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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/18

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

in the United States, and the heart of the cotton belt must for all time lie in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Our corn crop is three times as great as for the rest of the world combined, and, though corn is widely grown both north and south, the chief corn belt naturally centers in the Upper Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. For example, five states, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, raise over half the total for the country, or, astounding as it may seem, nearly 40 per cent, of the entire world's crop. Wheat, cattle, hogs, vast quantities of oats, hay, potatoes, lumber, coal and other mineral products come mainly from the Mississippi Valley, each one in point of quantity leading all other nations of the world, and yet no one denies that the limit of productivity is far from being reached. Out of this list, cotton, meat products and bread-stuffs make up a large part of our foreign commerce, with half the world's mileage of railroads required to get the products to the seaports. As might be expected, by far the thickest railroad net is in the Mississippi Valley, yet the roads there have found their facilities increasingly inadequate to handle the produce of the region. "Shortage of cars" has become a familiar complaint in the wheat fields of the northwest. Corn and cotton in the states along the Mississippi have been kept out of the markets because of increased rates on rail shipments. On every side the farmers have raised the cry, "Better freight facilities," but the railroads have steadily failed to meet the demand. Conditions have gone from bad to worse until now the harassed producers see that their only salvation lies in the development of the routes so bountifully supplied by nature, with coordination of rail and water facilities to prevent disastrous opposition.

It is not a case of providing merely enough to meet present needs, for the growth of this vast interior storehouse still continues with gigantic strides. Irrigation, dry farming, swamp drainage, and the exploration of the whole world to give new crop species, are opening every year areas which have heretofore produced little or nothing, while crop improvement and intelligent soil management are adding millions of bushels to the yield of the older regions. Marked by developments unparalleled in the history of the world, there seems to be no limit to the enormous capacity to produce over areas measured in tens of thousands of square miles, areas whose crops alone determine panic or prosperity for the entire nation; areas wherein lie the sinews of the greatest and most stable world power in all history. Not England, nor Russia, nor China, not any other nation or continent of the world, can equal in all its territory the unbounded natural advantages of the Mississippi Basin. Yet with each added harvest the pinch of traffic congestion and heavy transportation charges are felt by an increasing proportion of the population, and as long as such conditions continue the full economic development of the region must be seriously hampered.