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OFFICE OF THE PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF AGRICULTURE,
HARRISBURG, January 1, 1879. To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives of the General
Assembly of Pennsylvania: GENTLEMEN : In compliance with the requirements of law, and in accordance with the direction of the Board, I have the honor to herewith submit a detailed statement of the work of the Pennsylvania Board of Agriculture during the past year.
The nature of the work of the Board is such that its best aims and the greatest amount of benefit to the farmers of the State can only be accomplished by having them directly interested in its proceedings and assisting in its work. The experience of the previous year having plainly demonstrated that we could scarcely expect them to meet with us at the State capital, and the Attorney General having given an opinion favorable to the plan, it was decided to hold the meetings of the Board in various portions of the State, in order, if possible, to reach all interests and all sections. In accordance with this plan, a meeting was held at Doylestown in May, and one at Titusville in September. In both cases the result fully warrants the opinion that by this plan we can best carry out our work, and accomplish the greatest amount of good to the greatest number. The farmers of the districts in which these meetings have been held have shown their appreciation of our efforts, not only by their attendance, but also by freely participating in the discussion of the various topics under consideration, thus adding their practical knowledge and suggestions to the general result. These meetings have not only the effect of bringing new facts from practical men, but they also have a tendency to break up that spirit of exclusiveness into which our farmers have unconsciously drifted. During the past year four agricultural societies have taken advantage of their privilege of electing members of the Board, and it is probable that as many more will, in the same manner, be added during the year which has just opened. The manner of holding the meetings, as alluded to above, and the addition to the number of members, has very materially increased the expense of our meetings, but this increase has been accompanied by a greater increase in the ability of the Board to accomplish the purposes for which it was created.
The Cultivation of Jute in Pennsylvania. The communication on the subject of jute culture in Pennsylvania, as laid before the Legislature during the session of 1878, has had the effect to arouse an interest in not only the culture of this plant, but also of other textile fibers. Believing it to be the duty of this Board to take the initiatory steps in the investigation of new problems in agriculture, an investigation into the merits of the jute plant was ordered. The fact that, as a nation, we import jute fiber to the amount of $7,000,000 annually is, perhaps, a sufficient reason for this interest, and also for the investigation of the subject by this Board. After a voluminous correspondence with practical men, we feel warranted in coming to the conclusion that, as the facts are now presented, the true jute plant-Corchorus capsularis-cannot be profitably cultivated in Pennsylvania. First. Because it is a semi-tropical plant, and, as appears from correspondence hereunto annexed, will not mature its seed, even in South Carolina, without some kind of protection. Second. Because the quality and strength of the fiber decreases as its culture progresses north. Third. Because, in the present condition of machinery adapted to its preparation, it would be impossible for our farmers to compete with the low-priced manual labor of India. No doubt, as has been claimed, this plant may in time be gradually acclimated, but this involves a question of the future, which the Board has not felt called upon to investigate.
The correspondence and personal examination necessary to establish these facts has also developed the fact that we already have several native or acclimated plants, which will produce a fiber equal or superior to that of India jute, and we have no doubt that energy directed to the improvement and cultivation of these, will meet with a greater reward than in the acclimatization of the Corchorus capsularis. Prominent among these we may name the Mallow family, and notably the Indian Mallow, (Abutilon avancenna,) and the wild primrose, (Oenothera biennis.) The former grows wild in nearly all portions of the State, and from samples already in the possession of the Board, it is evident that it may be made to yield a fiber fully equal to that of jute, with this advantage in its favor, that the residue may be used for the manufacture of paper.
The Board has been requested to lend its aid in asking for a bounty from the State to encourage the cultivation of these and other textile fiber plants; but believing that such aid partakes more of the nature of a stimulus than of actual assistance, we are not prepared to advise it. Should a basis for profitable competition with India fiber be shown, we have no doubt that the energy of our manufacturers and our unemployed capital now seeking investment, will take advantage of it. The effect of State bounties for such objects is too often to give the project an undue and unnatural stimulus, which seemingly carries it forward in a proper course, but when withdrawn, it will result in the complete abandonment of the project. The best stimulus for this and other new crops, is a clearly demonstrated profit. With this it needs no State aid, and without this no State aid can make it truly and fairly successful.
