Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 2

Records of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry and Related Committees

Committee records discussed in this chapter:


History and Jurisdiction

2.1 In 1825, during the first session of the 19th Congress, Senator William Findlay of Pennsylvania proposed that a standing committee on agriculture be established. Findlay argued that agriculture, commerce, and manufactures constituted the three great branches of domestic industry, and since there were already committees on the other two, agriculture should receive equal attention. His colleagues agreed, and on December 9, 1825, a resolution authorizing the Committee on Agriculture was passed. Except for the 35th-37th Congresses, March 5, 1857-March 6, 1863, there has been a standing Committee on Agriculture in each Congress. In February 1884, to describe the scope of its responsibilities more accurately, it was renamed the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, which it remained until 1977. Partially overlapping the committee in jurisdiction was another standing committee, the Committee on Forest Reservations and the Protection of Game, 1896-1921, and that committee's predecessor select committees. When a reorganization of Senate committees in 1977 abolished the Select Committee on Nutrition and merged its jurisdiction with that of Agriculture and Forestry, the current Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry was created. For a brief history of the committee from 1825-1998, see S. Doc. 105-24, 105th Cong.

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Records of the Committee on Agriculture, 19th-47th Congresses (1825-1883)

2.2 The records of the Committee on Agriculture consist of three series: (1) Committee reports and papers, 1826-42 with significant gaps; (2) committee papers, 1845-57, 1863-83; and (3) petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures that were referred to the committee, 1825-57, 1863-83. The records are very fragmentary and together measure slightly more than 1 linear foot. The National Archives has committee papers for fewer than half of all Congresses in this period, although for most Congresses some petitions, memorials, and resolutions have been preserved.

2.3 Before the Civil War, committee reports and papers consist of original committee reports and related correspondence about proposed import duties on salt and liquor and about scientific and technical proposals. One exceptional file contains the committee report and related papers on the memorial of Dr. Henry Perrine, former U.S. consul at Campeche, Yucatan, Mexico, requesting a land grant in southern Florida to encourage the introduction and to promote the cultivation of tropical plants. His letters and related exhibits, including illustrations, document the natural history and physical conditions in Florida in the 1830's (25A-D1).

2.4 Petitions and memorials that were referred to the committee concern import duties (19A-G1, 21A-G1); cultivation of grapes for wine making (20A-G1), of mulberry trees for silk production (21A- G1, 25A-G1), of tropical plants for fruit and medicinal purposes (29A-G1), and of sugar beets for sugar (25A-G1); establishment of an agriculture and education department in the executive branch (numerous Congresses after 1838) and an agriculture college and national garden (numerous Congresses after 1840); and support for research on potato rot (31A-H1), among other subjects.

2.5 After the reestablishment of the committee on March 6, 1863, the committee papers continue to be extremely fragmentary. There are records in this series for only 4 of the 10 Congresses between 1863 and 1883 on the following subjects: Taxes on tobacco (38A-E1), the cattle industry in general (41A-E1, 38A-E1), and the need to improve the levees of the Mississippi River (45A-E1), (see also records of the Committee on the Improvement of the Mississippi River and Its Tributaries, 46th-54th Congresses).

2.6 Records relating to the transportation, health, and inspection of cattle constitute much of the committee papers and include various documents concerning pleuro-pneumonia, or cattle lung plague (numerous Congresses after 1879), and the design of cattle cars (41A-E1). Petitions and memorials express the public's desire for Federal support for the treatment and eradication of pleuro-pneumonia and other pest and disease problems encountered by farmers and ranchers (numerous Congresses after 1880).

2.7 Other subjects of petitions and memorials include: Establishment of a Cabinet-level department of agriculture (45A-H1, A-H1.1) and a bureau of veterinary medicine (44A-H1), funding for agriculture and forestry colleges (38A-H1, 42A-H1, 47A-H1), specific agricultural patents (numerous Congresses), foreign immigration to settle homestead lands (38A-H1, 39A-H1, 40A-H1), forest reserves (43A-H1, 45A-H1), and protection from adulterated food (45A-H1).

