Migratory Farm Labor in the United States
By Paul S. Taylor
[From the Monthly Labor Review (March 1937) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, Serial No. R. 530]
Paper presented before joint meeting of American Farm Economic Association and Rural Sociology Section of American Sociological Society, Chicago, Dec. 29,1936. Based upon researches initiated by the California Relief Administration and continued by the Resettlement Administration and Social Security Board. Previous articles based upon these studies were given in the February 1936 (p. 312) and December 1936 (p. 1365) issues of the Monthly Labor Review.
For thousands of years nomadism has been a way of life for whole peoples. Our cultural heritage has been enriched by its traditions, for there is something deeper than glamour in the simple life of roving peoples. Even today tribes of Asia Minor and Mongolia rhythmically follow grass like their ancestors. Folding their tents and driving their flocks and herds, they move en masse, keeping close to the basis of sustenance as it shifts periodically through the seasons.
Nomads have ever remained aloof from tillers of the soil, maintaining their own culture, and resisting settlement. But migratory farm labor shares little of the tradition of the nomads. Restless movement and a simple life it has, and its own ways of living, different from those of the settled folk among whom it moves. But migratory labor is a proletarian class, not a people with a developed culture. It is forced to till the soil for others. It lives in material poverty. To a large extent indispensable, nevertheless it is commonly exploited and substandard. It slips through stable and often rich communities, of which it is never an accepted part. It offers a breeding ground of social unrest. It migrates reluctantly, seeking a foothold on the land, which it seldom gains. It lends itself readily to the development of a form of agriculture which is not a way of life, but an industry. Thus it becomes an unwitting instrument in the breakdown of the traditional American ideal of the family farm.
Migratory labor is not peculiar to the United States. Irish laborers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries migrated to hop yards and other harvest fields of England. Since the 1870's Polish laborers have migrated seasonally to the sugar-beet fields of Saxony. By 1900 this annual migration had attained a magnitude of 200,000 people; by 1914 it reached 400,000, the majority of them women and young persons. With the depression, Polish migrants declined to 77,000 in 1930 and to 31,000 in 1932. In the years before the war, farm laborers migrating seasonally from Italy and Spain to the Argentine numbered as many as 60,000 annually. These are but illustrations.
In the United States, peak labor requirements of intensive crops have often drawn seasonal laborers from beyond the immediate vicinity. Fruit, truck, and berry crops in particular have induced heavy migration. Curiously, it was a field cropwheatwhich caused one of the largest and best known of American periodic rural migrations.
Wheat Belt Migration
From the early 1900's to the middle of the post-war decade, the wheat fields of the Middle West and Great Plains were scenes of great movement. A small amount of labor sufficed to sow the crop with machinery, but intensive labor was needed for the harvest, to shock and thresh the grain. To do this work as many as 250,000 men were annually on the move from field to field, following the ripening crop.
The harvest began about June 1 in Texas, and moved steadily northward, reaching North Dakota by the middle of August, and passing on into Canada. Some of the migrants moved all the way from Oklahoma and Texas to the Dakotas and Canada. But, as Lescohier has pointed out, there were several more restricted routes of migration, which were followed by a majority of the harvesters. The major portion of the harvest in each State was performed by men who migrated only within the State. The migration of another large group of men took place within the limits of the winter Wheat Belt, from Texas to Nebraska, and still another large group moved only through the spring Wheat Belt of the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Canada.
The harvest hands were men, traveling by train. Years before the war one could see the freights in July moving slowly through Sioux City into the Dakotas, the roofs and doorways of boxcars literally black with men en route to the wheat fields. In the second decade of the twentieth century, American radicalism in the form of the 1. W. W. spread rapidly among these men. It became unsafe to ride the freights unless one carried a "red card." Farmers learned the meaning of strikes for better wages and living conditions, and responded with vigilante mobs, driving agitators and workers from towns at the point of guns. Class warfare broke out in the most "American" sections of rural America.
