Resettlement Administration

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RESETTLEMENT ADMINISTRATION. The Resettlement Administration (RA) was the New Deal's rural antipoverty agency (1935–1937). In 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order consolidating several farm programs into a single agency, the Resettlement Administration. Rexford Tugwell, the combative New Deal intellectual who became administrator of the RA, rejected a government policy that, as he saw it, maintained poor farmers on unproductive soil. At first he focused on long-term land reform: buying millions of acres of substandard land, converting it to more appropriate uses, and resettling displaced farm families in experimental communities and public housing (including controversial model farms and suburban greenbelt towns).

Congressional opponents of the New Deal, however, cast the RA's collectivist resettlement projects as dangerous experiments in socialism. Tugwell shifted the agency's attention to rural rehabilitation, a less controversial and shorter-term program assisting the rural poor with emergency grants, loans, and farm planning. By June 1936 the RA had more than two million clients, almost 10 percent of the total farm population.

In December 1936 Tugwell retired from government service, and the RA was transferred to the Department of Agriculture, where it could remain relatively safe from congressional attack. The RA became the Farm Security Administration in September 1937.

Back in 1935 Tugwell, knowing that the RA was likely to come under political attack, had formed an information division to distribute propaganda. Its artistic output, including the famous photographs of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, has survived longer than the land-reform policies it was meant to promote.


Baldwin, Sidney. Poverty and Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Farm Security Administration. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1968.


See alsoGreat Depression ; New Deal .