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The variations in these accounts suggest the difficulties incident to obtaining reliable figures. The cost of production varies at different times and on different farms. In most cases it is impossible to give a reliable average, for the statistics are wanting. According to the table, Argentina can raise an acre of wheat at the same cost as that of the Red river valley in the United States. The average cost of raising an acre of wheat in Russia is about $8.
There are also many accounts of the cost of raising wheat which are not itemized, and consequently still less reliable. In the United States cost varies greatly in different sections. In Washington it is from 20 to 35 cents a bushel. In Oregon 20 cents is recorded. It is not likely that this price can include interest on capital, in any section. In North Dakota 50 to 54 cents is the cost; $5.72 per acre is also given for this state, not including interest on land. The running expenses averaged $3.77 in South Dakota from 1894 to 1900 inclusive. The total expense in Minnesota is $6.40. In the early nineties the expense of raising an acre of wheat was $7.50 in Arkansas, from $6.13 to $10.32 in Nebraska, and $10.38 in experiments in Wyoming. Where wheat was the sole crop, $10 was given as a total average cost per acre in the United States on a farm of 160 acres in 1882. It is claimed that the shores of the Great Lakes could raise wheat at 15 cents per bushel before 1850, while the river counties of Illinois raised wheat for 30 cents, including hire of land and all expense.
The cost of raising a bushel of wheat in England was given as $1.76 in 1821 and $1.45 in 1885. In the black-earth region of Russia the cost of producing wheat, including rent, was said to range from 35 to 73 cents per bushel during the last part of the nineteenth century. In the first quarter of that century the cost, exclusive of rent, was given as 97 cents. The average cost in Russia during the years 1899 to 1903 inclusive, not including expense of rent and seed, varied from 34 to 48 cents per bushel for spring wheat. Poggi says that the cost of a bushel of wheat in Italy is 69 cents, its production being at a loss. He criticises others who state its cost as only 44 cents, and who say that it can be profitably produced." In Hungary
: Indus. Com., 10:cc-v.
the cost is from 52 to 63 cents per bushel, or from $10.58 to $12.79 per acre, not including land rent. In Germany the cost is 95 cents per bushel. It costs 65 cents a bushel to raise wheat in India, but according to rather extensive data collected by the department of agriculture of that country the cost was exactly half this amount in 1884. The average annual cost of cultivating an acre of land in England rose from about $17.45 in 1790 to about $34.90 in 1813. Threshing wheat by flail in that country cost about 8 cents a bushel. By the old system of horse-power machines, it cost about 5 cents, and by steam this was reduced to 2 cents. The cost of raising wheat in the United States has not been reduced so greatly in the older wheat states as in the new states of the west, where the level and extensive farms give the greatest opportunity for the use of labor-saving machinery. For example, the combined harvester saves from 3.6 to 5.4 cents a bushel on the cost of harvesting with the header alone. The Profit on Raising Wheat usually is not large, and it has often been denied that there is any profit at all.” Under the most favorable average conditions the bonanza farmers of the Red river valley do not make a net profit of over $3.32 per acre, or 8 per cent on the capital invested. ” In England before the plague of 1332-1333 a lord possessing feudal rights over all the land in a manor made a profit of about 18 per cent on agricultural operations. After the plague, 1350-1351, profits were very low, at the best less than 4 per cent on the capital invested in the estate. Hartlib gives the profit on an acre of wheat in the middle of the seventeenth century as about $9. In order that there may be any profit in raising wheat in Argentina it is said that the yield must exceed 10 or 12 bushels per acre. Amount of Labor Required.—About 1775 in the United States it was 3 days’ work to cut 100 bushels of wheat, to bind and “stook” it took 4 days, while threshing and cleaning required 5 days more. In all, it required about 15 days of hard manual labor to get 100 bushels through these processes. 1 Lowe Pres. State of Eng., p. 153.
* Indus. Com., Vol. 10. * Ency. Brit., 10th ed., 1:217.
