1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agriculture/Agriculture in the United States
Agriculture in the United States
Agriculture has been the chief and most characteristic work of the American people, that in which they have achieved the greatest results in proportion to the resources at command, that in which their economic superiority has been most strikingly manifest. In ten years from 1790, the mean population of the period being 4,500,000, 65,000 sq. m. were for the first time brought within the limits of settlement, crossed with roads and bridges, covered with dwellings, both public and private, much of it also cleared of primeval forest; and this in addition to keeping up and improving the whole extent of previous settlements, and building towns and cities, at a score of favoured points. In the next decade, the mean number of inhabitants being about 6,500,000, population extended itself over 98,000 sq. m. of absolutely new territory, an area eight times as large as Holland. Between 1810 and 1820, besides increasing the density of population on almost every league of the older territory, besides increasing their manufacturing capital twofold, in spite of a three years’ war, the people of the United States advanced their frontier to occupy 101,000 sq. m., the mean population being 8,250,000. Between 1820 and 1830, 124,000 sq. m. were brought within the frontier and made the seat of habitation and cultivation; between 1830 and 1840, 175,000 sq. m.; between 1840 and 1850, 215,000 sq. m. The Civil War, indeed, checked the westward flow of population, though it caused no refluence, but after 1870 great progress was made in the creation of new farms and the development of old.
That which has allowed this great work to be done so rapidly and fortunately has been, first, the popular tenure of the soil, and, secondly, the character of the agricultural class. At no time have the cultivators of the soil north of the Potomac and Ohio constituted a peasantry in the ordinary sense of that term. They have been the same kind of men, out of precisely the same homes, generally with the same early training, as those who filled the learned professions or who were engaged in manufacturing or commercial pursuits. Switzerland and Scotland have, in a degree, approached the United States in this particular; but there is no other considerable country where as much mental activity and alertness has been applied to the cultivation of the soil as to trade and manufactures.
But even the causes which have been adduced would have failed to produce such effects but for the exceptional inventive ingenuity of the American. The mechanical genius which has entered into manufacturing in the United States, the engineering skill which has guided the construction of the greatest works of the continent, have been far exceeded in the hurried “improvements” of the pioneer farm; in the housing of women, children and live stock and gathered crops against the storms of the first few winters; in the rough-and-ready reconnaissances which determined the “lay of the land” and the capabilities of the soil; in the preparation for the thousand exigencies of primitive agriculture. It is no exaggeration to say that the chief manufacture of the United States, prior to 1900, was the manufacture of 5,740,000 farms, comprising 841,200,000 acres. The people of the United States, finding themselves on a continent containing an almost limitless extent of land of fair average fertility, having at the start but little accumulated capital and urgent occasions for the economy of labour, have elected to regard the land in the earliest stages of occupation as practically of no value, and to regard labour as of high value. In pursuance of this view they have freely sacrificed the land, so far as was necessary, in order to save labour, systematically cropping the fields on the principle of obtaining the largest results with the least expenditure, limiting improvements to what was demanded for immediate uses, and caring little about returning to the soil an equivalent for the properties taken from it in the harvests of successive years. But, so far as the northern states are concerned, the enormous profits of this alleged wasteful cultivation have in the main been applied, not to personal consumption, but to permanent improvements,—not indeed to improvements of the land, but to what were still more needed in the situation, namely, improvements upon the land. The first-fruits of a virgin soil have been expended in forms which have vastly enhanced the productive power of the country. The land, doubtless, as one factor of that productive power, became temporarily less efficient than it would have been under a conservative European treatment; but the joint product of the three factors-land, labour and capital-was for the time enormously increased. Under this regimen the fertility of the land, of course, in time necessarily declined, sooner or later, according to the nature of the crops grown and to the degree of original strength in the soil. Resort was then had to new fields farther west. The granary of the continent moved first to western New York, thence into the Ohio valley, and then, again, to the banks of the Mississippi. The north and south line dividing the wheat product of the United States into two equal parts was in 1850 drawn along the 82nd meridian (81° 58′ 49″). In 1860 that line was drawn along the 86th (86° 1′ 38″), in 1870 along the 89th (88° 48′ 40″), in 1880 along the 90th (90° 30′ 46″), in 1890 along the 93rd (93° 9′ 18″), and in 1900 along the 95th (94° 59′ 23″). Meanwhile one portion of the inhabitants of the earlier settlements joined in the movement across the face of the continent. As the grain centre passed on to the west they followed it, too restless by character and habit to find pleasure in the work of stable communities. A second portion of the inhabitants became engaged in raising, upon limited areas, small crops, garden vegetables and orchard fruits, and in producing butter, milk, poultry and eggs, for the supply of the cities and manufacturing towns which had been built up out of the abundant profits of the primitive agriculture. Still another portion of the agricultural population gradually became occupied in the more careful and intense culture of the cereal crops upon the better lands, the less eligible fields being allowed to spring up in brush and wood. Deep ploughing and thorough drainage were resorted to; fertilizers were employed to bring up and to keep up the soil; and thus began the serious systematic agriculture of the older states. Something continued to be done in wheat, but not much. New York raised 13 million bushels in 1850; thirty years later she raised 11½ million bushels; and fifty years later 10½ million bushels. Pennsylvania raised 15⅓ million bushels in 1850; in 1880 she raised 19½ million bushels; and in 1900 20½ million bushels. More is done in Indian corn (maize), that most prolific cereal, the backbone of American agriculture; still more is done relatively in buckwheat, barley and rye. Pennsylvania, though the eleventh state in wheat production in 1905, stood first in rye and second in buckwheat (ninth in oats). New York was only twenty-first in wheat, but first in buckwheat (tenth in barley), fourth in rye. We do not, however, reach the full significance of the situation until we account for the fourth portion of the former agricultural population, in noting how naturally and fortunately commercial and manufacturing cities spring up in the sites which have been prepared for them by the lavish expenditure of the enormous profits of a primitive agriculture upon permanently useful improvements of a constructive character. These towns are the gifts of agriculture.