2.8 Records relating to homestead legislation and land-grant colleges are found with the papers of the Committee on Public Lands because these matters chiefly concern disposition of federally owned land.

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Records of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 48th-94th Congresses (1883-1976)

Records of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 48th-79th Congresses (1883-1946)

2.9 Records of the committee consist of committee papers, including hearings, 1883-1946 (43 ft.); petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures and other bodies referred to the committee, 1883-1946 (30 ft.); minutes of executive sessions of the committee, 1925-42 (8 in., incl. 4 vols.); and legislative dockets, 1921-25 (3 vols., 4 in.). The records are more extensive than those before 1883, but they are nevertheless incomplete and, in some instances, fragmentary until better recordkeeping practices were instituted in 1943 by the committee. About one-third of all committee records for 1883-1946 were accumulated in the years 1943-46 (78th-79th Congresses). However, even these incomplete records document a broad range of topics. The committee papers include Presidential messages; certain executive agency reports; resolutions of state legislatures that have been published; legislative case files (1883-1901); unpublished transcripts of hearings; correspondence; reports; unbound minutes of executive sessions of the committee for the 72d Congress, 1931-32, (others between 1925 and 1942 are in bound volumes); and various records of investigative subcommittees, 78th-79th Congresses. Legislative case files, also referred to as "papers accompanying specific bills and resolutions," are compiled in a single series for each Congress with similar records of all Senate committees, 1901-46.

2.10 From 1883 to 1914, the records of the committee amply illustrate that legislation affecting agricultural interest groups--producers, traders, and consumers--brought about more committee activity during the Populist and Progressive eras. A substantial number of petitions from the National Grange, Farmer's Alliance, and other agricultural organizations in the early-and mid-1890's against speculation in farm products (51A-J1, 52A-J1.2), favoring Federal storage of grain (51A-J1.3), and calling for an investigation into causes of the ongoing agricultural depression (51A-J1.3) illustrate several aspects of the Populist movement. The petitions, which originated from the economic self-interest of dairy and other farmers, document the long-term campaigns to tax, regulate, and even prohibit oleomargarine (each Congress, 1886-1913) and to prohibit the use of cottonseed oil in lard (50A-J1.2, 51A-J1.2) and other imitation foods. Eventually, these petition campaigns were followed by broader demands for Progressive reforms, such as pure food laws (52A-J1.3), meat inspection (59A-J3), uniform grain inspection standards (60A-J3), and inspection of dairy products for tuberculosis (61A-J2, 62A-J2). Other reform measures called for by petitions and memorials include protection of forests (50A-J1.1, 60A-J2, 60A-J8, 62A-J3) and construction of "good roads" (national highways), particularly in rural areas (52A-J1.6, 53A-J1, 58A-J3, 60A-J7).

2.11 Petitions and memorials also document demands for congressional action to deal with the diseases and pests that plagued livestock and crops, including pleuro-pneumonia (48A-H1, 49A-H1, 50A-H1), black leg disease (55A-J1.1, 56A-J1.2), gypsy moths (53A-J1), and white pine blister rust (64A-J9). Certain petitions on this subject led to hearings on cattle diseases (1888, 50A-F1) and eradication of the gypsy moth (1895, 53A-F1); the petitions and unpublished hearings are located in the committee papers.

2.12 Some of the other subjects addressed by significant numbers of petitions and memorials include the establishment of agricultural experiment stations and an agricultural extension service (58A-J1, 59A-J1, 60A-J1, 61A-J1, 62A-J1), improved weather forecasting (56A-J1.3), control and leasing of public lands for grazing purposes (56A-J1, 60A-J4), and seed distribution (54A-J1.1, 55A-J1.1, 59A-J5).

2.13 Numerous petitions and memorials emphasize many agricultural and consumer issues of World War I: The price of gasoline (64A-J2), conservation of food (65A-J2), Government control and sale of food (65A-J4), guaranteed wheat prices (65A-J5), prohibition of liquor production to conserve food and grain during wartime (65A-J6), and immigration of Chinese labor to meet war-related shortages (65A-J1). There are few committee papers for the wartime Congresses. As the prosperity of U.S. agriculture evaporated with the end of the war and the agricultural depression of the 1920's set in, the emphasis of the petitions shifts to pleas for price stabilization (67A-J4, 68A-J6), export legislation (68A-J25), and, ultimately, farm relief (69A-J1, 70A-J). The committee papers of the 1920's include reports of the Federal Trade Commission investigation of methods and operations of grain marketers and futures traders (68A-F1, 69A-F1) and reports from other executive departments and agencies. Other subjects addressed in petitions and memorials of the 1920's include Henry Ford's proposal to operate the Muscle Shoals facility in Alabama (67A-J2), investigation of livestock markets (71A-J8), and forests and reforestation (64A-J2, 71A-J4).

2.14 The petitions and memorials referred to the committee during the Great Depression and New Deal document the worsening of the agricultural depression in the 1930's, as seen by farmers seeking relief from the Senate through such legislation as the Frazier-Lemke farm credit bills (72A-J1, 73A-J1, 75A-J1). With the advent of New Deal farm programs, attention shifts to issues stemming from recovery programs, for example the wheat processing tax of the Agricultural Adjustment Act (76A-J1, 77A-J1) and the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenancy Act (75A-J1).

2.15 The committee correspondence, reports, and other committee papers relate to additional matters, including: General committee business as documented by minutes of executive sessions, 1931-32 (72A-F1); the committee investigation of the cotton industry, 1935-36 (74A-F1); major financial aid to farmers, as reflected in the committee list of recipients of $1,000 or more under the Soil Conservation and Allotment Act, 1938-39 (76A-F1, oversized); and a Federal Trade Commission study of the dairy industry in the mid- and late-1930's (74A-F1, 75A- F1).

2.16 The records of the committee during World War II include those of agriculture subcommittees investigating the use of farm crops (78A-F1, 4 ft.); the Rural Electrification Administration (78A-F1, 7 ft.); and food production, distribution, and consumption (79A-F1, 7 ft.). Records of these subcommittees include correspondence and subject files, unpublished transcripts of hearings, exhibits, and, in some instances, raw data based on filled-in questionnaires. The general correspondence files of the full committee are more extensive for the 1943-46 period than for preceding years.

Records of the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, 80th-94th Congresses (1947-1976)

2.17 The Committee on Agriculture and Forestry was not changed directly by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (Public Law 79-601). Like all standing committees of the 80th Congress, it did, however, benefit from the law's provisions that authorized the employment of a professional staff by each committee. As a consequence of this change, more Senate records were created and preserved.

2.18 As a result of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, jurisdictions of Senate standing committees were formally stated in Senate Rule XXV for the first time. Subjects within the Agriculture and Forestry Committee's jurisdiction included the following: Agriculture generally; inspection of livestock and meat products; animal industry and diseases of animals; adulteration of seeds; insect pests; protection of birds and animals in forest reserves; agricultural colleges and experiment stations; forestry in general, and forest reserves other than those created from the public domain; agricultural economics and research; agricultural chemistry; dairy industry; entomology and plant quarantine; human nutrition and home economics; plant industry, soils, and agricultural engineering; agricultural education extension services; extension of farm credit and farm security; rural electrification; agricultural production and marketing of agricultural products and stabilization of agricultural prices; and crop insurance and soil conservation. Between 1947 and 1968, additional responsibilities for international food aid, rural development, watershed protection, and food stamps and other consumer issues were added.

