Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931–32

By: Laurie E. Jasinski

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1995

Updated: August 4, 2020

In the late 1920s and early 1930s reduced cotton consumption and steady cotton production resulted in low prices for the crop and placed economic strains on many cotton farmers. This situation prompted southern states to seek measures to reduce production and address the need to stabilize a weak export market to Europe-a major buyer of southern cotton. The states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and New Mexico were represented at the Southern Cotton Conference on August 4, 1931. The gathering was called to consider proposals to restrict cotton acreage, look to other crops for production, and develop an industrial program to unite the South. The representatives felt that Texas should take a leading role in enacting an acreage law, and then other states would follow suit. In the second called session the Forty-Second Texas Legislature passed the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law on September 22, 1931. The law stated that the amount of cotton planted in 1932 and 1933 could not exceed 30 percent of the land in cultivation for the preceding year. Also, farmers could not plant cotton on the same land for two successive years after 1933. Through the restrictive acreage law legislators hoped to stimulate soil conservation and prevent further land deterioration and erosion. They also hoped to increase the quality of cotton produced and avoid crop deterioration and the problems of root rot and insect infestation from pests such as the boll weevil and the cotton flea. The penalty for breaking the law was a fine of 25 to 100 dollars per acre of cotton planted in violation of the act. Enforcement was placed with the attorney general, state commissioner of agriculture, state department of agriculture inspectors, county judges, and county and district attorneys. Supporters and opponents of the law debated its worth. Some felt the measure might lead to higher cotton prices, but others foresaw little if any increases. Many large plantations, especially in South Texas, feared that enforcement of the acreage law would force them to lay off many tenant farmers, seriously increasing unemployment in that region. Planters were also angry that legislators failed to address the need to find alternative crops and jobs for displaced workers. Many cotton farmers planned to evade or even openly disregard the cotton acreage act. In South Texas farmers cut their old stalks and tried to raise second-growth cotton in the effort to get around the law. A few other southern states passed similar but weaker acreage laws, but collectively they had little effect. On January 19, 1932, in Franklin, Texas, a suit was filed in order to test the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law. The case involved T. L. Tyson, a county attorney, against Fred L. Smith, a farmer who was accused of planting too much cotton acreage. On February 1, 1932, a district judge ruled in favor of Smith and declared the Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law to be null and void. He argued that enforcement of the law would be in violation of both the Texas and United States constitutions. His decision was later upheld in the Tenth Court of Civil Appeals on March 5, 1932. Up to that time the acreage law had never really been enforced and had little time to produce any major effects. See also COTTON CULTURE.

Karl E. Ashburn, "The Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931–32," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 61 (July 1957).


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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Laurie E. Jasinski, “Texas Cotton Acreage Control Law of 1931–32,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-cotton-acreage-control-law-of-1931-32.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995
August 4, 2020