By: U.S. Congress
Date: June 29, 1935
Source: U.S. Congress. Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935. 49 Stat. 436. June 29, 1935. Reprinted in Knoblauch, Harold C., Ernest M. Law, and W.P. Meyer. State Agricultural Experiment Stations: A History of Research Policy and Procedure. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962, 223–225.
About the Author: John Hollis Bankhead Jr. (1872–1946) was born in Jasper, Alabama. He received his law degree from Georgetown University in 1893 and was admitted to the bar that same year. Elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 1930, he was reelected in 1936 and 1942, while at the same time serving as trustee of the University of Alabama. He was also chairman of the Congressional Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation. He died while serving in office.
American farmers prospered during World War I (1914–1918) as they fed not only Americans but their British and French allies. The war's end in 1919 allowed British and French farmers to resume production, leaving American farmers with a surplus they couldn't sell overseas. This surplus drove down food prices, which had not regained their World War I levels when the Great Depression struck. Between 1929 and 1933 U.S. farm prices fell 60 percent as farmers tried to produce more food to compensate for low prices. But this approach only worsened matters by enlarging the surplus, further lowering prices. Farmers on the plains suffered acutely from drought and grasshoppers in addition to low prices. Thousands lost their farms and migrated to California in search of work.
Amid this crisis, Congress called on science to help farmers survive the depression. That Congress would turn to science was no surprise, for scientists had proven they could help farmers. They had eliminated the Texas cattle fever, pioneered crop dusting, and bred high-yielding, drought-tolerant varieties of hybrid corn. By 1930 agricultural science had fulfilled the expectations of Congress and the state legislatures.
In 1935 Congress passed the Bankhead-Jones Act, named after its author, Alabama Senator John Hollis Bankhead Jr., and its Congressional sponsor, Minnesota Congressman John D. Jones. It granted $5,000 per year to each agricultural experiment station to help farmers find markets for their surplus food. A key provision called on the stations to discover the "laws and principles underlying basic problems of agriculture." This was tantamount to asking scientists to transform agriculture into a branch of physics. Physics had its laws in the law of gravity and the laws of thermodynamics, for example. Agriculture, if it was to be on a par with physics, had to discover its own laws.
The Bankhead-Jones Act demanded much from agricultural science, which was to help farmers produce and distribute food more efficiently, to discover new markets for food, and to conserve soil and water. The Act expected the experiment stations to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the land-grant colleges in achieving these goals.
The Bankhead-Jones Act thus reinforced a strength of American science: the cooperation between federal and state scientific agencies. This model worked not only in agriculture but in all fields of science where the federal government funded research at the state universities. In the United States, science was the preserve of neither Congress nor the states. Rather it was a cooperative venture between both. This cooperation made American science the world's envy. It also made possible the development of the atomic bomb in 1945 and is today at the heart of medical research.
Primary Source: Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935 [excerpt]
SYNOPSIS: The Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935 granted each agricultural experiment station $5,000 a year to help farmers produce food more efficiently, to distribute it more efficiently, to discover new markets for food, and to conserve soil and water. The Act called on the experiment stations to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the landgrant colleges in achieving these goals.
Act of 1935 Providing for Agricultural Research and More Complete Endowment and Support of Land-Grant Colleges
An act to provide for research into basic laws and principles relating to agriculture and to provide for the further development of cooperative agricultural extension work and the more complete endowment and support of land-grant colleges.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
Section 1. [Amended by Act of August 14, 1946] The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized and directed to conduct research into laws and principlesunderlying basic problems of agriculture in its broadest aspects; research relating to the improvement of the quality of, and the development of new and improved methods of production of, distribution of, and new and extended uses and markets for, agricultural commodities and byproducts and manufactures thereof; and research relating to the conservation, development, and use of land and water resources for agricultural purposes. Research authorized under this section shall be in addition to research provided for under the existing law (but both activities shall be coordinated so far as practicable) and shall be conducted by such agencies of the Department of Agriculture as the Secretary may designate or establish.
Sec. 2. The Secretary is also authorized and directed to encourage research similar to that authorized under section 1 to be conducted by agricultural experiment stations established or which may hereafter be established in pursuance of the act of March 2, 1887, providing for experiment stations, as amended and supplemented, by the allotment and payment as provided in section 5 to Puerto Rico and the States and Territories for the use of such experiment stations of sums appropriated therefor pursuant to this title.
