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for phosphorus the rootlets are unable to find more than one atom in a hundred. Thus we see that a good soil provided with 2,000 pounds of phosphorus to the acre within reach of the roots cannot produce a 100bushel crop of corn. Such a crop must have twenty-three pounds of phosphorus, and the roots can find only twenty—and the next year the supply will be reduced to 1980 pounds, and the roots will be able to find but nineteen and eight-tenths per cent of phosphorus for the dwindling crop. The 2,000 pounds of phosphorus would be quite adequate to the needs of the fifty-bushel wheat crop, but it would fall short by one-third of meeting the demands of the two-bale cotton crop. As so of all crops. They draw on the supply of a limiting element, and as successive croppings reduce this supply, the crop falls off until we have the four-bushel wheat crop, the ten-bushel corn crop, the third-of-a-bale cotton crop, which marks the ruin of the farmer—and the railway. There is no way to supply phosphorus to the soil save by carrying it upon the land and applying it. It is not found, like nitrogen in the air. It may be brought back in manure and the bones of slaughtered animals, and the process of depletion retarded, but this game is inevitably a losing one like those gambling games in which there is always a percentage in favor of the house. The fertility flushed into the waters of the earth through sewers, the waste of manure, the leaching of soil by rains—all these are the percentages in favor of the house, and against the players. The players are we-the human race—and the house is the massed forces of nature. There seems to be no way to play this game of life without losing. If the earth ever becomes unable to sustain human life, there is good reason to believe that our doom will reach us through failure of the supply of phosphorus in the soil. There is no phosphorus in the air, and in the waters the supply is negligible. It is an element, and until we discover the secret of the transmutation of elements we cannot make it. As it disappears from the soil there is no source of replenishment of the supply, except in the phosphate rocks of the earth. And while the failure of the soil to give its increase, and the depopulation of the earth through the exhaustion of this element of plant food may seem remote and speculative, the necessity of transporting the phosphate rocks from the quarries to the farms is an actual and present one. And it is a matter which lies within the relations between the railroads and the farmers.
Fortunately for the permanent agriculture of the United States, the largest known deposits of phosphorus in nature are within her boundaries. Guano, which is merely the manure accumulated on rainless islands where seabirds congregate, is of very limited importance in the long run, though for so long the source from which most of the world's commercial phosphates were derived. The phosphate rocks of the world are, so far as known, preponderantly in the United States. All the phosphate rock now mined, I believe, comes from the three states of South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee—whence the rock is now shipped at a rate which will exhaust them about the year 1930. On three Pacific islands are known deposits of high grade rock of about the same amount as that still remaining unmined in these three states—about 60,000,000 tons in each case. These rocks contain from sixty to eighty per cent of calcium phosphate. As they fall off in output, and the need for phosphorus becomes more bitter, the farmers must use rock of lower and lower grade, and the task of transporting it will become proportionately greater.
Indeed, the task of transportation will begin to increase long before it becomes necessary to resort to the low grade rock. For far from the depleted lands, in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, are the greatest high grade phosphate beds in the world—something like half a billion tons of rock practically in sight (according to Van Hise), and averaging over seventy per cent tricalcium phosphate. The existence of these great deposits, and of the low grade beds known to exist elsewhere, together with the probability that other beds will be discovered, justifies the highest optimism as to the future of agriculture—if transportation facilities can be afforded which will place the phosphates on the ground on terms tolerable to the farmers and profitable to them. This is a railway problem. As a mere matter of tonnage it is potentially greater than any other transportation item, save the one of supplying the fields with lime.
At present this sole supply of available phosphate rock is being carried off to Europe as fast as the mills can grind and the railways carry it to the ships. Nothing is being done to conserve the supply, so far as I am aware, in emulation of Germany's statesmanship in conserving her potash beds. It would be unfair to blame the railways which only act as common carriers in these shipments. But it might not be too much to expect of the patriotism of the men who have these great interests in hand to ask them to reverse the policy which they have adopted as to many other commodities, and to make higher rates for export on phosphate rock than for home consumption. The real remedy for the drain of phosphorus lies, of course, with the Government. We are forbidden by the Constitution to stop shipments abroad by means of an export duty, but we have the right to stop exports entirely, or to limit them. Our ethical right to refuse to divide the phosphate treasures with the needy agriculture of the world may be open to question; but we might surely demand that the foreign deposits be worked first for the foreign demand. The shipment of our phosphates abroad, with the certainty confronting us that at some future time we shall have to re-import the same commodity, involves an economic waste to which the world should not be subjected. And the railroads ought, in their own interests, to adopt every policy legally open to them to keep the phosphate rock for the use of the farms within their own transportation territory.
RATES AND FERTILIZERS.
It has just been suggested that the railways might discriminate in their rates on fertilizers, in favor of the home market, and against the foreign. Most railway men are probably unaware of the extent to which they are contributing to the exhaustion of our soils by their discrimination against the American milling of American grains and in favor of the export of the whole grains instead of the milled product. For generations we have had a tariff on wheat, ostensibly for the protection of the American farmer; and all the time the railways have made rates for export wheat lower than for domestic milling. Flour is largely denied the benefits of water transportation on the lakes, in part because it must go to market over the docks which are to a greater and greater degree controlled by the railways, while the great elevator companies with their terminal houses standing at the water's edge, and many of them provided with their own lines of boats, send wheat and other grains to tide water so cheaply as to make the shipment of flour a thing practically under the control of themselves and of the railways with which they have been traditionally closely affiliated in business interest. The result has been that, while there are mills enough in America to grind all our grain, most of our exports go unground.
