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"Aerial Photography at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration: Acreage Controls, Conservation Benefits, and Overhead Surveillance in the 1930s"

Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, vol. 68, no. 11 (December 2002), pp. 1257-61.

ABSTRACT. Aerial photography played an important but largely unsung role in New Deal efforts to improve farm income. Established in 1933, the Agricultural Adjustment Administration promoted agriculture secretary Henry Wallace’s “ever-normal granary” with production controls (1934-1935) and conservation programs (1936-1937) before Congress adopted a combined strategy in 1938. To administer these programs and ensure performance, the AAA set up an innovative hierarchy of state, county, and local committees. Experiments in 1935 and 1936 demonstrated that aerial photography provided cost-effective, adequately precise measurements and led to a concerted effort to extend photographic coverage. In 1937 thirty-six photographic crews flew 375,000 square miles, and by late 1941 AAA officials had acquired coverage of more than 90 percent of the country’s agricultural land. From its initial goal of promoting compliance, the Agriculture Department’s aerial photography program became a tool for conservation and land planning as well as an instrument of fair and accurate measurement. Local administration and a widely perceived need to increase farm income fostered public acceptance of a potentially obtrusive program of overhead surveillance.

From Harry Tubis, “Aerial Photography Maps Our Farmlands: the Program of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration,” Photogrammetric Engineering (April-May-June 1937)