History Timeline 1910's

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U.S. Timeline - The 1910s

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  • Timeline

  • 1916 - Detail

    July 17, 1916 - Financial aid to farmers is awarded by the passage of the Rural Credits Act. These payments would be further strengthened with the passage of a second bill, the Warehouse Act, on August 11.


    President Woodrow Wilson, 1915 farm

    It was known by several names, the Rural Credit Act, or in Congress, the Federal Farm Loan Act, and had been a long time coming. Congress had been trying to find a formula to fund farmers credit since 1912. President Woodrow Wilson had been pushing for the Act since running for office; even the former President Taft had been investigating the possibility in his administration. It had been the mantra of the Country Life Commission since its formation in 1908, that the cause for financial struggles in country life was the, ... "lack of any adequate system of agricultural credit whereby the farmer may readily secure loans on fair terms, ... a method of cooperative credit would undoubtedly prove of great service."

    Both the President, farming community, and Congress agreed. In rural communities, local banks charged a higher rate of interest to farmers than they did to industrial corporations, municipalities, and railroads. Initial attempts to create a bill fell on conflicting ears; some favored the bankers too heavily, others prevented the bankers from making a sufficient profit. On March 15, 1915, a joint committee of twelve members of the Senate and House of Representatives was formed to establish a rural credits system. They were to report back no later than January 1, 1916.

    The report came back on January 3, 1916 with a bill attached similar to a previous attempt named Hollis-Buckley from the 1915 session. It passed, with amendments in the Senate on May 4, 1916, and after more changes, passed the House on May 15, 1916. Wilson would sign the final version on July 17.

    The bill was a complicated piece of legislation, advocating the creation of new institutions to compete with established banks through an agency known as the Federal Farm Loan Bureau. The nation would be divided into twelve districts and a federal land bank established in each, capitalized with at least $750,000. Subscriptions to fund the banks would start at $5, and if any federal land bank could not raise the funds on their own, the Treasury would make up the balance, but keep on trying to retire their piece of the balance.

    There would be national farm loan associations who could combine assets and spread liability; the farmers who became part of the association were eligible to become directors and/or vote on decisions of the local land bank. At first, loans were capped at six percent interest backed by 50% of the farm land value and 20% of its improvements. Longest term for a loan could be forty years, shortest five years; amounts ranged from $100 to $10,000. They could be paid off through amortization.

    The hope was for rates to stabilize across regions of the country where some, i.e. in New England, had rates prior to the bill ate 5 to 6%, while in parts of the midwest to west, excepting the Pacific Coast, rates could be as high as 10%.

    As the system became operational, President Woodrow Wilson thought a companion act could assist with its deficiences. He advocated for a Warehouse Act, which would allow Federal Reserve banks to make farm loans based on the security of their crops, which would be kept in Federal storage units to provide collateral on the loans. That act was signed into law on August 11, 1916.



    Select Text, Federal Farm Loan Act


    CHAP. 245.- An Act To provide capital for agricultural development, to create standard forms of investment based upon farm mortgage, to equalize rates of interest upon farm loans, to furnish a market for United States bonds, to create Government depositaries and financial agents for the United States, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that the short title of this Act shall be "The Federal Farm Loan Act." Its administration shall be under the direction and control of the Federal Farm Loan Board hereinafter created.

    DEFINITIONS.

    SEC. 2. That wherever the term "first mortgage" is used in this Act it shall be held to include such classes of first liens on farm lands as shall be approved by the Federal Farm Loan Board, and the credit instruments secured thereby. The term "farm loan bonds" shall be held to include all bonds secured by collateral deposited with a farm loan registrar under the terms of this Act; they shall be distinguished by the addition of the words "Federal," or "joint stock," as the case may be.

    FEDERAL FARM LOAN BOARD

    SEC. 3. That there shall be established at the seat of government in the Department of the Treasury a bureau charged with the execution of this Act and of all Acts amendatory thereof, to be known as the Federal Farm Loan Bureau, under the general supervision of a Federal Farm Loan Board.