With entry of the United States into the World War, the authorities stepped into the situation, suppressing the I. W. W. by criminal prosecutions of its leaders, on the one hand, and on the other by drafting a new and less radical type of young migrant from more remote rural districts. These rural youths were recruited in order to replace the "hobos" and "gandydancers" from the cities who were habitually exposed, and more susceptible, to "wobbly" agitation. These tactics had immediate effect. How effective they would have proved in the long run is another question, which was never answered. For the great migration began to collapse about the middle of the 1920's, and today it exists as but a fraction of its former size.
The death knell of the Wheat Belt migration was sounded by mechanization of the harvest. The combine harvester, enabling 5 men to do the work of 320, cut and threshed the grain in a single operation. Hand shocking is rendered unnecessary and wheat production is now mechanized from planting to harvest. It is metamorphosed from an intensive to an extensive crop. The Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor reports that laborers furnished by State employment offices to wheat farmers dropped from 11,296 in 1921 to 165 in 1932, and he states that the combine harvester has "completely reversed our harvest labor problems of finding and distributing an adequate supply of labor to that of preventing a surplus from coming into the State during the harvest season, as an oversupply of labor in any locality is almost as disastrous as a shortage and more so as far as the community in general is concerned."
As the use of the combine spread, migratory labor declined, and with it labor radicalism and the social problems caused by a great male migration disappeared from the harvest fields. When radicalism came again to the Middle West it was the farmers who agitated and organized, not the laborers.
Western Cotton Migration
The plight of the sharecropper in cotton has been well studied and effectively dramatized to the country. The existence and problems of the migratory cotton pickers of the Southwest and the Pacific coast are not so well known. But it is important to note that American cotton production is sharply divided by the manner in which it is organized to meet its peak hand-labor requirements. For advancing mechanization, which has so thoroughly transformed planting and ginning, has not yet eliminated two sharp peak labor seasons-chopping in the early summer and picking in the fall.
The cotton-producing sections of the country meet these seasonal requirements in two ways. In the Old South and as far west as the Brazos bottoms of Texas, the old system of placing a large family upon each 15 to 20 acres, insures that large numbers of hands, young and old, will be available when needed. Thus the old Cotton Belt has been filled with under-employed labor sufficient to supply locally all normal peak needs. From central and south Texas westward, however, and including Arizona and California, a variant of the old plantation system has been developed upon the base of migratory labor. This has taken place mainly since 1910. Cotton farms are large, with only sufficient resident labor to supply minimum needs for planting the crop. Although California and Arizona, which depend upon migratory labor, produce only 3 percent of the Nation's cotton, they have within their borders approximately 47 percent of the large-scale cotton farms of the entire country. The sharecrop system, which binds the laborers to the soil throughout the year, is practically unknown. Wage labor from far and near chops and picks cotton on piece rates. The labor market is hundreds of miles in extent. Cotton harvesters for Arizona and California are drawn seasonally from as far east as Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. Until 1929, when immigration barriers were raised, they used to come also from the central plateau of Mexico. In Texas and Oklahoma there are probably more than 50,000 mobile cotton pickerswhites, Negroes, and Mexicans. They follow the opening bolls from Corpus Christi on the Gulf north and westward to the Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma, 600 to 900 miles distant.
This dependence of western cotton areas upon migratory laborers sharply distinguishes its social problems from those of the plantation and tenant system of the Old South. It is not necessary here to compare the distresses of migratory laborers and sharecroppers. But it is pertinent to observe that the western system, when employed in conjunction with other crops offering employment to migrants, represents more efficient utilization of labor than does the sharecrop system. And it is well to point out that if the Rust Brothers, or any other mechanical cotton picker proves successful, its effects on the social and economic structure built on cotton will be different in the area from central and south Texas to the Pacific coast than in the older cotton areas. In both areas the mechanization of the cotton harvest will displace labor. And the displacement will be facilitated by the less spectacular but important mechanization of chopping, through the cross-cultivation or check-row planting which has already begun. In the Old South, mechanization of cotton production may prove devastating in its displacement of labor population. In the Southwest and California, mechanization will end migration of labor in cotton, as the combine harvester is ending it in wheat. Loss of employment will go hard with the migrants, but the very fact that they constitute a mobile regional labor reserve means that fewer human beings will be displaced than under the system in which each plantation carries its own peak labor supply. The existence of other intensive crops in the same valleys will further cushion the shock. Rapid mechanization of cotton production is likely to burden labor severely in both areas, but its coming portends disturbances which will be much less severe in southwestern and Pacific coast cotton areas than in the Old South.
Berry Crop Migration
In many parts of the United States berry crops, which require large numbers of band pickers, have long been a cause of seasonal migration. Usually the distance covered by the migrants is not great. Thus, Italian berry pickers come from Philadelphia and Camden to harvest the crop of south Jersey, as they have done for 50 years; and now they are joined by Negroes from Delaware. Poles and Indians have for many years supplied the outside labor for the cranberry bogs of Wisconsin. In years of good crops a thin stream of migrant families works its way northward with the berry crops from the Gulf to Lake Michigan, a few following the whole way from the strawberry harvest of northern Florida in the spring to Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana, next to Judsonia in central Arkansas, thence to Paducah, Ky., Vermillion or Farina, Ill., and Benton Harbor, Mich. After the berry harvest they pick grapes and peaches in northern Michigan.
Annual fluctuations in the volume of this migration are extreme, depending upon crop conditions and upon the degree to which general depression or prosperity have increased or decreased local labor reserves. Thus, it was estimated in 1934 that 20,000 people, most of them from outside the community, worked during the brief strawberry harvest in Arkansas. But in 1937 the crop is expected to be so small as to induce practically no migration. In 1938 and subsequent years, however, plantings may fluctuate upward, and when they do there will again be heavy migrations.
Families from north- and south-central States east of the Mississippi, who follow the strawberry harvest from Florida or Louisiana into Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and end their season picking the winter peach crop in the Michigan Peninsula and the islands of Lake Erie.
Migration in the Southeast
In Florida many seasonal workers are employed in the winter and spring harvests of citrus, berry, fruit, and truck crops. White laborers predominate in the packing sheds, Negroes in the vegetable fields. Tens of thousands of these seasonal workers, both white and Negro, are migratory. Most of them are young males or couples; perhaps one-third move in family groups. The white packers are much more skilled and better paid than the field hands. They generally travel in their own cars and trailers, while the field laborers often travel in gangs in trucks.
Most of the migrants from outside Florida come from Alabama and Georgia, where many are sharecroppers. Others are from as far as Mississippi and even Arkansas. Many migrated to Florida for the first time in 1936. This migration pattern resembles the recently swelling migration from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas to the harvest fields of Arizona and California. Depression or drought have dislodged them, and they have dropped into the ranks of migratory laborers completely, or they follow the crops seasonally in order to supplement a meager income at home. Some go southeast, others go west.
In the spring, those field and shed workers who do not return home, move northward from Florida. Some go to the peach orchards of Georgia, but more go to the strawberry, potato, and vegetable areas sprinkled along the Carolina coasts and as far as Norfolk, Va. From there, they follow the potato, vegetable, and berry harvests as they move steadily up the coasts along the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, and into New Jersey, whence they return to Florida in the fall. The vicinity of Norfolk in Virginia and the adjacent portion of North Carolina supplies a few thousand Negroes who participate in the northern portion of this seasonal swing.