This will be intolerable to public opinion when once enlightened upon the subject. The export of flour, of course, constitutes a drain of fertility; but the phosphorus content of the grain is largely concentrated in the bran and shorts. In the bran of every bushel of wheat exported goes phosphorus in its most readily available form of the value, at the ordinary rates paid by farmers for phosphates, of from twentyfive to thirty cents. A system of transportation based on considerations of national welfare would sedulously seek to retain that fertility for our depleted farms. Where grain is milled there grows up a large local use for bran, shorts and middlings—the by-products of milling. These are used in the feeding of dairy cattle and other live stock, furnishing what is needed in animal nutrition to balance the corn ration. Farms to which they are carried for feeding increase in fertility. The fertility of the prairie states has been sapped by fifty years of grain shipments. This era should be succeeded by the golden age of American milling. The wheat fields of Canada stand ready to send us fertility to replace that which we have shipped to Europe; and our transportation system should be used to the end that it should be retained here. The Hudson Bay basin would thus, during its period of soil exploitation, return to the Mississippi Valley what we have sent to the hungry soils of the old world.
The existence of overgrown cities is to a large extent attributable to the policies of the railroads with reference to them. The Texas system has. I believe, shown the power of transportation influences to decentralize population, just as the history of Chicago, Kansas City, the Twin Cities, New York and almost every large city proves their power in the direction of centralization. As a farming factor, the large city is a drain on fertility. These great towns are flushing out through their sewers the goodness of the Nation's farms. In the carriage of lime, phosphates, potash, cottonseed meal, bone meal, and of all the fertilizers of commerce, the railways as national tools of right living should be used to restore to the lands the fertility of which they have inevitably, in some instances, mistakenly in others, deprived them. But in considering the so-called commercial fertilizers, the coarser manures should not be forgotten. The enormous waste of manure about the great cities should be stopped. A German farmer of my acquaintance told me the other day that he had never sold a load of hay or straw from his farm in all his life. “Often,” said he, “I have had more than I needed, but I have held it over, even when the price was high and I needed money. It seemed to me as if that hay and straw didn't belong to me, but to the farm.” Under the renting customs of many British and other European localities the tenant agrees that whenever he hauls hay or
straw to market he will haul back to the farm an equal quantity of Innanure.
This custom is based on the highest wisdom. The German farmer was right—that hay and straw do not belong to the farmer, but to the farm. And whenever hay or straw, or any of the vegetable substances which are made into manure, are taken to the city, they should be considered as lent, not sold. Getting them out to the farms—not the identical farms, of course, but the farms—is a railway problem. And it should rest on the conscience of the people and of the railways, as did the similar problem on the conscience of my German friend.
I am aware that the railways of the country are not entirely oblivious to the wisdom of the policies here urged upon them. In some places they are making commendable efforts to get the manure of the cities out to the farms. In other instances, they are making what they probably regard as very low rates on fertilizers and lime. Just recently a railway in Virginia has made a rate of from one-half to three-fourths of a cent per ton mile on lime. But I do not find that they have anywhere made any such heroic efforts to cut down the cost of carriage of fertilizers and manures for the farms, as they have in the case of coal from the mines to the docks on Lake Erie, or grain from the elevators at the foot of the lake to New York, or ore from lake ports to Pittsburgh, or packing house products from Missouri river points to Chicago. In my opinion, true national welfare demands that the fertility of our farms be sustained at all costs, and that no freight is entitled to rates as low as ground phosphate rock, ground limestone, and manures.
THE GREATEST RAILWAY FOLLY.
The demands made here upon the railways may be regarded in some quarters as unwarranted. I am quite aware of their scope and character as innovations. They go deeper than the relations between the railroads and the farmers, and rise to the point of an outline for a national rate policy for our railways. In what I have said I have regarded the railways as public utilities in the strictest sense of the word. I have scarcely more than alluded to the rights of investors in railway properties, and I mention them now for the sole purpose of stating that in my opinion no demands will ever be made in the interests of the public welfare, or should be made, inimical to the rights of investors to a proper return on their investment made for the purpose of serving the transportation needs of the Nation. None of the things which I suggest are at variance with these principles. The railways may properly adopt the policy of hauling, or may properly be forced to haul certain public necessities at or for less than cost, so long as on the whole job of transportation they are allowed to earn legitimate profits. I do not believe that in the long run the profits on the fertilizer traffic should be made directly out of their haulage. I do believe that the time will come when no transportation folly will rank as greater in the eyes of our railway managers than that of allowing rolling stock to remain idle, while there is a chance to get loads of ground lime, ground phosphate rock or manure at almost any rate. I am not unaware of the various private interests which would demand and secure monopoly prices if the railways should transport these things at low rates or even gratis, if that were possible; but this is not the time for the discussion of these things. They must be dealt with by the statesmanship of the future. Institutions must be gradually moulded to the end that the agriculture of the Nation may be enabled to flourish; for on its agriculture and the status of its agricultural population rests in the last analysis the welfare of the Nation and its railroads. It may be urged that the present railway system of the land will not permit of the exercise of the beneficent functions outlined here. If that be so, it is no affair of mine. My task is to follow truth as I see it, wherever it may lead. If the railway system under which we happen to be doing business be at variance with the final demands of national welfare, there is ground for optimism in the historic fact that nothing changes more readily than railway systems. They have been almost revolutionized in the past decade—and these considerations of national welfare of which I am here privileged to speak will take many decades in coming to a final decision.
Mr. Quick closed by reading the following telegram from O. C. Barber of Akron, Ohio:
Regret exceedingly my inability to attend Conservation Congress. I note from several different programs there will be distinguished speakers on the question from all over the 'states. I hope as a result of the meeting something more than speeches will be accomplished in conservation of the equities of all American citizens.