Besides the extension of cultivated area, very little was accomplished in the way of agricultural improvement before 1850. With some few exceptions the methods of cultivation were substantially the same as those of colonial days, and were marked by crudeness, waste and a general adherence to rule-of-thumb principles. The year 1850 roughly marks the beginning of a period of improvement and development. The Irish famine of 1846 and the German political troubles of 1848 were followed by an unprecedented emigration to America of highly desirable European labourers, for whom there were cheap and abundant lands. The period from 1850 to 1870 was marked by a steady growth, which, in the western states, was highly stimulated by the Civil War. While this conflict withdrew a certain amount of productive energy from agricultural pursuits, it tended at the same time to increase the value of farm labour and of farm products and to extend the use of machinery in order to offset the deficient labour supply. Agricultural machinery had been employed before the War, but only to a very small extent. In 1864, 70,000 reapers and mowers were manufactured, twice as many as in 1862, and manufacturers were unable to supply the demand. Moreover, in the years 1860, 1861 and 1862 the wheat crops of Great Britain and the European continent were failures, while those of the United States, far removed from the theatre of military operations, were unusually large. The wheat exports to Great Britain in 1861 were three times as great as those of any previous year, and the strong demand from abroad was an additional stimulus to higher prices. In 1864 agricultural prices were from 100 to 200% higher than in 1861, while transportation charges had only slightly advanced and in some instances had actually decreased. In the middle of the war the farmers’ profits were normal; toward the end they had increased enormously. This marvellous agricultural prosperity of a nation engaged in one of the world’s most formidable wars has no counterpart in modern history. In the decade from 1860 to 1870 there was a steady increase in cultivated area, in agricultural products and in population. The value of the farm lands in the northern states in 1870 exceeded that of 1860 by five dollars an acre. On the other hand, the farm lands of the southern states had declined in value to an almost equal amount; but after 1870 these states also made substantial progress, and in 1880 they produced more cotton than in 1860, when the greatest crop under the slave system was grown.
Since 1870 the most important factors in this development have been the employment of more scientific methods of production and the more extensive use of machinery. The study of soils with a view of adapting to them the most suitable crops and fertilizers; the increased attention given to diversified farming and crop rotation; the introduction and successful growth of new plants (e.g. the date palm in Arizona and California, and tea in South Carolina); tile drainage; the ensilage of forage; more careful selection. in breeding; the use of inoculation to prevent Texas fever in cattle and cholera in swine, of tuberculin to discover the presence of tuberculosis in cows, of organic ferments to hasten the progress of butter-making, of the “Babcock test” for ascertaining the amount of fat in milk, of fungicides and insecticides to destroy fruit and vegetable pests,—such are but a few manifestations of the spread of scientific knowledge among the farming population of the United States. Nearly every county has some sort of agricultural society; in 1899 there were about 1500 of these organizations, some of which, especially those holding annual fairs, received state aid.
With the improvement in technical processes of production came the conquest of the arid regions of the western states. Irrigation was first employed in the west by the Mormons in 1847; but as late as 1870 only about 20,000 acres had been irrigated. In 1880 the irrigated area was approximately 1,000,000 acres, and in the decade from 1889 to 1899 it increased from 3,631,381 to 7,539,545 acres, a gain of 107.6%. By 1902 there had been a still further increase to 9,478,852 acres, a gain of 25.7% in three years. As many of the streams available for irrigation purposes lie within more than one state, the control of Water supply is a proper matter for federal jurisdiction, and in June 1902 Congress provided for an extensive system of irrigation works in thirteen states and three territories. The cost of the work is defrayed from the proceeds of the sales of government lands within the states and territories affected by the act. The measure is not paternalistic; the settlers on the lands, which are divided into farms of not less than 40 nor more than 160 acres, are required to make annual payments to the government in proportion to the water service they have received, until the original cost of the works has been met. The first of these works, the so-called Truckee-Carson project, of Nevada, was completed in June 1905, and at the end of that year eight projects, in as many different states, were under construction; bids had been received for three more, and the seven others had received the approval of the secretary of the interior. With these initial undertakings it was estimated that 1,000,859 acres could be reclaimed. In addition to supplying the soils with water, means have been found of ridding them of their alkali, or of rendering it harmless; and this is an element of reclamation hardly less important than irrigation itself. A third step in the reclamation of desert lands is arid farming-that is, the adapting to the soils of crops that require a minimum amount of moisture, and the utilization, to the fullest possible extent, of the meagre amount of rainfall in the region. Experiments conducted in this direction in Utah produced promising results. The development of farming machinery has kept pace with the general progress in scientific agriculture. Although numerous patents were issued for such machinery before 1850, its use, with the exception of the cotton gin, was very restricted before that date. Even iron ploughs were not in general use until 1842, and a really scientific plough was practically