Some of the white migrants who pack fruit and vegetables in Florida go to the vegetable harvests of Crystal Springs and Hazelhurst in southern Mississippi, then to the tomato harvest of Humboldt, Tenn. From there a few go to the apple harvest of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, or the fruit and vegetable harvests of northwestern New York. Yet other packers disperse in all directions, moving to the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the Arkansas Valley of Colorado, and on to Oregon and Washington. These routes across the West are not well defined, nor followed by any "stream" of migrants, but the fruit and vegetable areas of the entire country from Florida to the State of Washington are known to the "fruit tramps", and are irregularly visited by them during a series of years.
No reliable estimate of the numbers which move up the eastern seaboard to serve in field, packing shed, and cannery is available. The range is, perhaps from 10,000 to 20,000. Fluctuations from year to year are great. Depression, for varied reasons has greatly reduced this migration during the past 6 years, and in some areas has stopped it.
Sugar Beet Migration
Migration of labor to the sugar-beet fields has been important since the early 1900's when, under stimulus of the tariff, acreage began rapidly to expand. Unlike much of the migratory labor, beet workers move only twice a year. They move in the spring to the farm where the crop is to be blocked, thinned, hoed, and topped on contract, and they move again to winter quarters or to seasonal work elsewhere when the harvest is over in the fall.
Sugar-beet production is an industrialized form of agriculture, with the influence of the sugar factories dominant throughout the process, from finance to seed and labor. Its labor history illustrates clearly, if in heightened degree, a number of characteristics common to the migratory-labor problem in other crops and areas. Beet growers, through the factories, have taken the initiative in recruitment of labor from afar. Agents recruit laborers for Montana, for example, in California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Until 1929 the labor market extended even into Central Mexico, and growers of beets, like the big cotton growers of Arizona and farmers of California, used all the influence they could muster to obtain congressional approval for seasonal importation of workers from Mexico. Many races have been mingled in the beet fields. In the Mountain States, German-Russians, Mexicans, Spanish-Americans from New Mexico, and even Japanese were brought in. For the Middle West, Belgians, Poles, and Mexicans were recruited. In 1930 even Filipinos were recruited in Seattle for shipment to Minnesota.
The necessity for migratory labor increases not only with expanding total acreage (which has characterized the main trend of beet production since the beginning), but also with the scale upon which the crop is produced by individual growers. In northeastern Colorado, where many seasonal workers have been imported, the fields are large. In Utah they are small-10 acres or less; and the farmer and his family do their own work, rendering migratory labor unnecessary. Indeed, the Mormon farmer boys of beet-growing central Utah even migrate to Idaho to work in the beet harvest there, where fields are larger.
The volume of migratory labor needed depends upon the acreage planted and upon the size of the resident labor supply. Since importations constitute only the margin of the labor supply, an increase of, say, 10 percent in acreage, may increase importations of migrants by 50 percent; or a decline of 10 percent may produce an equally disproportionate effect in the opposite direction. The annual importations of laborers by the Great Western Sugar Co. between 1915 and 1936 fluctuated irregularly between 150 to 14,500.
The beet industry has made great endeavors to build up the supply of field laborers permanently resident in its territory, in order to reduce the necessity of annual importations. In order to induce laborers to remain in the beet areas during the 6 slack months, assistance in obtaining housing in labor colonies, and opportunities for casual winter employment have been added to other forms of inducement. An illustration of the effectiveness of these efforts, and of the general tendency of seasonal 1aborers in most crops to settle wherever they can obtain a sufficient modicum of work in the "dead" season to enable them to avoid migration, is found in Great Western territory. Between 1921 and 1927, while the acreage of beets increased from 128,000 to 184,000, or 44 percent, the number of families of Mexican resident beet tenders rose from 537 to 2,084, or 269 percent.
In course of years, many who came originally as migrants have ascended the agricultural ladder to become farm operators. In northeastern Colorado, for example, the German-Russians, who were the earliest migrants, did this to a surprising extent. Between 1909 and 1927, German-Russian beet growers increased from 665 to 2,590, and from 17 to 35 percent of all beet growers. In California, Italians, Japanese, Hindustanis, Mexicans, and southwestern native whites have all shown strong tendencies to give up their migratory life at the least opportunity, and settle either as resident laborers or as farm managers and operators.