    Said Federal Farm Loan Board shall consist of five members, including the Secretary of the Treasury, who shall be a member and chairman ex officio, and four members to be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Of the four members to be appointed by the President, not more than two shall be appointed from one political party, and all four of said members shall be citizens of the United States and shall devote their entire time to the business of the Federal Farm Loan Board; they shall receive an annual salary of $10,000 payable monthly, together with actual necessary traveling expenses.

    One of the members to be appointed by the President shall be designated by him to serve for two years, one for four years, one for six years, and one for eight years, and thereafter each member so appppointed shall serve for a term of eight years, unless sooner removed for cause by the President. One of the members shall be designated by the President as the Farm Loan Commissioner, who shall be the active executive officer of said board. Each member of the Federal Farm Loan Board shall within fifteen days after notice of his appointment take and subscribe to the oath of office.

    The first meeting of the Federal Farm Loan Board shall be held in Washington as soon as may be after the passage of this Act, at a date and place to be fixed by the Secretary of the Treasury.

    No member of the Federal Farm Loan Board shall, during his continuance in office, be an officer or director of any other institution, association, or partnership engaged in banking, or in the business of making land mortgage loans or selling land mortgages. Before entering upon his duties as a member of the Federal Farm Loan Board each member shall certify under oath to the President that he is eligibis under this section.

    The President shall have the power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to fill any vacancy occurring in the membership of the Federal Farm Loan Board; if such vacancy shall be filled during the recess of the Senate a commission shall be granted which shall expire at the end of the next session.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall appoint a farm loan registrar in each, land bank district to receive applications for issues of farm loan bonds and to perform such other services as are prescribed by this Act. It shall also appoint one or more land bank appraisers for each land bank district and as many land bank examiners as it shall deem necessary. Farm loan registrars, land bank appraisers, and land bank examiners appointed under this section shall be public officials and shall, during their continuance in office, have no connection with or interest in any other institution, association, or partnership engaged in banking or in the business of making land mortgage loans or selling land mortgages: Provided, That this limitation shall not apply to persons employed by the board temporarily to do special work.

    The salaries and expenses of the Federal Farm Loan Board, and of farm loan registrars and examiners authorized under this section, shall be paid by the United States. Land bank appraisers shall receive such compensation as the Federal Farm Loan Board shall fix, and shall be paid by the Federal land banks and the joint stock land banks which they serve, in such proportion and in' such manner as the Federal Farm Loan Board shall order.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall be authorized and empowered to employ such attorneys, experts, assistants, clerks, laborers, and other employees as it may deem necessary to conduct the business of said board. All salaries and fees authorized in this section and not otherwise provided for shall be fixed in advance by said board and shall be paid in the same manner as the salaries of the Federal Farm Loan Board. All such attorneys, experts, assistants, clerks, laborers, and other employees, and all registrars, examiners, and appraisers shall be appointed without regard to the provisions of the Act of January sixteenth, eighteen hundred and eighty-three (volume twenty-two, United States Statutes at Large, page four hundred and three), and amendments thereto, or any rule or regulation made in pursuance thereof: Provided, That nothing herein shall prevent the President from placing said employees in the classified service.

    Every Federal land bank shall semiannually submit to the Federal Farm Loan Board a schedule showing the salaries or rates of compensation paid to its officers and employees.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall annually make a full report of its operations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall cause the same to be printed for the information of the Congress.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall from time to time require examinations and reports of condition of all land banks established under the provisions of this Act and shall publish consolidated statements of the results thereof. It shall cause to be made appraisals of farm lands as provided by this Act, and shall prepare and publish amortization tables which shall be used by national farm loan associations and land banks organized under this Act.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall prescribe a form for the statement of condition of national farm loan associations and land banks under its supervision, which shall be filled out quarterly by each such association or bank and transmitted to said board.

