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Mr. WHITTINGTON. And you have owned this property for 30 years, and your brother has occupied it?
Dr. WOLFE. Yes. My brother is now dead, but he lived on thisproperty.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions?
STATEMENT OF GEORGE D. BLAND
Mr. BLAND. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I believe that Dr. Wolfe has just about covered almost everything that I can say, except about the location.
I am going to ask Mr. Adams to help me locate my spot on this map. I am not very good on maps.
(The spot in question was at this point located on the map by Mr. Adams.)
Mr. BLAND. Now, except for throwing our property out, the new levee does not enter into it at all. We are about a mile and a half out toward the Mississippi River from the new levee. It is clear back from us. They did not use any part of ours for the right-of
way at all.
This particular property of ours has been in the hands of my family for over 100 years, and a large family has been reared and educated on that property. I was born and reared right on that farm there, except for the time that I was away at school, and I was born in that house and have continued to live in it for 53 years.
Now, it has been said that the property was not destroyed, and that we still had our property. I have here a letter from the Federal land bank. We made an application for a loan in 1928, just before the levee was started, and our property was inspected by twoFederal land-bank representatives, and the loan was approved-just a small loan on the property, which they put a value at that time on of $26,550.
Just about that time we lost our mother, and the family delayed a little in getting the necessary papers signed to complete this loan, and finally, when the papers were returned, the property had to be reinspected, and there were 2 or 3 months that lapsed, and when the property was reinspected they turned the loan down--would not make any loan at all.
In making this application, which was only for $2,800, I asked the inspectors why it was that they were making such a rigid inspection just to make a small loan like that, and one of them said that he was going to answer that with a question, which was, “Why is it that you are asking for such a small loan as $2,800 when we could just as easily lend you $12,000 ? "
I have another letter here from them, at a later date, for we understood then that they could make loans on such lands as were thrown out up to $7,500. So we took the matter up with them, but they absolutely refused to loan a dime.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. Would you mind putting that letter in the record ?
Mr. BLAND. I will do so.
FEDERAL LAND BANK OF NEW ORLEANS,
(ALABAMA, MISSISSIPPI, LOUISIANA),
New Orleans, La., July 27, 1934. In re Consolidated application no. 33770, Tensas Parish, La. Mr. GEORGE D. BLAND ET AL.,
Point Pleasant, La. DEAR SIR: Your joint application for a loan of $2,800 on 810 acres of land located in Tensas Parish, La., has been carefully considered.
From an examination of the information submitted in connection with your application, it appears that the property offered as security is outside of the main Mississippi levee system, between the old and new levees, thereby making the drainage and overflow conditions of such a hazardous nature that it would seem inadvisable to consider this application for a loan. It is not the policy of this bank to make loans where all of the property offered as security lies outside of the main levee system, and in view of this situation, your application is being declined.
You are assured that your application has received every consideration and it is regretted that the bank is not in a position to render you the assistance that you desire under these conditions. Yours very truly,
SECRETARY'S DEPARTMENT LOAN DIVISION,
W. B. MYRICK, Assistant Manager. Mr. BLAND. Now, there was a gentleman here—I believe that he has moved since—who asked a question about drainage. It would be possible, I suppose, to put drains in the new levee; but I do not believe that the Government, spending this large amount of money to build the new levee and in maintaining the old levee, would attempt any such hazard as that.
We are in the midst of a huge cofferdam. In 1924, I believe, the levee board gave me a contract to build a small cofferdam; and in the overflow of 1927 this cofferdam was built to choke some sandboards that they had there that were a source of annoyance to everybody; and we thought that the sandboards might break a levee; and after it was built, the seepage in there rose to such an extent inside the cofferdam that it became necessary to make a levee in there to keep the cofferdam from breaking.
Now, we are in the same position that that cofferdam was in, except on a larger scale. As the Mississippi rises, if it gets to any stage of the river as high as 1916, 1922, or 1927, over half of the land between those levees would be covered with water, and we feel that our property has been totally destroyed.
In addition to my own property in this same area, there is property owned there by a neighbor of mine, Mr. Hogue, which was recently destroyed in a cyclone; and his property has been turned over to a young son, and, of course, this land is mortgaged. It has no sale value or loan value, and if they have to continue that in its present condition they are going to lose that also.
I am using names, because they are the names of friends of mine. Mr. Ratcliffe, who lives on a property that he bought from his
people's family, has something like 1,000 acres there that he has lived on for a number of years. He had a pretty good idea as to the earning capacity, or earning power, of that property, and he bought it from them at a price of $50 per acre. That included the protected area and the land outside of the levee, which made the protected land cost him $75 an acre. He has lost, however, two-thirds of his open land; and had it not been for a close friend he would not have been able to carry that, because he made application to the Staple Growers Association, and they turned him down because so much of his land was on the outside and not protected, and they did not feel that he had security enough, and also to the Delta Discount Corporation; and, as I said, if it had not been for this close friend he would have had to walk off and leave it. I believe that that covers about what I want to say.
If there are any questions, I will be glad to answer them.
The CHAIRMAN. Are those distressing situations that you have described as to those landowners, their losses, and misfortunes caused by the Government setting back this levee and throwing their land between that new levee and the river ?
Mr. BLAND. Absolutely:
Mr. Rich. Do you get pretty good crops from it at the present time?
Mr. BLAND. Since the new levee has been built we have been very fortunate in not having big overflows, and we have only lost our lowlands. The ridge lands I have been able to cultivate.