The Guenon System. During the last three months of 1877, our correspondence with official reporters, farmers' clubs, and practical farmers, demonstrated the fact that there was a strong desire for an impartial examination into the merits or demerits of this system, and for a report thereon by the Board. While many of our dairy men and stock-breeders have implicit faith in the system, there are others who either fail to place entire confidence in its teachings, or discard them as incorrect and imperfect.
Believing that if correct, its test by the Board would be of benefit to the dairyman and farmers of the State, by spreading its benefits still further, and that if incorrect and delusive, its examination would confer a benefit by exposing the delusion, a resolution was unanimously adopted, requesting his Excellency the Governor, as president of the Board, to appoint a commission of three experts to carefully investigate into, and report upon the merits of the system. For this purpose, Messrs. Blight, Harvey, and Hazard were appointed. They have examined a large number of cows; have, as they and we think, given the system a fair and full test, and their report, which is herewith submitted, is before the farmers of the State. It is our belief that the interests of the dairymen of the State can be best served by a presentation of the naked facts as found by the commission, leaving it to them to draw their own conclusions as to the correctness or falsity of the system.
The work of the conimission as it progressed, has been subjected to considerable criticism, not only from the agricultural press of this and other States, but also from practical men, who are interested upon one side or other of the controversy, but we think no one can claim that it has not had a fair test. By this the Board proposes to let it stand or fall, without endorsement or condemnation from them. The examinations were publicly made, and opponents as well as friends of the theory invited to be present, and the result is now left to the practical dairymen and stock-breeders for their independent action thereon. The gentlemen comprising the commission have acted without any compensation, even for their personal expenses, and the examination has placed a large amount of additional labor upon the secretary of the Board.
Commercial Fertilizers. We would again call your attention to the importance of protecting the agricultural interests of the State from fraud and imposition, in the manufacture and sale of commercial fertilizers. The report of our chemist plainly shows that fertilizers are offered for sale in the State which are not worth one fourth of the price asked for them, while there are others which are fully worth all that is demanded for them. The purchaser and consumer has, at present, no means by which to determine this value and the comparative merits of these fertilizers but that of actual test, yielding its results too late to remedy the evil or redress the wrong. The surrounding States of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, have placed the manufacture and sale of this class of manures under the restrictions of laws, which not only, in some measure, protect the farmer, but, also, the honest manufacturer. As the result of this protection afforded in the neighborboring States, Pennsylvania is a market for all kinds of fraudulent manures, which cannot be offered elsewhere. It is against these, rather than the product of our leading home manufacturers, that our farmers need protection, and we think you will find that the manufacturers of reliable fertilizers will endorse any law, which, while it protects the farmer, also protects them.
The law prepared by this Board, and submitted to the last Legislature, was the result of a careful examination of the laws of other States, and consultation and correspondence with those familiar with the action of this class of laws elsewhere. This correspondence and the experience elsewhere, we think, clearly demonstrates that any legislation, to be effective, must possess the means by which samples may be selected from stock already in the market, and analysed by an impartial and disinterested party. The regular report of these analyses, at stated periods, will furnish farmers with an index of the actual value of each manure in the market, and enable them to form an intelligent judgment of their value and adaptation to their special wants. We think it safe to urge, in support of some definite action on this subject, that out of not less than $1,500,000 expended by our farmers for forty-five thousand tons of fertilizers, at least one fourth is a direct loss from fraudulent goods.
The Unimproved Lands of the State. The fact that our State has within its limits a large area, comparatively well adapted to the production of grain and grass, but not yet brought under cultivation, has had the attention of the Board. From examinations made by members of the Board, there can be no doubt that much of this land (classed as unimproved) might be made productive, by a proper and judicious system of improvement, and that it in no way differs in condition from the former status of many of our most flourishing interior and northern counties. Much of the land of Cameron, Venango, Elk, and Potter counties, will, in the future, compete with that of Bradford, Crawford, and Mercer, but it is possible that this time may be hastened by some proper system of legislation. In many localities the large areas from which the pine and other timber has been removed has a productive value which will fully warrant its improvement, and data in the possession of the Board show it to be capable of producing remarkable crops of grain, roots, and grass. A good and ready market already awaits the farmer who will improve them.