    It shall be the duty of the Federal Farm Loan Board to prepare from time to time bulletins setting forth the principal features of this Act and through the Department of Agriculture or otherwise to distribute the same, particularly to the press, to agricultural journals, and to farmers' organizations: to prepare and distribute in the same manner circulars setting forth the principles and advantages of amortized farm loans and the protection afforded debtors under this Act, instructing farmers how to organize and conduct farm loan associations, and advising investors of the merits and advantages of farm loan bonds ; and to disseminate in its discretion information for the further instruction of farmers regarding the methods and, principles of cooperative credit and organization. Said board is hereby authorized to use a reasonable portion of the organization fund provided in section thirty-three of this Act for the objects specified in this paragraph, and is instructed to lay before the Congress at each session its recommendations for further appropriations to carry out said objects.

    FEDERAL LAND BANKS.

    SEC 4. That as soon as practicable the Federal Farm Loan Board shall divide the continental United States, excluding Alaska, into twelve districts, which shall be known as Federal land -bank districts, and may be designated by number. Said districts shall be apportioned with due regard to the farm loan needs of the country, but no such district shall contain a fractional part of any State. The boundaries thereof may be readjusted from time to time in the discretion of said board.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall establish in each Federal land bank district a Federal land bank, with its principal office located in such city within the district as said board shall designate . Each Federal land bank shall include in its title the name of the city in which it is located. Subject to the approval of the Federal Farm Loin Board, any Federal land bank may establish branches within the land bank district.

    Each Federal land bank shall be temporarily managed by five directors appointed by the Federal Farm Loan Board. Said directors shall be citizens of the United States and residents of the district. They shall each give a surety bond, the premium on which shall be paid from the funds of the bank. They shall receive such compensation as the Federal Farm Loan Board shall fix. They shall choose from their number, by majority vote, a president, a vice president, and a treasurer. They are further authorized and empowered to employ such attorneys, experts, assistants, clerks, laborers, and other employees as they may deem necessary, and to fix their compensation, subject to the approval of the Federal Farm Loan Board.

    Said temporary directors shall, under their hands, forthwith make sate . an organization certificate, which shalll specifically state:
    First. The name assumed by such bank.
    Second. The district within which its operations are to be carried on, and the particular city in which its principal office is to be located.
    Third. The amount of capital stock and the number of shares into which the same is to be divided : Provided, That every Federal land bank organized under this Act shall by its articles of association permit an increase of its capital stock from time to time for the purpose of providing for the issue of shares to national farm loan associations and stockholders who may secure loans through agents of Federal land banks in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

    Fourth. The fact that the certificate is made to enable such persons to avail themselves of the advantages of this Act. The organization certificate shall be acknowledged before a judge or clerk of some court of record or notary public, and shall be, together, with the acknowledgment thereof, authenticated by the seal of such court or notary, transmitted to the Farm Loan Commissioner, who shall record and carefully preserve the same in his office, where it shall be at all times open to public inspection.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board is authorized to direct such changes in or additions to any such organization certificate, not inconsistent with this Act, as it may deem necessary or expedient.

