The Farm Placement Service of Texas, which started in the mid-1930s, was an outgrowth of the federal government's Farm Placement Service, which had been set up in Fort Worth in 1919. Though the federal Farm Placement Service operated for only forty-five days during its initial year to oversee the hiring of farm workers for the state's wheat harvest, it continued to function in Texas for the next several decades, eventually passing its role to the state. The Farm Placement Service helped stabilize the farmers' search for workers and the workers' search for employment. Before the establishment of the federal Farm Placement Service, both groups had operated through labor agents, whose major interest was financial. In 1916, even before the national government moved in to regulate the agricultural labor market, the state's commissioner of labor had recommended that Texas manage the market to eliminate waste and promote better hiring practices. The Farm Placement Service was principally concerned with finding workers for the cotton harvest, though it covered vegetable and fruit crops as well. By 1925 it had set up farm-labor recruitment offices in Brownsville, Houston, Lubbock, and other cities. To accomplish its work, the Farm Placement Service sent staff members out to survey crop-harvest needs and to determine available housing for the workers. Many businesses assisted it, and chambers of commerce provided it with free telephone service. After congressional passage in 1933 of the Wagner-Payser Act, which reorganized the country's employment services, the federal government discontinued its direct operation of the Farm Placement Service, and in 1935 the program was subsumed under the newly organized Employment Service of Texas.
Once under the state's jurisdiction, the Farm Placement Service coordinated the pool of agricultural workers through a system of local offices that directed strategies for meeting regional needs. Each district supervisor maintained a calendar of seasonal labor requirements for harvesting various crops. In 1939 the Farm Placement Service could boast that it had placed just over half a million workers throughout the state in that year alone. The service also joined forces with the Federal Farm Security Administration to set up labor camps for agricultural workers in Raymondville, Robstown, Sinton, Weslaco, and other Texas towns. By June 1945 forty-one towns in the state had established these camps, which were also known as "reception centers." The camps generally provided wood, water, and toilets for workers during the harvest. Other camps offered other features. For example, at the Robstown site, which could serve up to 1,200 individuals, two types of shelters were available. One-room apartments that accommodated five people rented for $1.25 a week, and occupants were provided with community showers, baths, toilets, and a laundry room. In the same camp a small number of four-room houses with private baths were available for larger families at a cost of $2.25 a week. Some of the camps were still in operation under a different guise in the 1990s. The one at Weslaco, for instance, had been transformed into an apartment complex for farmworkers under the control of the Farmer Home Administration, a program of the United States Department of Agriculture. In the mid-1970s, after some thirty-five years as a separate program, the Farm Placement Service was disbanded, and its services were integrated into the regular job-placement programs of the Texas Employment Commission. In the early 1990s the agency reported placing agricultural workers both in Texas and out of state at an annual rate of 25 to 28 percent.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Everett Ross Clinchy, Jr., Equality of Opportunity for Latin-Americans in Texas (New York: Arno Press, 1974). George Otis Coalson, The Development of the Migratory Farm Labor System in Texas, 1900–1954 (San Francisco: R&E Research Associates, 1977). Pauline Rochester Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1946).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Teresa Palomo Acosta,
“Farm Placement Service of Texas,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 11, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
September 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: