintain substantial local control through creative use of overlapping federal authorities.

History, Agricultural history and rural studies