Did you know that in the 1930s raisin producers had to give a portion of their harvest to the government with the feds deciding what portion of the crop every producer had to turn over and what price they would get?
Neither did I.
Did you know that program is still in place today, 80 some odd years later?
Neither did I.
Did you know that in the 2002-2003 season
…the Raisin Administrative Committee required producers to forfeit 47% of their crop while paying them less than the cost of production. In 2003-2004, raisin farmers had to hand over 30% for nothing.
Neither did I.
No compensation for a third of your crop. In the New Deal year of 2004.
That explanation from Raisins in the Sun, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.
Can someone smarter than me explain why this was a good idea then and why it’s a good idea today?
The deliberate devastation was worse early on.
Slaughter of the Navajo sheep
In Code Talker, Chester Nez, one of the brave code talkers who helped win World War II, tells of when the BIA showed up at his grandparent’s home with a bulldozer. They dug a pit 5 feet deep and 150 feet long.
A few days later, the nice men returned. Under threat of arrest, they had the family herd 700 of their 1,000 sheep into the pit.
The sheep and a few goats were covered with a flammable liquid and burned alive, with the families watching the flames and listening to the high-pitched animal screams.
Some of the sheep were pets. The family smelled the burned carcasses for days.
Sheep were worth between $8 and $12 a head. Many families were actually paid, but at the rate of under $3 a head.
The slaughter continued across the reservation for 6 years.
The sheep population was not quite exterminated – it dropped from about 1.6 million in 1932 to around 400,000 in 1944.
A 75% reduction.
If you didn’t know, sheep then were the primary source of nutrition and main storage of wealth in the Navajo community.
Wise decisions from those benevolent people in DC cremated three-fourths of the tribe’s wealth. In just one day the program destroyed 70% of the life savings of Mr. Nez’s grandparents.
See locations 1050 through 1134 in the Kindle edition for Mr. Nez’s description. As you would expect, his story is understated in describing the emotional and economic destruction.
Can someone wiser than me explain why this was moral?
Slaughter of the pigs
The Forgotten Man describes a similar slaughter of millions of pigs. My father tells of his family wondering why all those pigs were being killed when so many people were hungry.
Back to raisins. And other produce.
The New Deal program to confiscate crops isn’t limited to raisins. The WSJ editorial also points out:
Similar federal marketing orders cover produce including apricots, avocados, kiwis and olives.
Can someone who understands economics better than me explain why these programs continue, unless the intended purpose is to prolong the damage and suffering generated by the New Deal?
Last week the Supreme Court took up a case addressing the constitutionality of the raisin confiscation program. Better late than never, but seems to me that they are about 80 years late.