No reliable estimate of the annual number of migratory sugar-beet workers throughout the country is at hand. It may easily have reached 30,000 or more workers in peak years, but usually it is probably much less, especially since depression increased local labor supplies. It is probable that mechanization of the beet harvest will end migration as the combined harvester is ending it in wheat. Already mechanical blocking is advancing through the practice of cross cultivation, and mechanical beet toppers are being perfected. When success is achieved, there will be no peak needs for hand workers in beet production. Not only will migratory labor in the beet fields disappear, but a problem will arise, as with the unneeded sharecroppers of a mechanized cotton belt, or the stranded onion workers of Hardin County, Ohio, who struck in 1934-how will the colonies of resident beet tenders be able to maintain themselves?
Migration on the Pacific Coast
Since 1870, when completion of the transcontinental railroad opened eastern markets for fruits and vegetables and stimulated irrigation in California, large numbers of migrants have followed the western harvests. Today the greatest seasonal migrations of farm labor in the United States take place on the Pacific coast. The main whirlpool of migratory labor is in California, but the high mobility of the workers makes all the western areas parts of a common labor market. Seeking to dovetail brief seasons of employment, they move from Imperial Valley on the Mexican border to the Hood River Valley of Oregon and the Willamette and Yakima Valleys of Washington. Some go also to the lettuce, melon, or cotton harvests of the Salt River Valley of Arizona, the melon harvests of Colorado, the pea fields of Idaho, and the beet fields of Montana.
Since the beginning they have moved by train, by horse and wagon, or afoot with bundles over the shoulder. Today they travel about in old automobiles or light trucks, sometimes with home-made trailers attached. They pile their worldly possessions on car and trailer and cover them with old canvas or ragged bedding. Bedsprings, if any, go on top, the iron cook stove on the running board, and lantern and washtub behind. Grandmothers, children, and the dog fill the car to capacity.
The early migrants of the West, made known so well by Carleton Parker, were mostly single white men. The Chinese, Japanese, and Hindustanis, too, moved in gangs of males, as do the Filipinos today. But with the influx of Mexicans into California and Arizona during the war, western migratory labor became mainly family labor. Recently the number of migrant white families has been vastly increased by drought refugees from the Great Plains, notably from Oklahoma.
The routes of migratory farm laborers in California, where they are numerically the most important, follow patterns which are fairly well known. The best-traveled route within the State is between the Imperial and San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, from 360 to 550 miles distant by line, and longer by road. The migrants move in great surges with the seasons, and ceaselessly shift from ranch to ranch to finish each crop.
No estimates of numbers of migrants in California are very reliable. Few measures are taken and fluctuations from year to year are great. The California E. R. A. estimated in 1935 that 198,000 laborers were needed at the harvest peak in 33 agricultural counties, and that 50,000 of these were nonresidents of the county where the crop grows. The number which actually migrates, of course, is very much larger than the number needed to perform the work, because labor distribution is far from perfect. Carleton Parker estimated 150,000 migratory workers on the coast in 1915, mostly farm workers. The California Board of Education reported 37,000 migratory children alone in 1927. The number of personsmen, women, and childrenwho follow the California crops away from home at some time during the year, may well have reached 150,000 in recent years, as some estimate.
Extent of Migration
It is impossible to estimate satisfactorily the number of persons who migrate with the crops in the United States. Even the definition of "migrant" is not entirely clear, for there are many who move short distances within the county or to an adjoining county for a brief season, or who move singly, or in such small groups or so irregularly that they are not regarded as migrants by those among whom they move. And the line blurs between those who live on a farm for a few weeks, returning to the city 40 miles away, who are not generally regarded nor included as migrants, and those who, like the sugar-beet workers, move 100 or several hundred miles for a long season, before returning, who are regarded as migrants and who should be included, So, defining migrants roughly as those field workers and their families, and packing-shed workers and their families, who follow crops in periodic movement, in groups or as part of a well-defined movement commonly recognized as a movement of migrants, so that for a few months, if not the full year, migratory labor becomes a way of life, shall we hazard a preliminary estimate that agricultural migrants in the United States number from 200,000 to 350,000?