Sec. 3. For the purposes of this title there is authorized to be appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sum of $1,000,000 for the fiscal year beginning after the date of the enactment of this title, and for each of the four fiscal years thereafter $1,000,000 more than the amount authorized for the preceding fiscal year, and $5,000,000 for each fiscal year thereafter. Moneys appropriated in pursuance of this title shall also be available for the purchase and rental of land and the construction of buildings necessary for conducting research provided for in this title, for the equipment and maintenance of such buildings, and for printing and disseminating the results of research. Sums appropriated in pursuance of this title shall be in addition to, and not in substitution for, appropriations for research or other activities of the Department of Agriculture and sums appropriated or otherwise made available for agricultural experiment stations.
Sec. 4. Forty per centum of the sums appropriated for any fiscal year under section 3 shall be available for the purposes of section 1: Provided, That not to exceed 2 per centum of the sums appropriated may be used for the administration of section 5 of this title. The sums available for the purposes of section 1 shall be designated as the "Special research fund, Department of Agriculture," and no part of such special fund shall be used for the prosecution of research heretofore instituted or for the prosecution of any new research project except upon approval in writing by the Secretary. One-half of such special research fund shall be used by the Secretary for the establishment and maintenance of research laboratories and facilities in the major agricultural regions at places selected by him and for the prosecution, in accordance with section 1, of research at such laboratories.
Sec. 5. [Amended by Act of September 21,1944] (a) Sixty per centum of the sums appropriated for any fiscal year under section 3 shall be available for the purposes of section 2. The Secretary shall allot, for each fiscal year for which an appropriation is made, to Puerto Rico and each State and Territory an amount which bears the same ratio to the total amount to be allotted as the rural population of Puerto Rico or the State or Territory bears to the rural population of Puerto Rico and all the States and Territories as determined by the last preceding decennial census. No allotment and no payment under any allotment shall be made for any fiscal year in excess of the amount which Puerto Rico or the State or Territory makes available for such fiscal year out of its own funds for research and for the establishment and maintenance of necessary facilities for the prosecution of such research. If Puerto Rico or any State or Territory fails to make available for such purposes for any fiscal year a sum equal to the total amount to which it may be entitled for such year, the remainder of such amount shall be withheld by the Secretary. The total amount so withheld may be allotted by the Secretary of Agriculture to Puerto Rico and the States and Territories which make available for such year an amount equal to that part of the total amount withheld which may be allotted to them by the Secretary of Agriculture, but no such additional allotment to Puerto Rico or any State or Territory shall exceed the original allotment to Puerto Rico or such State or Territory for that year by more than 20 per centum thereof.
(b) The sums authorized to be allotted to Puerto Rico and the States and Territories shall be paid annually in quarterly payments on July 1, October 1, January 1, and April 1. Such sums shall be paid by the Secretary of the Treasury upon warrant of the Secretary of Agriculture in the same manner and subject to the same administrative procedure set forth in the act of March 2, 1887, as amended June 7, 1887.
Sec. 6. As used in this title the term "Territory" means Alaska and Hawaii.
Sec. 7. The Secretary of Agriculture is authorized and directed to prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out this act.
Sec. 8. The right to alter, amend, or repeal this act is hereby expressly reserved.…
Sec. 22. [Amended by Act of June 12, 1952] In order to provide for the more complete endowment and support of the colleges in the several States and the Territory of Hawaii entitled to the benefits of the act entitled "An act donating public lands to the several States and Territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts," approved July 2, 1862, as amended and supplemented (U.S.C., title 7, secs. 301–328; Supp. VII, sec. 304), there are hereby authorized to be appropriated annually, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the following amounts:
- For the fiscal year beginning after the date of the enactment of this act and for each fiscal year thereafter, $980,000; and,
- For the fiscal year following the first fiscal year for which an appropriation is made in pursuance of paragraph (a) $500,000, and for each of the two fiscal years thereafter $500,000 more than the amount authorized to be appropriated for the preceding fiscal year, and for each fiscal year thereafter $1,500,000. The sums appropriated in pursuance of paragraph (a) shall be paid annually to the several States and Territory of Hawaii in equal shares. The sums appropriated in pursuance of paragraph (b) shall be in addition to sums appropriated in pursuance of paragraph (a) and shall be allotted and paid annually to each of the several States and the Territory of Hawaii in the proportion which the total population of each such State and the Territory of Hawaii bears to the total population of all the States and the Territory of Hawaii, as determined by the last preceding decennial census. Sums appropriated in pursuance of this section shall be in addition to sums appropriated or authorized under such act of July 2, 1862, as amended and supplemented, and shall be applied only for the purposes of the colleges defined in such act, as amended and supplemented. The provisionsof law applicable to the use and payment of such sums under the act entitled "An act to apply a portion of the proceeds of the public lands to the more complete endowment and support of the colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts established under the provisions of an act of Congress approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two," approved August 30, 1890, as amended and supplemented, shall apply to the use and payment of sums appropriated in pursuance of this section.
Approved June 29, 1935 (49 Stat. 436).
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