unknown before 1870. Thirty years later the large farms of the Pacific states were ploughed, harrowed and sowed with wheat in a single operation by fifty-horse-power traction engines drawing ploughs, harrows and press drills. Since 1850 there has been a transition from the sickle and the scythe to a machine that in one operation mows, threshes, cleans and sacks the wheat, and in five minutes after touching the standing grain has it ready for the market. Hay-stackers, potato planters and diggers, feed choppers and grinders, manure-spreaders, check-row corn planters and ditch-digging machines are some of the common labour-saving devices. By the 28th of August 1907 the United States Patent Office had issued patents for 13,212 harvesting machines, 6352 threshers, 6680 harrows and diggers, 9649 seeders and planters, and 13,171 ploughs. In the manufacture of agricultural machinery the United States leads the world. The total value of the implements and machinery used by farmers of the United States in 1880 was $406,520,055; in 1890 $494,247,467; in 1900 $761,261,550, a gain in this last decade of 54%. The total value of the implements and machinery manufactured in 1850 was $6,842,611; in 1880 $68,640,486; in 1890 $81,271,651; in 1900 $101,207,428. These figures, however, are a very poor indication of the actual use of machinery, on account of the rapid decrease in prices following its manufacture on a more extensive scale and by improved methods.
The effects of the new agriculture are apparent from the following figures: By the methods of 1830 it required 64 hours and 15 minutes of man-labour and cost $3.71 to produce an acre of wheat; by the methods employed in 1896 it required 2 hours and 58 minutes of man-labour and cost 72 cents. To produce an acre of barley in 1830 required 63 hours of man-labour and cost $3.59; in 1896 it required 2 hours and 43 minutes and cost 60 cents. An acre of oats produced by the methods of 1830 required 66 hours and 15 minutes of man-labour and cost $3.73; the methods of 1893 required only 7 hours and 6 minutes and cost $1.07. With the same unit of labour the average quantity of all leading crops produced by modern methods is about five times as great as that produced by the methods employed in 1850, and the cost of production is reduced by one half. From 1880 to 1900 the average number of acres of leading crops per male worker increased from 23.3 to 31.0, or 34%; the number of horses per worker from 1.7 to 2.3, or 35%; and the value of agricultural product per person employed from $286.82 to $454.37, or 58.4 %.
There are numerous other factors that have operated to the benefit of the agriculturist. Increased transportation facilities and lower freight charges have widened his market. The processes of canning, packing, preserving and refrigerating have produced a similar effect, and have also provided a means for the disposal of surplus perishable products that otherwise would be lost. The utilization of by-products, as, for example, the conversion of cotton seed into oil, fertilizers and food for live stock, has become another source of profit.
Great economic and social changes have resulted from this progress. There has been a great division of labour in agriculture. Makers of agricultural implements, of butter and cheese, cotton ginners, grist and wheat millers, are now classed in the United States census reports as manufacturers, but all their work was once done on the farm. The farmer is now more of a specialist and more dependent on other industries than formerly. He has changed from a producer for home consumption or a local market to a producer for a world market. Unfortunately, his knowledge of economic laws has lagged behind his progress in scientific agriculture. The farming class at times have experienced periods of great depression, largely on account of their inability to adjust their crops to changing conditions in the world’s markets, and in such cases have been prone to seek a remedy in radical legislation. Periods of agricultural discontent at different times have been marked by the political activity of the “Grangers” and of the “Farmers Alliance,” and even by the formation of new political parties such as the Greenback party in 1874 and the Populist or People’s party in 1892—whose strength lay mainly in the agricultural states. The new industrial conditions that produced combinations among manufacturers were much slower in their effect upon the farming element, but gradually led to increasing co-operation and to the organization of the growers of various commodities for marketing their crops. The fruit growers of California and the tobacco growers of Kentucky have furnished interesting examples of such organizations. Under the improved conditions there is less drudgery on the farm; the farmer does more work, produces more, and yet has more leisure than formerly. Better roads, rural free mail delivery, telephone and electric lines are removing the isolation of country life, and to some extent are diminishing the attractions of the cities for the rural population.
Covering as it does the breadth of the North American continent, with 3,000,000 sq. m. of land surface, not including Alaska and the islands, of which over 800,000,000 acres are in farms and over 400,000,000 in actual cultivation, representing every variety of soil and all the climatic life zones of the world, except the extreme boreal and the hottest tropical, the United States affords an important subject of study in respect of agriculture. Its cotton, wheat and meat are large factors in all markets, and its many other agricultural products are distributed throughout the civilized world. To the student the equipment and methods of agriculture in the United States form as interesting a subject of examination as do its resources and production. In quantity, distribution and inter-relation of heat and moisture —the chief factors in agricultural production—the United States is greatly blessed. We find in this vast territory all the agricultural belts mapped by the biologist, producing all varieties of cereals, fruits and breeds of live stock, whilst all kinds of soils, adapted to different crops, are spread out at all altitudes from 8000 ft. down to sea-level.
The story of the vast and varied agriculture of the United States can be outlined by extracts from the figures published by the Census, the Agricultural and other government departments.
As a result of the great supply of available land the number of farms in the United States increased between 1850 and 1900 from 1,449,073 to 5,739,657; their total acreage Farms.increased from 293,560,614 to 841,201,546 acres; their improved acreage increase from 113,032,614 to 414,793,191 acres; and their unimproved acreage from 180,528,000 to 426,408,355 acres. Table XXVII. exhibits the increases of number of farms, total and improved acreage by decades.
The largest percentage of increase of improved land was 50.7, from 1870 to 1880; the lowest was in the decade 1360 to 1870, the period of the Civil War, and was 15.8. The chief cause of this wonderful development of agriculture is the large area of cheap public lands which has been available for immigrants and natives alike. Up to 1906, under the Homestead Act of the 20th of May 1862, the number of entries, both final and pending, covered 185,385,000 acres. Between 1875 and 1905 the public and Indian lands sold for cash and under homestead and timber culture laws, as well as those allotted by scrip, granted to the colleges of agriculture and mechanic arts and other institutions, and by military bounty land warrants, and selected by states and railroad corporations, covered about 430,000,000 acres. In addition to this, the states and railroad corporations sold a large amount of land to farmers of which we have no accurate record. This vast territory, greater
Table XXVII.—Percentage of Increase of Number and Acreage of
Farms by Census Decades.
The United States.
|1850 to 1860||41.1||38.7||44.3|
|1850 to 1900||296.0||186.5||267.1|
in extent than Germany and France combined, was added to the farms of the country in thirty years. In many cases railroad building has made the settlement of the public lands possible for the first time, and the building of branch lines, by providing means for transporting products to market, has greatly facilitated the acquisition of other lands. The mileage of railways increased 310.7% between 1870 and 1905 The interesting fact is that this increase corresponds geographically to the increase in farms.
The agricultural statistics do not include any farm of less than three acres unless it produced at least $500 worth of products in the preceding year. The census of 1900 showed that the average size of farms was 146 acres, or nine acres more than in 1890 and 57 acres less than in 1850. This fact, however, does not indicate a general tendency toward the consolidation of holdings. The increase in the average size of farms in the whole country is due to the extension of grazing lands in the Rocky Mountain region and in Texas, and to the enlargement of the wheat fields in the Mississippi valley. On the other hand, in the southern states there has been a steady breaking up of holdings and decrease in the average size of farms since the close of the Civil War. In the New England states, where dairying has become the leading agricultural industry, there was an increase of 2.2 acres in the size of farms during the decade 1890–1900. This increase was more than offset by the decrease in the Atlantic states from New York to Maryland inclusive (2.8 acres), where there has been a subdivision of farms following the increased attention given to the growing of fruits and vegetables for cities. The same tendency is noted in the states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. As will be seen from Table XXVIII., the average farm, which steadily diminished in size from 1850 to 1880, increased between 1880 and 1900.
Table XXVIII.—Average Acreage of Farms and Proportion of
Improved Land therein.
|Whole Farm.||Proportion of|
The acreage of North Atlantic farms decreased from 112.6 in 1850 to 95.3 in 1890, and increased in 1890–1900 to 96.5 acres. In the South Atlantic states the average was 376.4 acres in 1850, and there has been steady decrease, so that in 1900 it was 108.4, or one-third less than the average for the entire country. In the north central states the averages of 1850 and 1900 were nearly the same (143.3 and 144.5 respectively), with the minimum (121.9 acres) in 1880. The south central states averaged 291 acres in 1850, 321.3 in 1860, 144 in 1890, and 155.4 in 1900. The maximum decade for the western states was that ending in 1850 (694.9 acres), and the minimum 1880 (312.9); and the average in 1900 was 386.1 acres.
Table XXIX. gives the number of farms, together with their distribution, under different forms of tenure in the years 1880, 1890 and 1900.
The steady drift towards farm tenancy of late is believed to be injurious to production; but it is impossible to prove this, so great has been the aggregate increase in products.
The number of persons engaged in agriculture as a business in 1900 was 10,381,765. or 36% of all persons in gainful occupations. It is interesting to note that 977,336 of Agri-
tions.these were women. This is an increase of 2,667,890 persons over 1880. Thus, if the farm family is the same size as that of the remainder of the population—it is probably slightly larger—the agricultural population would be 36% of the whole. Statisticians usually put it at 40%, and this is probably more nearly correct (Table XXX.).
The wages paid farm labourers, as ascertained by the Department of Agriculture, are rather low compared with the average wages of labour, but not lower than the wages of other unskilled labour. The average monthly wa e of the agricultural labourer, without board, was $19.50 in 1870, $16.42 in 1880, $18.33 in 1890, $17.70 in 1895, and $20.23 in 1899, when the maximum for any state was $45.10 in Nevada, the minimum $10.06 in South Carolina. The wages of the American farm labourer were at this last date named (1899) higher than for any other farm labourer save in Canada and the British colonies of Australasia; though lower than wages paid in American cities, they have greater purchasing power. J. R. Dodge, in “Farm Labour in the United States” (vol. xi., Report of Industrial Commission on Agriculture, &c., 1901), says: “In addition to wages the married labourer has a house free of rent, a garden, firewood, pasturage and other perquisites. The enterprising labourer usually becomes a tenant and afterwards a farm-owner.”
The figures for farm capital and the value of agricultural products are so vast that it is extremely difficult to put them in an intelligible form. The farm capital of the United States reported by Value of
products. the census of 1900 reached $20,514,002,000, a sum more than four times the capital invested in manufactures, the main classes being, in round numbers:—Land, fences and buildings, $16,674,690,000; machines and implements,
Table XXIX.—Number of Farms of Specified Tenure.
Number of farms operated by
|Percentage of farms operated by|
$761,262,000; live stock $3,078,050,000. The products of the farms in the census year 1899 were valued at $4,739,119,000. Between 1850 and 1900 the aggregate farm capital increased 416%. The greatest increase of farm capital was between 1850 and 1860, 101%; the next was the decade 1880–1890, when the increase was 32%. Between 1890 and 1900 the increase was 28%.
Table XXX.—Number of Persons of Ten Years of Age and over in
the different Agricultural Pursuits in 1900.
|Dairymen and women||10,875|
|Farmers and farm superintendents||5,674,875|
|Gardeners, nurserymen and viticulturists||61,788|
|Lumbermen and raftsmen||72,020|
|Stock-raisers, herders, &c||84,988|
|Turpentine-farmers and labourers||24,737|
The growth of farm area and of capital invested in agriculture was followed by a proportionate increase in the chief crops (Table XXXI.) . The distinguishing feature of the period 1870–1880 was the rate of increase of barley, Indian corn, wheat and oats. Since 1870 the production of nearly all of the farm crops increased more rapidly than the population, the most absolute proof of the substantial prosperity of the people. The increase in population for the fifty years from 1840 to 1890 was 267%; from 1870 to 1880, 30%; from 1880 to 1890, 25%; from 1890 to 1900, 21%; but the food and other supplies far exceeded the demands of even this great population.
Table XXXI.—Production of certain Farm Crops from 1870 to 1905
—Millions of Bushels.
Table XXXII. gives important facts with regard to the cereal production of the United States between 1870 and 1905. The average farm price of wheat declined, as is shown in that table, from $1.05 per bushel for the decade 1870–1880 to 65.3 cents for the period 1890–1899. The farm prices of the other cereals declined less during the thirty years. Corn declined from an average farm price of 42.6 cents per bushel for 1870–1880 to 34.4 cents in 1890–1899. he average production per acre shows nothing conclusive with regard to the fertility of the soil of the country. The expansion of the crop area usually causes a lowering of the average yield per acre by distributing the culture, fertilizers, &c., over more surface. Likewise the contraction of crop area will usually increase the average yield per acre of the entire country.
Table XXXII.—Average Yield and Value of Cereal Crops in the United States, by Periods
of Years, 1870–1905.
|1870 to 1880||0.426||27.1||1.05||12.4||0.353||28.4|
The average yield of wheat per acre was 12.4 bushels in the decade 1870–1880, and 13.1 in the period 1890–1899; of Indian corn, 27.1 in 1870–1880, and 24.1 in 1880–1899 continuously. Oats fell off from 28.4 in 1870–1880 to 26.2 bushels per acre in 1890–1899. The averages for the years 1900–1905 show an increase over the previous decade both in yields and (with the exception of the rice of barley) in prices of all the cereals. The agricultural returns for 1890–1905 may be taken as an illustration of the cereal production of the United States. The figures for wheat, oats and Indian corn are presented in Tables XXXIII., XXXIV. and XXXV.
The acreage and production of wheat have steadily increased. The acreage in Indian corn, the great American crop, reached its highest in 1902, 94,043,613 acres, and its production its highest figure in 1905, 2,707,993,540 bushels.
Producing as the United States does so much more than its people can consume, its exports form a large percentage of some of the crops, as Table XXXVI. shows.
Large portions of some of these crops, like Indian corn and oats, are exported in the form of animals and animal products (meats, lard, hides, &c.). The hay crop is almost entirely used in this way, and the tendency is to convert more and more of these crops into these higher-priced products. Still, the time is far distant when domestic consumption will come anywhere near overtaking domestic production, especially of wheat and the other cereals. The certain extension of acreage with the growth of demand and price, the increased use of agricultural implements, and the improvement of methods will be sure to keep up a large surplus for export for many years to come. The Department of Agriculture has found that for home use there were required per head 5.5 bushels of wheat, 28.6 bushels of Indian corn, and 10-7 bushels of oats, the computations being made from the figures for population, production and exports for 1888–1892; in 1905, 6.15 bushels of wheat and wheat- our, 28-59 bushels of Indian corn and corn-meal. The following number of acres in these crops was required, therefore, to supply the home demand for 1888–1892:—0.43 of an acre in wheat, 1.15 acre in corn, and 0.43 acre in oats per head of the population. Taking the year
Table XXXIII.—Acreage, Production, Value, Prices and Exports of Wheat in the
United States in 1890–1905.
| Farm Value,
beginning 1st July.
Table XXXIV.—Acreage, Production, Value, Prices, Exports and Imports of Oats in the United States
| Farm Value,
beginning 1st July.
beginning 1st July.
|1905||28,046,746||34.0||953,216,197||29.1||277,047,537||. .||. .|
Table XXXV.—Acreage, Production, Value, Prices and Exports of Indian Corn in the
United States in 1890–1905.
Meal, Fiscal Years
beginning 1st July.
1890 as an illustration, this gave a surplus area in wheat of 11,264,478 acres, of 2,648,404 acres in Indian corn, and of 238,162 in oats.
Tables XXXVII. and XXXVIII. give the number, total value and average price of farm animals in 1880, 1890, 1900 and 1906.
Table XXXVI.—Percentage of Crops Exported. Averages for Period
|Rye||10.30||. .||12.21||19.5||. .|
|Barley||1.55||. .||12.96||12.15||. .|
|Potatoes||.37||. .||.30||0.31||. .|
Table XXXVII.—Number and Value of Farm Animals in the United States, 1880—1906.
Total Value of
Table XXXVIII.—Average Value of Farm Animals in the
United States on 1st January, 1880—1906.
After the Civil War the number of horses increased and prices gradually declined. In 1893 the number of horses reached 16,206,802 (an increase of over 5,005,002 or 44.6% over the number in 1880), and in 1906, 18,718,578. The average farm price of horses increased from $54.75 in 1880 to $74.64 in 1884, after which there was a decrease to $31.51 in 1896, followed by a rise to $80.72 in 1906. The extension of street-car lines, and the substitution of cable and electric power for that of horses, the use of bicycles and, later, of automobiles, and the improvement of farm-machinery, in which horses are less and less used as power-producers and steam is more common, have been factors in decreasing the demand for these animals. The fluctuation in prices of mules has been parallel to that for horses.
The returns for milch cows show an increase throughout the and 1906. period 1880–1899 in every year, with the exception of 1895–1899, after which there was a steady rise in numbers. For the first ten years the numbers increased 32.6%, and from 1890 to 1899, .2%. The total value of milch cows increased each year until 1884, then decreased until 1891, with a gradual increase until the end of the period. The farm price of milch cows rose from $23.27 in 1880 to $31.37 in 1884, then fell to $21.40 in 1892, after which there was a steady increase to $31.60 in 1899, and afterwards a slight fall, $29.44 being the average farm value on the 1st of January 1906.
No marked changes in the numbers of sheep have taken place. During the period 1880–1890 there was an increase in numbers amounting to about 8.8%. After 1893 there was a rather steady decrease, with fluctuations amounting to a marked depression after 1894. This industry is very susceptible to adverse influences, and felt keenly a depression in the price of wool. The increase began again in 1898, and in 1903 the figure of 63,964,876 was reached; in 1906 it was 50,631,619.
The numbers and values of swine constantly fluctuate with the movement and value of the Indian corn crops. The returns for 1890 (51,602,780) showed a numerical increase of 51.6% over those of 1880; then followed a steady decrease in numbers down to 1900 (37,079,356), since which time there has been considerable increase, so that in 1906 there were 52,102,847—the maximum excepting 1901, when there were 56,982,142 swine on farms. The movement in values was similar to that in numbers. From $4.28 in 1880, the average farm price of hogs increased steadily to $6.75 in 1883. The lowest figure, $4.15, was reached in 1891, and after numerous fluctuations it became $4.40 in 1899 and $7.78 in 1903; in 1906 it was $6.18.
The total value of farm animals showed a steady increase from 1880 to 1890, with slight variations in 1885 and 1886. Following 1890 there was a steady decrease with the exception of slight increases in 1892 and 1893. In 1880 the total value of farm animals in the United States was $1,576,917,556. In 1890 it had increased to $2,418,766,028, or 53.4%. In 1896 the value had diminished to $1,727,926,084—a decrease of 28.6% from the 1890 values, and an increase of 9.6% over those of 1880. The value in 1906 showed an increase of 133% over that of 1880.
The exports of live stock and its products have increased enormously in recent years, both in quantity and value. This is especially true of the exportation of beef, cattle and meat products. The exports of cattle increased from 182,750 in 1880 to 331,720 in 1895, or 81½%, and to 567,806 in 1905 or 210% over 1880, and values from $13,340,000 in 1880 to $30,600,000 in 1895, an increase of 129%, and to $40,590,000 in 1905 or 204%. The average value of cattle exported increased from $19 in 1850 to $73 in 1880 and $92 in 1895, decreasing to $71.50 in 1905. Only the best and heaviest cattle are exported, these, of course, commanding a much higher price than the average of the country.
The total value of farm animals exported from the United States has fluctuated greatly. On the whole, however, the value increased from $16,000,000 in round numbers in 1880 to $46,500,000 in 1905, or 190 %. Table XXXIX. shows the number and value of live animals exported between 1880 and 1905.
Table XXXIX.—Number and Value of Farm Animals exported from the United States, 1880–1905.