It has been claimed that one of the leading drawbacks to the improvement and settlement of this class of lands is to be found in the fact that, if improved, even to but a limited extent, their value for taxable purposes is very much increased. The State and counties in which these lands are situated could very well afford to delay this increase in taxable value until the occupant has had time to become fairly established. It is to the interest of both the State and land owner that these lands should be improved, for such improvement will, sooner or later, increase the revenues of both. For further information on this subject, we would refer you to the address of Honorable A. J. Quigley, before the September meeting of the Board, as herewith submitted.
As will be noted in the report which is herewith submitted, a committee of the Board, appointed to examine into and report upon the fence laws of the Commonwealth, have performed this duty. We would respectfully call your attention to the great change which has taken place in our agriculture since even the later of these acts was passed, and also to the fact that they do not correspond with the requirements of our present system of furminy, nor with the improved systems which must, sooner or later, force themselves upon our farmers. When these laws were placed upon our statute books, the theory prevailed that the true object of a fence was to keep stock out; but this has, in most localities, been exchanged for the
ory that they are to keep stock in, or, in other words, that a farmer fences to confine his own stock, and not to exclude that of a neighbor.
Disease among Live Stock. Up to the time of closing our report, the live stock of the State has been free from any epidemic disease needing the attention of the Board. Except cases of hog cholera in Mifflin and a few other counties in the State, the general health and condition of the live stock has been better than last year. This is probably largely due to the fact that the winter of 1877 was of a nature as to present a large surplus of feed during the early spring, thus giving the pasture a start which has since kept the stock in a condition above its average. The horned stock along the lines of our leading railroads will no doubt be subjected to the usual annual loss from Texan or spleenic fever, but at so late a period in the season, no serious outbreak is to be anticipated. The annual loss from this disease forms in the aggregate quite a serious loss to the live stock owner, and the propriety of suggesting some form of legislation which will prevent, or at least mitigate, the danger has had the careful attention of the Board. As an index of what has been accomplished in other States, and what may be done here, we would refer you to the report on this disease by C. B. Michener, the veterinary surgeon of the Board, as embraced in papers herewith presented.
The official reporters appointed by the Legislature having called our attention to the loss entailed on the dairy interests of the State by ropy or viscid milk, Doctor Leffmann, the microscopist of the Board, has been detailed to make an investigation and report The result is herewith submitted.
The universal approbation with which this attempt to investigate the diseases of domestic animals, and to render assistance to farmers whose stock may be affected by epidemic or endemic diseases, has confirmed the opinion as expressed last year, and it will in the future form an important feature in the work of the Board.
While it is to be hoped that our farmers may not be subjected to the loss entailed by any general epidemic disease, yet the fact that we are each year more liable to it, leads us to believe that the small amount granted the Board for the purpose of this kind of investigation is well expended.
Value of the Office of the Board as a Source of Information to Farmers.
In our last report we called the attention of the Legislature to the value of this office as a center not only for the collection of agricultural information, but also for its dissemination among those who are more directly interested. Another year's experience has fully confirmed our estimate of this value, and it has formed no small portion of the duty of the secretary of the Board to answer inquiries from farmers and others from all portions of this as well as other States, often, it is true, upon matters of little import to the State, but of much value to the individual and, in the aggregate, to the State at large. The increasing labor of this and other duties will make it necessary that the secretary should have some kind of clerical help during the year now opened. While we do not think this will require the constant presence of an assistant, yet we would respectfully urge the importance of some provision for assistance during that portion of the year when the duties are most arduous.
Crop Statistics. In an attempt to secure reliable information as to the yield and condition of the crops of the past season, the secretary has had the assistance of three hundred official reporters, who were appointed by the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and are thus able to report for each senatorial and congressional district in the State.
Blanks are furnished to these reporters every quarter, and when returned, properly filled up, constitute the basis of the statistical tables herewith submitted. These reporters have been named for the positions on account of their qualifications for the duty, and it is believed that their consolidated