Social Effects of Migratory Labor
Migratory agricultural labor is attended by characteristic social problems. First, earnings are low, with all that fact entails. During the late twenties some skilled packers made good earnings, but the field workers have always earned little. A recent study by the California Relief Administration of applicants for relief in 1935 reports average annual earnings of 775 migrant families, most of which received between $300 and $400 in 1930, and between $100 and $200 in 1935. By way of comparison, the cash income of 2,000 tenant families in the South was $105 in 1933, according to Will Alexander and his collaborators. In California living costs are higher, and migration imposes important expenditures for transportation not required of tenants.
Second, housing of migrants (with of course the usual exceptions) is universally a serious problem, whether today in the Imperial Valley of California, the Yakima Valley of Washington, the Salt River Valley of Arizona, the berry fields of Arkansas, Louisiana, and New Jersey, the tobacco fields of the Connecticut Valley, and the sugar-beet fields of the Middle West, or whether a century ago among the Irish harvest migrants in England. In California the ragged camps of migrants squatting in filth by the roadside, in open fields, along ditch banks, or on garbage dumps fairly beggar description. Large growers frequently provide good housing, but smaller growers with short peak seasons are often unable to do this. The Resettlement Administration has pointed a way for intelligent Government assistance by establishing the first two of a chain of camps for migrants. These have successfully demonstrated both their value to public health, decency, and morale, and (in the only camp where it has been tried) the feasibility of responsible, democratic management by the migrants themselves.
All the evils of migrant-labor life are aggravated when children must submit to its hardships. I shall mention only that migration cripples the education of the young. In California the school authorities have shown that serious efforts to enforce school attendance can be fairly successful, but at best the children suffer from continual shifting from school to school. In Colorado it has been customary to make little effort to enroll the beet tenders' children until after beet harvest, although the A. A. A. made a serious attempt to end child labor in the beet fields. And in Texas practically no attempt at all has been made to enroll the children of migrants. Indeed, I know of school districts where Mexicans predominate, where in fact their nonattendance at school was preferred, so that the State aid given because of their presence in the district might be spent on the local white American children.
In other respects, as well as in matters of education, the nomadic workers carry thc stigma of outlanders. The white migrants of California complain that they are ostracized as "pea pickers." When race difference is added to nomadism, social ostracism becomes more strident. In community after community seasonal Filipino workers were subjected to violent attacks by mobs using guns and dynamite during the depression when competition for jobs was bitterest.
Settlement laws, which restrict the granting of relief to residents, work particular hardship on migratory labor. Harsh measures are sometimes employed, such as the "bum blockades" by Los Angeles police at the California border, by the militia in Colorado, by State authorities in Florida, and New Jersey where they turned back Negro migrants coming to the potato harvest. States as well as counties are unwilling that migrant laborers should remain long enough within their borders to become relief charges. At the conclusion of the pea harvest in 1934 the supervisors of San Luis Obispo County, Calif., voted $2,500 to supply the pea pickers with enough gasoline and food to get them into the next county. The authorities there sent back word that if the performance was repeated the migrants would be met at the county line with guns.
Finally, labor unrest is spreading among migratory agricultural workers. In 1931 there were half a hundred strikes among such workers in California, and they continue to occur. Underneath this of course lies the fact that agriculture is industrialized in many places where migrants are employed. In Imperial Valley, to cite an extreme example of the coincidence of industrialization, migration, and labor conflict, the amount spent on wage labor, per farm reporting such payments, was $3,498, as compared with a national average of only $363. Frequently large growers operate in several areas as employers of the same migrants, and conflict spreads quickly from one area to another. On December 21, 1936, a Federal injunction was issued on charges that growers and shippers in the Salinas and Imperial Valleys of California and the Salt River Valley of Arizona, who were willing to hire lettuce packers blacklisted because of activity in the Salinas strike last September, were prevented from doing so by threats of having their supplies and bank credit cut off.