Since 1890 there has been a great development in the production of fruit and vegetables. Local market gardens are numerous in the vicinity of all cities, and highly specialized “truck gardening,” that is, the growing of early fruits and vegetables for transportation to distant markets where the seasons are later, has made rapid progress in the South Atlantic states. The census reports of 1900 use the potato acreage in these states as an index of the rate~ of development of truck gardening; the southern potato being largely a truck garden crop. In seven counties of Virginia the increase in acreage from 1889 to 1899 was 100%; in eleven counties of North Carolina, 314%; in five counties of South Carolina, 134%; in nine counties of Georgia, 111%; in six counties of Florida, 309%; in five counties of Alabama, 277%. Irish and sweet potatoes are the most important vegetables raised; the North Central states leading in the production of the former and the South Atlantic states in the production of the latter. The growth of the Irish potato industry is shown by the following table:—
The production of sweet potatoes, as reported in census years, was as follows:—
The total acreage in vegetables reported in 1899 was 5,753,191 or 2% of the acreage in all crops; the value of the yield was $242,170,148 or 8.3% of the value of all crops.
The value of the fruit crop of 1899 was $131,423,517; the value of orchard fruits was $83,751,840; of grapes, $14,090,937; of small fruits, $25,030,877; of sub-tropical fruits, $8,549,863. The development of fruit-growing during the decade 1889–1899 appears from the following table:—
|Plums and Prunes||2,554,392||8,764,032|
In 1899 California contributed 21.5% of the fruit crop; New York; 12.1%; Pennsylvania, 7.5%; Ohio, 6.8%; and Michigan 4.5%.
The agricultural schools of the United States owe their origin to the movement against the old classical school and in favour of technical education which began in most civilized nations about the middle of the 19th century. A rapidly growing country with great natural resources needed men educated in the sciences and arts of life, and this want was first manifested in the United States by a popular agitation on behalf of agricultural schools. A number of so-called agricultural schools were started between 1850 and 1860 in the eastern and middle states, where the movement made itself most felt, but without trained teachers and suitable methods they accomplished very little. They were only ordinary schools with farms attached. The second constitution of the state of Michigan, adopted in 1850, provided for an agricultural school, and this was the first one established in the United States. The General Assembly of the state of Pennsylvania incorporated the Farmers’ High School, now the State College, in 1854. Maryland incorporated her agricultural college in 1856, and Massachusetts chartered a school of agriculture in the same year. The agitation, which finally reached Congress, led to the establishment of the so-called “land-grant” or agricultural colleges. The establishment of these colleges was due chiefly to the wisdom and foresight of Justin S. Morrill, who introduced the first bill for their endowment in the House of Representatives on the 14th of December 1857, saw the latest one approved by the president on the 30th of August 1890, and is justly known, therefore, as the father of the American agricultural colleges. The first act for the benefit of these colleges, passed in 1862, was entitled “An Act donating public lands to the several states and territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts,” and granted to each state an amount of land equal to 30,000 acres for each senator and representative in Congress to which the state was entitled at that time. The object of the grant was stated to be “the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college” (in each state), “where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts . . in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” The total number of acres of land granted to the states under this act was 10,320,843, of which by far the greater part is sold. This grant has produced an endowment fund amounting to $12,045,629. The land still unsold in 1905 amounted to 844,164 acres, valued at $4,168,746. The invested land-grant funds yielded these colleges a total annual income of $855,083 in 1905. Including the United States appropriation under a supplementary act of 1890, commonly known as the Second Morrill Act, which now gives each college $25,000 a year, the interest on the land-grant and all other invested funds, all state appropriations and other sources of revenue, these colleges had in 1904–1905 a total income of $11,659,955. Sixty-six institutions had been organized under this act up to 1905, of which sixty-three maintain courses in agriculture; twenty-one are departments of agriculture and engineering in state universities; twenty-seven are separate colleges of agriculture and mechanic arts; and the remainder are organized in various other ways. Separate schools for persons of African descent had been established under this act in sixteen southern states. These colleges take students prepared in the common schools and give them a course of from two to four years in the sciences pertaining to agriculture. Many of them offer short courses, varying from four to twelve weeks in length, in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and dairying, which are largely attended. Agricultural experiment stations are connected with all the colleges, and many of them conduct farmers’ institutes, farmers reading clubs and correspondence classes.
