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At least as early as 1880 insurance of crops against fire was becoming popular in some sections of the United States. During the eighth decade 38 hail and tornado insurance companies were transacting business. They were located in 12 different states ranging from Florida to Ohio, Colorado, Michigan and Connecticut. There is apparently no hail in California.
There are at present numerous companies maintained in the north central states for the purpose of insuring crops against destruction by hail and wind. This sort of insurance generally seems to be confined to the co-operative, or assessment plan. The rate varies from 3 to 12 per cent, according to locality. In California several companies insure growing grain against fire at a rate of about 1 per cent per annum, but in the north central states no such insurance is written. In a few of these states there have been excessive losses in some years upon the hail loss branch of insurance. Canada also has a system of hail insurance. Extensive hail storms occur in Argentina and in many districts insurance is generally secured by the colonists.
The transportation of wheat has four divisions or aspects: (1) Transportation from the farm to the local market; (2) from the local market to the primary market; (3) from the primary market to the seaboard; and (4) from the seaboard to the foreign market.
Transportation from Farm to Local Market.—On the Pacific coast of the United States all wheat is handled in sacks from the time it is threshed. This is the method of handling wheat in practically all foreign countries. Perhaps the only exceptions to this are in very recent times in certain parts of Russia and in western Germany. In all parts of the United States except the Pacific coast, however, advantage is taken of the flowing quality of wheat by handling it in loose condition as soon as it reaches the elevator, and in some parts, as in the Red river valley, it is never sacked at all, but runs directly from the thresher into the wagon box or grain tank. In transporting wheat from the farm to the local market animal power is well-nigh universally used, whether it is transported on the back of the camel, as in Egypt or India; in the twowheeled ox-cart, as in Argentina; in the two-horse wagon, as in Ohio; in the four-horse grain tank, as in North Dakota; or on the six-horse, double wagon, as on the Pacific coast.
Transportation from Local Market to Primary Market.—The fact that the production, the internal movement, and the exportation of wheat are greater in bulk and value for the United States than for any other country attaches an unusual interest to a study of the internal transportation of American grain. Those great railway centers into which the wheat of the surplus producing states is concentrated after the first stage of its movement from the producer are designated as the primary grain markets. The ten largest centers are Chicago, Minneapolis, Duluth-Superior, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Toledo, Kansas City, Peoria, Cincinnati and Detroit. An average of from 10,000,000 to 90,000,000 bushels of grain has been annually received by each of these cities. With one exception, all of these primary markets are located at the points where the circumference of an irregular circle intersects the great inland waterways. From each of these centers radiates a fan-shaped net-work of railway lines. In the main, these lines extend to the north, west and south. Sometimes over 25 grain carrying lines come from a single city. Not only do the railroads from any one city compete with each other as carriers of grain, but they also compete with the roads radiating from other cities. The competition is all the more intense because success or failure for certain primary markets in securing the grain often determines whether it goes to the Atlantic or Gulf seaports, and thence to the foreign markets. As a consequence the middle west is well equipped with railway mileage. The net earnings of the railway systems come largely from the grain traffic to the east and south, and from the traffic which this induces in the opposite direction. The movement of wheat from the local markets of the productive areas to the primary centers for subsequent distribution is almost entirely by rail. There is very little water transportation. In 1899, 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, corn and oats were received in St. Louis. The receipts by wagon were almost equal to those by water, which were little more than a million bushels.
Chicago is the greatest primary grain center in the world, but on account of the great quantity of flour manufactured at Minneapolis, the latter city stands pre-eminent in wheat. During the last decade, there has been a marked increase in the amount of wheat received at Kansas City and St. Louis; the amount at Minneapolis and Chicago has not varied; and the amount at Duluth has declined. Buffalo is a great point of interior concentration for the purpose of forwarding to Atlantic seaports.
Transportation from Primary Market to Seaboard.—In every country the extensive growing and shipping of wheat is closely dependent upon the existence of adequate transportation facilities. To the lack of these the comparative insignificance of the grain traffic of the United States in the eighteenth century was mainly due. This was before the railroad era; canals were developing but slowly; and highway transportation was too expensive to be practicable for any great distance. During
the early decades of the nineteenth century, the main transportation of grain was by way of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the Gulf. Buffalo handled less flour than New Orleans as late as 1840. New Orleans received 221,000 barrels of flour in 1832, and this rose to over a million annually in the sixth decade. The Erie canal, opened in 1825, turned the cereal movement eastward to New York, and soon that city became the chief commercial center of the western hemisphere. Already before the Civil war, the grain traffic of the Mississippi river began to decrease in comparison with that of the Great Lakes. In 1836 the first shipment of grain from Lake Michigan took place, and two years later Chicago made its first consignment. The opening of the eastern route immediately shifted the wheat center westward and gave a great impetus to the development of the north central states. An all-rail route was established between Chicago and the Atlantic ocean in 1852. In 1859 the four leading wheat states were Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio, and they transported their surplus to the seaboard chiefly by water. When the Civil war closed the Mississippi river, freight rose so high "that it cost more than five times as much to transport a bushel of wheat from Iowa to New York as the farmer received for it."1
Shipments by rail began in 1856. By the seventh decade, the railroads had developed sufficiently to compete with the water route to the Atlantic coast. By the end of this decade the railroads were in the ascendancy in the struggle, having secured the bulk of the flour, and about two-thirds of all grains. On an average, however, only about one-third of the wheat has been carried by rail. On account of the favorable location of Chicago, the roads from this city have been most successful in the competition. As early as 1876, 83 per cent of all the grain shipped to the Atlantic seaboard was by rail. Much grain was and is shipped by a part water and part rail route, for the Erie canal has fallen into comparative disuse. A close parallel to this competition is found in the competition between the Canadian railways and the Welland canal.
The participation of railroads in the eastern grain traffic in the United States and Canada, and also of the Welland canal in Canada, besides extending the grain area and severing it from 1 8th U. S. Census, Agriculture, p. xli.