Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/168

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
156
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

thousand square miles. The crop of 1898 is computed at 190,000,000 bushels, a quantity sufficient to supply Great Britain with all that she needs in addition to her domestic production. It has been grown on an area of less than twenty thousand square miles, or upon one eighth part of the land of these three States only; the rest of the wheat land can be as surely and profitably devoted to the production of wheat as that part already under that crop. The fact may be recalled that the territory which now constitutes the two States of North and South Dakota began to be computed separately from other States only in 1880, when a little under 3,000,000 bushels were credited to that territory. The minimum product of these two States this year will be 100,000,000 bushels.

One of the authorities upon whom I rested for absolute information is Mr. L. G. Powers, chief of the Bureau of Labor of the State of Minnesota, in whose Annual Report for 1896 is the most exhaustive study of the grain production of the Mississippi Valley that has ever been made. I therefore do not hesitate to incorporate in this article his comments upon the proof sheets sent to him:

"The probable product of wheat in a State like Minnesota, at a fixed price, such as Mr. Atkinson mentions, can be estimated, even approximately, only by taking account of a number of such factors as the present actual and relative profit of the wheat farmer, and the probable changes that will be made in the next few years in the cost of cultivating wheat and of transporting it to London. A few of the leading well-known facts relating to these subjects may with profit be noted in this connection, and first a few words with reference to the profits of wheat raising in Minnesota.

"Whatever may be true of wheat raising in Europe, or in the Atlantic coast States of America, it can be positively asserted that the average profit of the Minnesota wheat grower has been steadily though irregularly increasing since the admission of this State to the Union in 1858. This is evidenced by the relative number and amount of farm-mortgage foreclosures in the State, as a whole, and in its several sections at the present time and in the past. Properly to use those foreclosures as a measure of the increasing prosperity of the Minnesota wheat farmer, two facts should be kept in mind. In 1880, and prior to that time, the industry of wheat growing was most fully developed in those counties which now constitute the First Congressional District. The farmers of those counties at that time depended for their income largely upon their wheat crops. Later they have adopted a highly diversified system of agriculture in which wheat is only an incidental cash crop. The exclusive cultivation of wheat now finds its seat in the counties composing the Seventh Congressional District. The lands of this district are situated about two