The agricultural experiment stations of the United States grew up in connexion with the agricultural colleges. Several of the colleges early attempted to establish separate departments for research and practical experiments, on the plan of the German stations. The act establishing the Agricultural College of Maryland required it to conduct “a series of experiments upon the cultivation of cereals and other plants adapted to the latitude and climate of the state of Maryland.” This was the first suggestion of an experiment station in America, but resulted in little. The first experiment station was established at Middletown, Connecticut, in 1875, partly under state aid, partly through a gift from Orange Judd, partly in connexion with the Sheffield Scientific School, which from 1863 to 1892 was the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts for the state of Connecticut, and partly under control of Wesleyan University, which contributed the use of its chemical laboratory; in 1877 it was removed to New Haven. The state of Connecticut made in 1875 an appropriation of $2800 (and in 1877 $5000 per annum) for this school-the first state appropriation of the kind. The state of North Carolina established, on the 12th of March 1877, an agricultural experiment and fertilizer control station in Connexion with its state university. The Cornell University experiment station was organized by that institution in 1879. The New Jersey station was organized in 1880 and the station of the University of Tennessee in 1882. From these beginnings the experiment stations multiplied until, when Congress passed the National (or Hatch) Experiment Station Act in 1887, there were seventeen already in existence. The Hatch Experiment Station Act, so called from the fact that its leading advocate was William Henry Hatch (1833–1896) of Missouri, appropriated $15,000 a year to each agricultural college for the purpose of conducting an agricultural experiment station. The object of the stations was declared to be, “to conduct original researches or verify experiments on the physiology of plants and animals; the diseases to which they are severally subject, with the remedies for the same; the chemical composition of useful plants at their different stages of growth; the comparative advantages of rotative cropping as pursued under a varying series of crops; the capacity of new plants or trees for acclimation; the analysis of soils and water; the chemical composition of manures, natural or artificial, with experiments designed to test their comparative effects on crops of different kinds; the adaptation and value of grasses and forage plants; the composition and digestibility of the different kinds of food for domestic animals; the scientific and economic questions involved in the production of butter and cheese; and such other researches or experiments bearing directly on the agricultural industry of the United States as may in each case be deemed advisable, having due regard to the varying conditions and needs of the respective states or territories.” The stations were authorized to publish annual reports and also bulletins of progress for free distribution to farmers. The franking privilege was given to these publications. The office of experiment stations, in the Department of Agriculture, was established in 1888 to be the head office and clearing-house of these stations. Agricultural experiment stations are now in operation in all the states and territories, including Alaska, Hawaii, Porto Rico and the Philippines. Alabama, Hawaii, Connecticut, New jersey and New York each maintain separate stations, supported wholly or in part by state funds; Louisiana has a station for sugar, and Missouri for fruit experiments. Excluding all branch stations, the total number of experiment stations in the United States is sixty, and of these fifty-ive receive the national appropriation. The total income of the stations during 1904 was $1,508,820, of which $720,000 was received from the national government and the remainder was derived from societies, fees for analyses of fertilizers, sale of products, &c. The stations employed 795 persons in the work of administration and research; the chief classes being-directors, 71; chemists, 163; agriculturists, 47; agronomists, 41; besides numerous horticulturists, botanists, entomologists, physicists, bacteriologists, dairymen, weather observers and irrigation experts. The stations publish annual reports and bulletins, besides a large number of “press” bulletins, which are reproduced in the agricultural and county papers. They act as bureaus of information on all farm questions, and carry on an extensive correspondence covering all conceivable questions. Their mailing lists aggregate half a million names. In addition to the experiment stations there is in nearly every state an officer or a special board whose duty is to look after its agricultural interests. Eighteen states, one territory, Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands have a single official, usually called the Commissioner of Agriculture. Twenty-six states, one territory and Hawaii, have Boards of Agriculture. Information concerning the Agricultural Department of the United States will be found under Agriculture, Board of.
See the articles on the various sorts of crops; also Cattle, Horse, Pig, Sheep, &c.; Dairy and Dairy-Farming, Horticulture, Fruit and Flower-Farming, Poultry and Poultry-Farming; Soil, Grass and Grassland, Manure, Drainage of Land, Irrigation, Sowing, Reaping, Hay and Hay-Making, Plough, Harrow, Threshing.
Literature.—Besides the contemporary works cited in the text, see the article “Agricultura” in Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), and the article “Agriculture” in J. A. Barral’s Dictionnaire d’Agriculture (1885–1892); R. E. Prothero, Pioneers and Progress of English Farming (1888); sections on agriculture by W. J. Corbett, R. E. Prothero and W. E. Bear in Traill’s Social England (1901–1904); J. E. T. Rogers, History of Agriculture and Prices in England from 1259 to 1793 (7 vols., 1866–1902); W. Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce during the Early and Middle Ages (2 vols., 1905 and 1907); D. M‘Donald, Agricultural Writers from Sir Walter of Henley to Arthur Young, 1200–1800 (London, 1908); H. Rider Haggard, Rural England, 2 vols. (1902); Encyclopedia of Agriculture, ed. by C. E. Green and D. Young (Edinburgh, 1907–1908); Cyclopedia of American Agriculture, ed. by L. H. Bailey (New York and London, 1907–1908); W. S. Harwood, The New Earth (New York, 1906); T. B. Collins, The New Agriculture (New York, 1906); journals of the Royal Agricultural Society of England and other agricultural societies. Amongst general works on practical agriculture the following may be mentioned:—Stephens’s Book of the Farm, 3 vols., revised by J. MacDonald (Edinburgh, 1908); William Fream, Elements of Agriculture (London, 1905); Rural Science Series, ed. by L. H. Bailey (New York and London, 1895, &c.); Morton’s Handbooks of the Farm (London); R. Wallace, Farm Livestock of Great Britain (Edinburgh, 1907); Youatt’s Complete Grazier, rewritten by W. Fream (London, 1900); E. V. Wilcox, Farm Animals (New York, 1907). (W. Fr.; R. Tr.)
- “Unimproved” land includes land which has never been ploughed, mown or cropped, and also land once cultivated but now overgrown with trees or shrubs.
- Includes farms operated by owners, part-owners, owners and tenants, and managers.
- Tenants of farms rented for a share of the products.
- For 1899–1900 to 1904–1905
- The demand for horses for the British troops in South Africa affected these years.
- Decrease due to a severe frost in the winter of 1898–1899, which destroyed the peach crop in most of the states.
Warning: Default sort key "Agriculture" overrides earlier default sort key "Agriculture in the United States".