2.19 Records documenting committee action on legislative proposals concerning these subjects are located in the series legislative case files ("accompanying papers"), 1947-68 (93 ft.). Arranged for each Congress by type of bill and resolution and thereunder numerically by bill or resolution number, they include copies of printed Senate bills and resolutions, approved House bills, and joint and concurrent resolutions; amendments; printed Senate and/or House reports; related committee prints; copies of slip laws, if enacted; staff memorandums; correspondence; printed and unprinted hearing transcripts until 1961; and reference material. Records of the subcommittee investigating the utilization of farm crops, pursuant to S. Res. 36, 81st Cong. (1949, 13 ft.), are located in this series.

2.20 Additional hearing transcripts, 1947-56 (7 ft.), including those of subcommittees, joint sessions with the House Committee on Agriculture, and executive sessions of the committee, as well as transcripts of printed hearings, are maintained as a separate series; however, the series is not comprehensive.

2.21 The committee's general correspondence, 1947-68 (57 ft.), contains the chairman's correspondence with committee members, other Members of Congress, committee staff, executive agency officials, and the general public, as well as correspondence of the staff director, professional staff members, and the committee clerk. The records are arranged for each Congress alphabetically by subject or correspondent and thereunder chronologically by date of outgoing letter. Also included in this series under either the "committee" or "minutes" subject heading are minutes of committee meetings, 1957-68. (A minute book, 1955-56, and a 16mm microfilm copy of minutes, 1957-75, also document committee executive sessions.) A separate file of copies of letters sent ("yellow file"), 1955-68 (9 ft.), arranged for each Congress alphabetically by name of correspondent, provides cross-references to the file locations of incoming correspondence and related records in the general correspondence and legislative case files.

2.22 Nomination files, 1947-66 (8 in.), concern committee consideration of executive nominations to posts such as the Secretary of Agriculture and his chief assistants, Administrator of the Farm Credit Administration, Director of the Commodity Credit Corporation, and similar officials. The files consist of nomination reference and report forms, biographical sketches, correspondence, and, for certain nominees in the 80th and 81st Congresses, transcripts of nomination hearings. There are no nomination files for either the 88th or 90th Congress. Other records on particular nominees may be located in the general correspondence for the appropriate Congress.

2.23 Presidential messages and executive communications ("messages, communications, and reports"), 1947-68 (27 ft.), include official communications, other than nomination messages, to the Senate from the White House and executive agencies that were referred to the committee from the Senate floor. Arranged for each Congress by record type and thereunder chronologically by date of referral, they include reports submitted to Congress by the Secretary of Agriculture or other high-ranking administration official because the reports were mandated by law or were in response to a congressional request for information. These include numerous "plans for works of improvement," which were required by the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act for specific watershed areas and were transmitted frequently to the committee in the years 1961-68 (87th-90th Congresses). Both Presidential messages and executive communications may contain legislative proposals. Also referred from the floor of the Senate are petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures, 1947-68 (1 ft.); most are resolutions of State legislatures on agricultural matters.

2.24 The committee conducted several investigations during the 1950's and early 1960`s. Some of the investigations were carried out by the full committee; others, described below, were carried out by special subcommittees. The most prominent investigation by the full committee was directed at allegations that certain warehousemen and farmers "converted" Government-owned grain for their use, costing the Department of Agriculture approximately $10 million. The committee also examined the Department of Agriculture's management of the grain storage problem. The investigation was authorized by S. Res. 256, 82d Cong. Records relating to an investigation of the Commodity Credit Corporation, January-September 1952 (11 ft.), consist of investigative case files, transcripts of hearings, a subject file, and administrative records.

2.25 The full committee also investigated the following matters: Price spreads in various agricultural commodities, 1953-54 (83d Cong., 3 ft.); the baking industry, 1956-57 (84th-85th Congresses, 4 in.); the wool futures market, 1957 (85th Cong., 5 in.); the poultry industry, 1957 (85th Cong., 3 ft.); and the Minnesota County and Community Agriculture Stabilization Committee elections, 1957 (85th Cong., 5 in.). The types of records on each of these subjects may include correspondence, statistical reports, completed questionnaires, committee prints, reports, hearing transcripts, printer's copies of hearing transcripts, minutes of meetings, and reference material.

