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Wheat was stored the entire year in elevators, and sometimes for 2 or 3 years. The expense per bushel of wheat in operating a line elevator was given as 2.25 cents if 50,000 bushels were handled annually, and 1.75 cents if 100,000 bushels were handled. Very few houses handled 100,000 bushels of wheat in a year. Three-fourths cent per bushel was charged for transferring grain from a car to an elevator and into another car. It has been estimated that the cost was only one-eighth cent. In 1885 the country elevator charge was from 3 to 5 cents per bushel. In 1900 it was from 0.5 cent to 2 cents. Elevator transfer charges were 1.25 cents in Chicago in 1885, and 0.75 cent at the close of the century. The usual commission for selling on consignment at the terminal markets in 1900 was one cent a bushel. Inspection and weighing charges amounted to 0.01 cent per bushel. About 80 per cent of the charges involved in concentrating wheat in Chicago were railroad charges and 20 per cent were commercial charges. Charges made per car were usually those of inspection, 25 to 30 cents, and weighing, 15 to 30 cents. Storage charges at the terminal elevators were about 1 cent per bushel for the first 10 days or any part thereof, and about one-fourth cent for each additional 10 days or any part thereof. Charges for recleaning grain were from 1 to 2 cents per bushel. In New York the charges on grain in store are, for receiving, weighing and discharging sound grain, including storage for 10 days or a part thereof, five-eighths cent per bushel, and for every succeeding 10 days or a part thereof, one-fourth cent a bushel. There is extra storage of half a cent per bushel on grain delivered to ocean vessels. Screening and blowing on receipt or delivery costs one-eighth cent per bushel. This may also include mixing. Inspection charges are 25 cents per 1,000 bushels. This, and verification of track weights, involves a charge of 50 cents per car load. One cent per bushel is the charge of weighing and discharging track wheat. Grain loaded from elevator to car is charged one-half cent per bushel, and that transferred while in store one-fourth cent per bushel. At Buffalo the cost for elevating is 0.5 cent per bushel, but this includes free storage for 10 days. If the grain is left in storage longer than 10 days, the charge is 0.25 cents for each day.
Commercial grain charges on the Pacific coast have been an argument in favor of elevator methods, especially when they were compared with the charges at terminal points in the Mississippi valley, or with those in New York city. At the very outset, the sacks add a cost of 4 cents per bushel of wheat, an expense which, according to the above statistics of charges, is probably equal on an average to the entire commercial charge involved in getting a bushel of wheat from the Red river valley through country, terminal and Atlantic seaboard elevators and transferring it on board ship at the Atlantic port. While there was no storage charged at the local warehouse on the Pacific coast for the first 6 months, the handling charge paid the local warehouseman during this time was 1.5 cents per bushel. Each month after this time involved a charge of 0.3 cent per bushel. Since there was little capital invested in local warehouses, the charge for handling the wheat must have been about 1.5 cents per bushel, even if it was sold immediately. At Portland, 60 days’ storage, including the discharging of cars and truckage across the dock to ship, involved a charge of 1.2 cents per bushel. This charge became 1.8 cents when grain was also loaded on the vessel, which made the charge for merely transferring to vessel 0.6 cent. After 60 days, storage charges were one-eighth cent per bushel for 10 days. Storage charges at San Francisco were 1.5 cents a bushel per year. The charge for loading wheat on vessels was 0.75 cent per bushel, and that for weighing was nearly 0.25 cent per bushel.
The greatest portion of the expense on the Pacific coast would seem to be for handling the wheat, while on the Atlantic coast it is for storage. Receiving grain, storing it 60 days, and discharging it involves a cost of 1.8 cents per bushel on the Pacific coast and 1.875 cents on the Atlantic coast. When delivered to vessels, there is an additional storage charge of 0.5 cent per bushel, making 2.375 cents on the Atlantic coast. Storage for 60 days costs two-thirds cent on the Pacific coast, and handling the grain costs 1.13 cents. Storage for 60 days at New York costs 1.25 cents, or, if it is to be loaded on vessels, 1.75 cents, which leaves a cost of 0.125 cent for handling. It costs, therefore, about 1 cent a bushel more at the seaboard port to handle wheat in sacks than to handle it by elevator methods. At the country elevator, however, there is a gain of perhaps half a cent when the grain is sacked, but the Pacific coast warehouse is often merely a platform, which in a different climate would afford no protection to the grain. If elevators had to be built, it would materially raise the cost at the country elevator, making it higher than 2 cents per bushel. As it is, on the whole, the cost is about 4 cents per bushel greater when wheat is handled in sacks than when it is handled by elevators. In some states warehouse rates are regulated by law. Discriminations are often practiced by elevator people, especially in eliminating independent competitors. In the interior of the country, the total cost of distributing wheat varies from 10 to 30 per cent of the price paid by the consumer. The average cost has been given as 9 cents per bushel. The cost of getting wheat to the seaboard has been given as 10 1-3 cents on the Pacific coast, and 14 or 15 cents on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. The total cost from the United States to England was about 20 cents by way of Atlantic ports, 22 to 23 cents by way of Gulf ports, and 30 cents by way of Pacific ports.
The Rise and Progress of the Grain Trade of the United States is one of the greatest marvels of an age noted for its commercialism. Its entire history would form almost a complete record of the development of the American continent, for it was the major factor in the opening up of three-fourths of our settled domain. The pioneer husbandman formed the vanguard in the march of civilization. The first succeeding ranks were formed by the merchant. Then came in quick sequence the panoramic array of our ocean, lake and river fleets, of our canals, of our wonderful storage and transportation systems, and of our commercial institutions.
The cereal crop has been the distinctive feature of rural industry in the United States. Here, as in every agricultural community, the three concentric circles of distribution which arose were centered in the local market, in the city market, and in the foreign market. In the modern wheat industry, wheat farming is mainly for a commercial surplus. A minor portion of the wheat grown is consumed or retained on the farm, while the great bulk of wheat is poured into the streams of local, interstate and international commerce. The major factor in that part of the cereal crop which figures in the internal trade and foreign commerce of our nation is composed of wheat. Much more corn than wheat is produced in the United States, but only a minor portion of this corn becomes a factor in its raw form in the domestic trade of the country, while a comparatively insignificant portion is exported. Less than 3 per cent of the corn grown in the United States in 1906 was exported, and only 25 per cent of that grown in 1905 found its way into the channels of domestic trade. For the last decade of the nineteenth century, the exports of wheat from the United States were over one-third of the amount grown, while those of corn were only one-fifteenth. For the year 1902, ten-seventeenths of the wheat grown, but only twoninths of the corn, was shipped outside of the county where it was raised.