The Life and Legacy of Henry A. Wallace
Henry A. Wallace was born on a farm in Iowa in 1888. He became a corn scientist who realized the commercial implications of cross-breeding and started Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the world's first commercial hybrid seed corn venture. He was also a prominent agricultural economist and a long-time editor of Wallaces' Farmer, a leading farm publication founded by his grandfather, "Uncle Henry," the first Henry Wallace.
Named as Secretary of Agriculture in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Wallace became a powerful spokesperson for sound conservation practices, believing they should be a central part of farm policy. The high cost of soil erosion, he often said, was of more importance than the low cost of production. Wallace favored certain practices which have been referred to as organic agriculture, and lately as alternative or sustainable agriculture.
Wallace also launched the Rural Electrification Administration, the Farm Security Administration, the first food stamp plan, and dozens of other programs designed to help American farmers. His goal was to establish a viable farm economy and, at the same time, conserve the nation's natural resources. Wallace was responsible for the creation in 1938 of the "ever-normal granary," which played a critical role in supplying food to Americans during World War II, and was one of his proudest achievements.
Serving as Secretary of Agriculture until 1940, Wallace was chosen in 1941 as Roosevelt's Vice President and served in this position until 1945, when he became Secretary of Commerce. In 1948, he ran for President as the candidate of the Progressive Party. He died in 1965.
Perhaps Professor Don F. Hadwiger, in his essay "Henry A. Wallace, champion of a durable agriculture," included in this Web page, has best summarized Wallace's vision of the world and agriculture's role in it:
Henry A. Wallace envisioned a more enduring world, reborn from depression and war, which would fashion a more humane capitalism. Wallace stated several missions for government, especially in relation to agriculture: to help farmers gain spiritual as well as material rewards from their chosen occupation; to stabilize the agricultural economy; to provide an ever-normal granary that would keep food supplies in readiness for urgent need; to preserve the soil and other natural resources across America and throughout the world; and to increase and sustain food production worldwide in order to meet the needs of a massive human population.... Both idealist and realist, Wallace believed that farming provided a unique spiritual experience, and that rural society offered a wholesome balance within an industrial nation.
It is this combination idealist and realist and the imaginative expertise it engendered in the realm of agriculture and beyond that we honor in this Web page. Again in the words of Professor Hadwiger:
Wallace was looking further ahead than most of his contemporaries. His holistic approach kept him open to new perspectives and prepared for inevitable change, ready to shape a more productive and durable agriculture.
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