    Upon duly making and filing such organization certificate the bank shall become, as from the date of the execution of its organization certificate, a body corporate, and as such, and in the name designated in the organization certificate, it shall have power -
    First. To adopt and use a corporate seal.
    Second. To have succession until it is dissolved by Act of Congress or under the provisions of this Act.
    Third . To make contracts.
    Fourth. To sue and be sued, complain, interplead, and defend, in any court of law or equity, as fully as natural persons.
    Fifth . To elect or appoint directors, and by its board of directors to elect a president and a vice president, appomt a secretary and a treasurer and other officers and employees, define their duties, require bonds of them, and fix the penalty thereof; by action of its board of directors dismiss such officers and employees, or any of them, at pleasure and appoint others to fill their places.
    Sixth . To prescribe, by its board of directors, subject to the supervision and regulation of the Federal Farm Loan Board, by-laws not inconsistent with law, regulating the manner in which its stock shall be transferred, its directors elected, its officers elected or appointed, its property transferred, its general business conducted, and the privileges granted to it by law exercised and enjoyed.
    Seventh. To exercise, by its board of directors or duly authorized officers or agents, subject to law, all such incidental powers as shall be necessary to carry on the business herein described.
    After the subscriptions to stock in any Federal land bank by national farm loan associations, hereinafter authorized, shall have reached the sum of $100,000, the officers and directors of said land bank shall be chosen as herein provided and shall, upon becoming duly qualified, take over the management of said land bank from the temporary officers selected under this section.

    The board of directors of every-Federal land bank shall be selected as hereinafter specified and shall consist of nine members, each holding office for three years. Six of said directors shall be known as local directors, and shall be chosen by and be representative of national farm loan associations, and the remaining three directors shall be known as district directors, and shall be appointed by the Federal Farm Loan Board and represent the public interest.

    At least two months before each election the Farm Loan Commissioner shall notify each national farm loan association in writing that such election is to be held, giving the number of directors to be elected for its district, and requesting each association to nominate one candidate for each director to be elected. Within ten days of the receipt of such notice each association shall forward its nominations to said Farm Loan Commissioner. Said commissioner shall prepare a list of candidates for local directors consisting of the twenty persons securing the highest number of votes from national farm loan associations making such nominations.

    At least one month before said election said Farm Loan Commissioner shall mail to each national farm loan association the list of candidates . The directors of each national farm loan association shall cast the vote of said association for as many candidates on said list as there are vacancies to be filled, and shall forward said vote to the Farm Loan Commissioner within ten days after said list of candidates is received by them. The candidates receiving the highest number of votes shall be elected as local directors. In case of a tie the Farm Loan Commissioner shall determine the choice.

    The Federal Farm Loan Board shall designate one of the district directors to serve for three years and to act as chairman of the board of directors. It shall designate one of said directors to serve for a term of two years and one to serve for a term of one year . After the first appointments each district director shall be appointed for a term of three years.

    At the first regular meeting of the board of directors of each Federal land bank it shall be the duty of the local directors to designate two of the local directors whose term of office shall expire in one year from the date of such meeting, two whose term of office shall expire in two years from said date, and two whose term of office shall expire in three years from said date. Thereafter every local director of a Federal land bank chosen as hereinbefore provided shall hold office for a term of three years. Vacancies that may occur in the board of directors shall be filled for the unexpired term in the manner provided for the original selection of such directors.

    Directors of Federal land banks shall have been for at least two years residents of the district for which they are appointed or elected and at least one district director shall be experienced in practical farming and actually engaged at the time of his appointment in farming operations within the district. No director of a Federal land bank shall during his continuance in office, act as an officer, director, or employee of any other institution, association, or partnership engaged in bankmg or in the business of making or selling laud mortgage.

    Directors of Federal land banks shall receive, in addition to any compensation otherwise provided, a reasonable allowance for necessary expenses in attending meetings of their respective boards, to be paid by the respective Federal Iand banks. Any compensation that may be provided by boards of directors of Federal land banks for directors, officers, or employees shall be subject to the approval of the Federal Farm Loan Board.


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    Photo above: Montage (left) Portrait of President Woodrow Wilson, 1918, Svensson. Courtesy Library of Congress. (Right) Sterling Colorado beet farm with rented land and contract labor, 1915, Lewis Wicks Hine. Courtesy Library of Congress. Photo below: Lithograph of American farm life, 1868, Currier and Ives. Courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: Legisworks, Pub. L. 64-158; "The Federal Farm Loan Act," 1916, George E. Putnam; Wikipedia Commons.

    Lithograph of Farm Life, Currier and Ives






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