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World War II


Omaha city
Omaha city

The depression demonstrated the need to solve some of the recurring problems faced by agriculture in Nebraska. Federal government programs provided additional sources of credit for farmers and helped to stabilize prices for the state’s basic commodities by paying farmers to take land out of production. Irrigation had been practiced since the 1880s and more extensively after the National Reclamation Act of 1902 had set aside proceeds from federal land sales in certain states to pay for irrigation projects. The construction of large reservoirs and dams in the late 1930s, however, dramatically expanded the use of irrigation. Complementing irrigation was the development of hydroelectric power plants, which used the same water that later filled the irrigation ditches. In 1933 the legislature authorized the creation of public power and irrigation districts as political subdivisions. The federal government also began an extensive program to encourage soil conservation in the 1930s, and by 1950 all Nebraska farms and ranches belonged to soil-conservation districts.

During World War II, as during World War I, Nebraska’s principal contribution was the production of food. However, many of the state’s small industries produced a wide variety of war equipment, and heavy bombers were assembled in Omaha. Three ordnance plants and a large naval ammunition depot were built in the state, and 11 large air bases provided training facilities for the army. After the war the worldwide headquarters of the Strategic Air Command (now called the U.S. Strategic Command) were located at Offutt Air Force Base.

World War II brought unprecedented prosperity to Nebraska’s agriculture. Federally-assisted construction of dams helped farmers in Nebraska and other states drained by the Missouri River by controlling floods and providing water for irrigation.

Thereafter the farmers remained generally healthy and prosperous as a result of adequate rainfall, improved farming methods, irrigation, conservation, and relatively stable prices for farm products. Center-pivot irrigation, in which a long pipe with sprinklers moves around a circular field like the large hand of a clock, spread rapidly after the 1970s. By the mid-1990s some 80,000 wells had been sunk to pump water from the huge system of aquifers below the state to the thirsty fields above. Agriculture became increasingly mechanized and the size of farms increased while their number decreased, reducing the need for farm workers, many of whom moved to the cities. The rural unemployment was partly offset by the development of oil fields (most of which are now closed), and Nebraska remains primarily an agricultural state. "Nebraska" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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