Mr. Rich. You say that you are unable to get loans from any bank because of the fact that this levee has been built there?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. Rich. And I also understood you to say that since they built the set-back, the property has been totally destroyed ?
Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. DEAR. Did the Government build that set-back levee because it was impossible to maintain a levee on the main stem where the old levee stood, or was it because of an economic reason? Could they build it cheaper where they did build it, or what was the reason?
Mr. BLAND. I believe that you have hit the question. There was a big saving of money. I think that they built this new levee for about, possibly, a third of the cost of enlarging and maintaining the old levee.
Is not that right, Mr. Adams?
Mr. DEAR. Do you know about how much money was saved by building the levee where they did build it?
Mr. BLAND. In round figures, how much was it?
Mr. DEAR. The Government saved a million and a half dollars and destroyed how much? Mr. BLAND. How much acreage,
? Mr. DEAR. No; but in value, how much property, was destroyed Mr. ADAMS. Nineteen thousand five hundred acres. Mr. BLAND. And we do not know what the value is going to be. Mr. DEAR. And you say that it sold for around $75 an acre? Mr. BLAND. Yes, sir.
Mr. CARLSON. What is the assessed valuation of land now, approximately!
Mr. BLAND. That varies.
Mr. BLAND. Class A land is assessed at $40 an acre, and it scales on down.
The CHAIRMAN. You are asking for the assessment on the land involved in that area? Mr. CARLSON. Yes; approximately.
The CHAIRMAN. There are 19,000 acres, and what was the total assessment?
Mr. BLAND. I suppose that it would average about $30.
Mr. CARLSON. Do you know what the assessment was in 1928, 1927, or 1926, previous to the construction of this set-back leveel
Mr. BLAND. In 1928 the assessment was reduced some on account of the 1927 overflow. I do not know just what it was.
Mr. Rich. I was just thinking of the statement made a while ago, that when they built that set-back, the ground was totally destroyed, and then of the fact that you are living on there and making a living on it, and that the assessor is assessing you $36 an acre for the ground at the present time. I cannot see how it can be totally destroyed if it is assessed at $36 an acre.
Mr. BLAND. It is not assessed at that now. Mr. Adams. That assessment was based on the year in which the lands were taken, in 1929. Mr. Rich. What is the assessment today? Mr. Adams. It would be materially reduced from that.
Mr. Bland. On this particular piece of property, the value in 1930 was $12,102.
Mr. Rich. How many acres ?
Mr. Rich. The assessment today is about one-fourth of what it was previous to that time?
Mr. BLAND. About one-third. Mr. Rich. That is all. The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions of Mr. Bland? Of course, when you said that the property was destroyed, you meant, did you not, for sale value or loan value? Of course, it is possible to live there, for it is not washed out?
Mr. BLAND. It is not washed out; but I should have added, but did not, that if we could get an overflow, I do not mean that our levee would break, but the seepage water would be so bad that we would have to move out of there.
The CHAIRMAN. And when this old levee that is there is abandoned
Mr. BLAND. We will be overflowed every year that the river gets out of its banks.
The CHAIRMAN. So this levee was moved back in order to put it on a permanent basis, and it saved a million and a half dollars to the Government, although it left you landowners exposed ?
Mr. Rich. Do you not think that farm lands generally over the country have had the assessments on them greatly reduced in prac
tically every location! I know that that is the situation in our country; and, not only that, but you cannot sell farms or give them away; so that the condition that exists down there is not any different from that that exists with respect to farm lands the country over.
The CHAIRMAN. There is no contention there over the fact that they changed the assessment, but what Mr. Bland is establishing here is that the Government, in saving a million and a half dollars in setting this new levee on the high ground, left this land between the new levee and the main channel of the Mississippi River in a position where they could not get a loan on it.
Mr. BLAND. You cannot get a loan now on our land.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. Is it not a fact that in some places where they have these set-back levees they do not even carry the lands between the levee and the river on the assessment roll, because of the hazards due to floods and the uncertainty of crops? I know that that happened at one point in Missouri.
Mr. BLAND. We are assessed for every acre that we own. Louisiana taxation is confiscation.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. What happens to your drainage there? In other words, is there any chance to get the water that falls in that area out?
Mr. BLAND. None whatever.
Mr. ZIMMERMAN. And, in addition to the seepage water that comes from these levees, you have the water bottled up in this area for which there is no drainage, and that also has a tendency to destroy the usefulness of the property.
Mr. BLAND. With the stage that we have had this year, the water on the protected side was not rising as much as it was in the river, but it was continuing to rise until the river started to fall.
Now, cotton will stand a whole lot, but with corn, oats or barley, or any grain that we plant, if you get those seepage waters on your crops, it will destroy them.
Thé CHAIRMAN. Is there anything further?
Dr. WOLFE. I have here the application that I made to the Federal land bank for a loan, and it was turned down on the ground that the land had no value.
The CHAIRMAN. And you want to make that a part of your statement in the record ? Dr. WOLFE. Yes. (The letter referred to is as follows:)
TENSAS PARISH NATIONAL FARM LOAN ASSOCIATION,
St. Joseph, La., November 21, 1933. Hon. T. L. WOLFE,
Mt. Vernon, Iowa. DEAR SIR: I have your letter about a Government loan on your property in this parish.
I understand that the property lies northeast of Somerset and has been recently cut badly by the new levee line, and the portion left is now a long narrow strip. I say this without knowing very much about the property.
Loans are made largely on the production record, and only on that portion lying inside the levee, as the land outside the levee is overflowed annually by the river and very little along our front is cultivated.