Thus it took about 1 hour and 45 minutes of human labor to harvest and thresh each bushel. These figures of Brewer are too small, however, as compared with those given by the department of labor for 1830. According to the latter figures it required 2 hours and 32 minutes at that time for the same operations. In 1896, by the use of the combined harvester, this time had been reduced to 5.6 minutes. The cost of human labor per bushel had declined from 15 cents to 2.2 cents. The entire time of human labor necessary to produce one bushel of wheat, including sowing, reaping and threshing, fell from 3 hours and 3 minutes in 1830 to 10 minutes in 1896. In the same period of time the cost of human labor per bushel fell from 1734 cents to 31-3 cents. The cost of both animal and human labor fell from 20 cents to less than 10 cents. The greatest saving has been in harvesting. The human labor which does remain is quite light compared to that of 1830. This reduction in cost of production represented a saving of about $91,000,000 for the United States on the wheat crop of 1907.
The Effects of Continuous Cropping.—Different crops remove from and contribute to the soil elements of different kinds or in different proportions. The availability of plant food is also influenced. Continuously raising one crop tends to exhaust the soil of the food elements available for that crop. In a rotation of crops these effects are not so manifest. Some crops also contribute to the soil elements needed by others, as, for example, leguminous plants fix nitrogen which becomes available for wheat the next year. A rotation involves different methods of cultivation, which are often very effective in eradicating certain weeds. Continuous cropping and cultivation change the physical condition of the soil. This often results, particularly in prairie regions, in the soil blowing and drifting. Rotation of crops, especially when grass is introduced, will soon return the soil to its proper physical condition and prevent blowing. There is little profit in using commercial fertilizers unless rotation of crops is practiced.
Comparative Utility of Crop Rotation.—As a rule the pioneer farmer in a new country never practices much rotation of crops. This is one of the factors of high and intensive farming, which is never found on the frontier. The main reason for this is that land, being plentiful, is cheap, while all other forms of capital, as well as human labor, are comparatively scarce and high. It is but natural for the pioneer to endeavor to diminish those elements entering into the cost of production which are most expensive by substituting others less expensive. Land is the cheapest factor, so he uses this more lavishly, not to say recklessly, and saves the labor and other capital required to farm intensively, which is to cultivate more carefully, to rotate and diversify crops, to keep stock, to fertilize, to irrigate, and to follow many other practices requiring additional labor and capital. This fundamental advantage of extensive farming due to the cheapness and abundance of land
is augmented by the fact that the pioneer usually is farming a soil of such virgin fertility that for a number of years it will produce large crops in spite of extensive culture. Often, as has been the case in the United States from the very beginning, when the soil has lost its fertility so that it will no longer yield standard crops, the farmer leaves the solution of the problem of its further profitable culture to others than himself by removing away from it to settle again upon virgin soil, and to repeat there his previous operations. While labor and all capital except land are higher in price in a new farming country, so little capital is required that its cost is usually below the cost of that required in the older country. In 1860 the United States was a half century behind England in intensive methods of farming, yet the cost of production was much lower for the American farmers than for the most scientific farmer of England, even if the latter paid nothing for the use of his land."
If most of the members of a community are engaged in agriculture, the supply of agricultural products is not apt to fall below the home demand. Where such a large proportion of the people have an opportunity of producing at cost, home demand is not apt to raise the price greatly above the cost of production of older countries, and exportation is possible. Exportation involves the cost of transportation. Under normal conditions then, prices must always be lower at home than abroad before it will be profitable to export. As long as these conditions obtain, it will be impossible for prices of agricultural products in a new country (generally an exporting country) to be as high as those of an older country. High farming involves more expense than extensive farming, and consequently a larger capital is essential. But as prices cannot be so high in the newer community, and as capital is not so abundant, it follows directly and imperatively that farming cannot be of such a high and intensive grade. Unfortunately, however, as is so frequently the case with the recklessness of plenty, the most loose and careless methods of farming come in vogue, methods that are certain to exhaust the soil to such a degree within a limited number of years as to necessitate either improved methods of culture or its abandonment. While there may be extenuating circumstances in pioneer times which will
* 8th U. S. Census, Agriculture, p. viii.