Records of Subcommittees of the Committee of Agriculture and Forestry

Subcommittee to Investigate the Importation of Feed Wheat

2.26 Pursuant to S. Res. 127, 83d Cong., Edward J. Thye of Minnesota chaired a subcommittee that conducted an investigation of the importation of wheat unfit for human consumption. Some grain handlers allegedly imported feed wheat from Canada and mixed it with domestic wheat intended for use as human food. The records, 1953-57 (4 ft.), consist of reports by investigators of the Production and Marketing Administration of the Department of Agriculture, correspondence with officials of the Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs Bureau, correspondence with companies, a transcript of a hearing on October 9, 1953, and other records.

Special Subcommittee to Investigate Grain Storage and Other Activities of the Department of Agriculture

2.27 Pursuant to S. Res. 161, 86th Cong., this subcommittee, also known as the Senate Agriculture Investigating Subcommittee, held hearings on the grain storage operations of the Commodity Credit Corporation. The records, 1959-60 (3 ft.), consist of a subject file, minutes of meetings, correspondence, and printer's copies of transcripts of hearings. The subcommittee was chaired by Stuart Symington of Missouri.

Subcommittee on Watershed Projects

2.28 Herman Talmadge of Georgia chaired this subcommittee in the 87th Congress in order to review justification for certain watershed protection work plans submitted for approval under section 5 of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1961. The records, 1961-62 (1 ft.) consist mainly of copies of the watershed protection work plans, project reports, and related correspondence.

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Records of the Committee on Forest Reservations and the Protection of Game, 54th-66th Congresses (1896-1921)

2.29 Although the Committee on Agriculture and Forestry had, as its name states, jurisdiction over forestry matters, other committees were created expressly to consider many of the same issues. The Committee on Forest Reservations and the Protection of Game was established by Senate Resolution on March 19, 1896, and was terminated by S. Res. 43, 67th Cong. (1921), which eliminated many inactive and overlapping standing and select Senate committees. The Committee on Forest Reservations and the Protection of Game was preceded by the Select Committee on Forest Reservations in California, established July 28, 1892, and that select committee's successor, the Select Committee on Forest Reservations, established March 15, 1893. The National Archives has less than 1 inch of petitions referred to the Select Committee on Forest Reservations and no records of its predecessor select committee.

2.30 Records of Committee on Forest Reservations and the Protection of Game consist of committee papers, 1902-12 (1 in.), and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of state legislatures referred to the committee, 1896-1921 (1 ft.). Committee papers have been preserved for only the 57th, 58th, and 62d Congresses and include executive communications from the Agriculture and Interior Departments that were printed as House or Senate documents. Petitions and memorials referred to the committee include the following subjects: Forest reserves generally (54A0J13, 60A-J52, 61A-J36) and Southern Appalachia (56A-J13, 60A-J52, 61A-J36); preservation of the Calaveras grove of big trees (58A-J30); protection of birds, game, and fish generally and the creation of game reserves (58A-J30, 59A-J41); protection of specific animals or categories of animals, such as buffalo (56A-J13), elk (60A-J53, 61A-J35), Alaskan game (58A-J29), and migratory birds (61A-J36, 62A-J43, 64A-J33); protection of the Niagara Falls from destruction by power companies (59A-J43); turning over title to forest reserves to the States (62A-J43); and destruction of predators on Government reserves (64A-J34).

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Records of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, 95th Congress- (1977- )

2.31 Records are arranged by Congress, and thereunder by the following series: Legislative case files; correspondence arranged by subject; referrals from the floor (Presidential messages, executive communications, petitions, and memorials); and transcripts of committee business meetings, markups, and conferences. Outgoing correspondence has been microfilmed and serves as an index to other series. There are no separate subcommittee records. See also records of the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, 1967-76 (10 feet).

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

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