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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/169

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157
UNITED STATES' WHEAT-GROWING CAPACITY.

hundred miles on an average farther from the markets of Europe than those of the First District. Notwithstanding this fact and all changes in the selling price of wheat, and all allied changes affecting the wheat industry of the State, the farm-mortgage foreclosures in the Seventh District in the five years ending with December, 1897, were relatively twenty per cent less than they were in the First District in the five years 1880 to 1884, and were forty per cent less than in the five years 1869 to 1873. To the extent represented by these figures has the average cultivation of wheat as an exclusive crop become more profitable in Minnesota than it was twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. A much greater increase of farm prosperity has taken place in those counties which have adopted a diversified system of agriculture, and made wheat an incidental cash crop.

"The growing farm prosperity in Minnesota above noted finds its highest development in the past five years, during which the selling price of wheat in London has averaged approximately one dollar per bushel, or the amount called for by the conditions stated by Mr. Atkinson. This increasing farm prosperity in Minnesota, which lessens the mortgage foreclosures of the exclusive wheat growers forty per cent in thirty years, has been the main factor in the settlement of Minnesota and the two Dakotas. It has caused the wheat grown in the territory of these three States to increase from 10,000,000 bushels in 1867 to 190,000,000 bushels in 1898. With no added profit in the business, the settlement of the vacant lands of these States and those of Montana and of the British Northwest will move on, and twenty-five years from now will find in the territory tributary to Minneapolis and Duluth not less than 400,000,000 bushels of wheat raised annually. Even then but a fraction of the possible wheat lands of the great Northwest will be under the plow. If a material increase should take place in the present average profits of the Northwestern wheat grower, the imagination of man could hardly picture the stimulus to wheat culture that would result.

"With a fixed price of one dollar per bushel in London, called for by Mr. Atkinson's conditions, the American farmers can find increased profit in two possible sources: decreased cost of transportation to London, and lessening cost of wheat production in Minnesota. A detailed analysis of the various charges that constitute the present cost of transporting wheat from the Red River Valley of Minnesota, the Dakotas, and of Manitoba to London gives reasonable assurance of a reduction in the next few years of at least five and possibly seven cents per bushel in such cost. Here is an almost certain addition, in the next few years, of from five to seven cents a bushel to the profit of American-grown wheat, providing only its average selling price in London remains practically unchanged.