To sum it up, migratory farm labor is a focus of poverty, bad health, and evil housing conditions. Its availability in large numbers at low wages aids large-scale agriculture in its competition with the family farm. Migratory laborers are victims of all the prejudices of settled folk against outlanders and nomads, without the advantages of an organized group life of their own. They are discriminated against by arbitrary and illegal blockades. They cannot participate in democracy. The education of their children is seriously impaired if not completely neglected. Race prejudices are heightened and labor conflicts intensified. Migrants and public welfare suffer alike.
Migrants as Distinguished from Transients and Drought Refugees
The use of the word "transient" has been avoided, for "transients" should not be confused with "migrants." Transients, according to current usage, are applicants for relief, whose residence is in another State or county. This is an administrative classification into which, to be sure, migrants sometimes fall. But migrants are persons who seek a living by work, regularly following the crops. It is not sufficient to observe that the migrants move about like "transients" and need decent temporary quarters where they can eat, rest, and clean up. They are an integral part of the agriculture structure, for they meet its peak labor needs. Any adequate program must recognize this essential role of migrants, and must enable them to carry it out more efficiently, and under conditions more favorable to them and to the communities through which they move.
Neither should drought refugees from the Great Plains who have been pouring by scores of thousands to every part of the west coast, be confused with "transients", although they, too, sometimes become nonresident applicants for relief. These people are leaving areas where depopulation is desirable for the national economy, and are not drifting but are seeking resettlement. Whether these people, guided in their flight more by the hope of seasonal jobs in the fields than by accurate knowledge of available land, should be settled on the coast where they arrive, or elsewhere, is not the present question. In any case arbitrary restriction of movement is as uneconomic as encouragement of excessive movement.
We can sympathize with localities which receive numbers of persons in need of relief and rehabilitation, whether drought refugees or migrants following seasonal agricultural work. Their burdens are heavy. The remedy, however, is not more "bum blockades" and settlement laws. It is a sharing by State and Nation of the financial burdens imposed on county and State by relief, rehabilitation, or resettlement of nonresidents. This is the most efficient, equitable, and economical way.
What can we do? I shall suggest only a few alternatives. Mechanization will end seasonal migration in crops like sugar beets and cotton, and some vegetable crops, as it is ending it in wheat. But for a long time to come, peach, apricot, prune, cherry, berry, grape, and many vegetable crops will require large numbers of seasonal workers. Revision of crop plantings to provide steady employment has long been urged, and to some extent practiced. It is desirable, but not much result should be expected. To drench the local labor market by building up excessive resident supplies is to apply a remedy worse than the disease, as witness the condition of the southeastern Cotton Belt However, stabilization on the soil of limited numbers of migrants in various localities represents a promising move. With this as an objective the Resettlement Administration is now initiating experiments with cooperative part-time farms, in Arizona and California.
The necessity for seasonal labor in agriculture will long remain. Indeed, a mobile labor reserve is efficient and desirable. For those whose migration is needed, conditions should be made as tolerable as possible. Facilities for efficient labor distribution will deflate their numbers to the minimum really required. Better machinery for mediation and arbitration will facilitate adjustment of labor relations. Decent camps and housing must be provided by private and public agencies. Migration by families should be replaced as far as possible by migration of unattached men or, better, by men and their older sons operating short distances from their home stakes on the soil. Decent camps and homesteads as started by the Resettlement Administration could well be included within the scope of a national tenancy act to relieve in a coordinated program all the submerged laborers of agriculture, whether they work for wages or for a share of the crop.