United States
South Dakota in 20th century : Great Depression and world war II
United States

Prices for farm products fell even lower in the Great Depression of the 1930s. In addition, production fell off drastically, as farmers suffered a succession of droughts accompanied by grasshopper plagues. Finally, in 1933 and later years high winds whipped loose, dry topsoil into devastating dust storms known as black blizzards. It became obvious that extensive lands had been overcultivated. Thousands of farmers were forced to abandon their land and leave the state, and the population of South Dakota declined from 629,849 to 589,702 by 1945. The farmers who remained received aid from the domestic relief programs of President Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945). South Dakota farmers came to depend on public support and, as a result, lost some degree of economic self-sufficiency. Even with federal assistance, recovery was slow. In 1939 agricultural income was less than half what it had been in 1929.

The beginning of World War II in 1939 helped revive both manufacturing and agriculture in South Dakota. Industrial activity increased rapidly, and the availability of industrial jobs drew workers from rural areas into the cities. Factories in South Dakota were not nearly as large as those in more populous states, but a large number of small factories, especially machine shops, made a substantial contribution to the war effort and lifted the economy in South Dakota. Agriculture also thrived during the war. Increased demand for food products raised prices and the good weather helped dramatically increase farm production. Farmers increased their production of different crops such as flax and soybeans, as well as raising more cattle and poultry.

The increased agricultural production was achieved despite a labor shortage caused by the number of industrial-wage jobs that had appeared in urban areas. Encarta
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