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Allow me to say how earnestly I wish the Congress every success in the much-needed work of National Conservation. It is said that the French and Germans could subsist on what we waste; and I fear that to a stranger visiting our country it must seem that in a hundred years we have wasted more of our natural resources than the nations of Europe have done in all the centuries of their existence. But if we have been reckless in the past, wasting like vandals our rich inheritance, it is also most consoling and full of promise for the future that with the strong aid of our President, of Colonel Roosevelt, and of leading citizens in various parts of the country, we may look for a wiser use of our resources in the near future. And I am the more hopeful of a successful Congress from the fact that there is no political issue involved in the great subject before it which might threaten to divide our counsels and breed discontent, but that the sole motive that actuates the Congress is to conserve and increase our natural resources and thereby contribute to the material prosperity of our beloved country. It is also decidedly my opinion that we should regard our natural resources as the patrimony of the Nation, a sacred trust committed to our keeping to be administered for the good of the whole people, and to be transmitted by us, as far as possible unimpaired, to our posterity. By husbanding and using economically the gifts of Nature, we shall have an abundant supply for our own times, and also make suitable provisions for the future. Mother Earth is not only a fruitful mother; she is also a grateful mother, and repays her children for every kindness and tenderness we exercise toward her. And there are also instances on record to show that she is relentless when she chastises. Did my many duties allow, I should gladly take a more active part in the greatly needed Conservation labors. However, I trust you will feel assured of my entire sympathy and of the hope I confidently entertain of the very great benefits coming to us all as the fruitful result of these devoted laborers. JAMES CARD. GIBBONs.
President BAKER—Ladies and Gentlemen: The opening of the Congress today in Saint Paul is due largely to the kind assistance and friendly welcome of the Governor of Minnesota, His Excellency A. O. Eberhart, who will now extend you a welcome. (Great applause and cheers)
Governor EBERHART-Mr President, Members of the Congress, Ladies and Gentlemen: When I was invited to appear before this Congress and bid you welcome, it was suggested that I also outline what the people of Minnesota felt when they sought to have this splendid gathering at Saint Paul.
I am sure that no State or city could receive greater honor than to have the President of the United States come fifteen hundred miles to deliver the most important message on Conservation that has ever been presented to the people of this great country. (Applause) Yet I am not going to take more than the twenty minutes allotted to assure you that the only interest this State has in the Conservation movement is that which every true friend of the movement stands for. Last night I cut out the meat of my remarks, this morning the bones, and now there is nothing left but the nerve, and I have scarcely enough “nerve” to deliver it. (Laughter and applause) The Conservation of natural resources does not consist merely in the preservation of these resources for the benefit of future generations, but rather such present use thereof as will result in the greatest general good and yet maintain that productive power which insures continued future enjoyment. (Applause) While it is true that exhaustible resources like mineral wealth cannot be conserved for both future and present use, except by economic regulations and the prevention of wasteful methods, Conservation deals with their distribution in such a way as to prevent their control by grasping corporations and individuals, who would monopolize them for their own exclusive benefit at the expense of the general public. (Applause) It follows necessarily that any theory of Conservation which does not provide for the present as well as the future does not cover the entire field and cannot possibly bring the best results. (Applause) From every economic standpoint it is desirable that the present generation should be preferred, since future discoveries and inventions may render present resources of less value and importance to the coming generations. In its broadest sense the Conservation movement is not limited merely to the consideration of natural resources. Every great convention called to consider the problems involved has widened the scope of the movement so that today it includes the elimination of wasteful methods in almost every field of human activity and the conservation of all human endeavor so as to confer on all mankind the greatest blessings that a bounteous nature and twenty centuries of enlightenment can bestow. Every consideration of natural resources for the purpose of eliminating wasteful methods, preserving and increasing productive power. as well as regulating operation and control, has for its ultimate object the conservation of human energy, health and life, the securing of equal opportunities for all, and such dissemination of knowledge as will guarantee the continual possession and enjoyment of these blessings. The subjects for consideration by this Congress should, therefore, include not only the restoration and increase of soil fertility, the protection and development of forests, mines and water-powers, the reclamation of arid and swamp lands by irrigation and drainage, the forestation of areas unsuited to farming, the control of rivers by reservoirs so as to prevent flooding, as well as the elimination of waste in the use of these resources, but also the problems of public comfort,
health and life that are so intimately connected with all material and intellectual development. (Applause) Many of these questions will concern home attractions and management, industrial education in the public schools, public highways, State advertising and settlement, pure food, public health, and sanitation. By far the most important of all natural resources is the soil, and the maintenance and increase of its fertility must, therefore, be given the greatest consideration. (Applause) As long as food is necessary to human life, agriculture must continue to be the most vital industry of man, and the farm will be the most general and indispensable theater of his activity. We must have manufacture, art, schools, churches and government to round out our sphere of civilized existence, but the foundation of them all is the farm. (Applause) From the earth come all the materials for manufactures, the commodities of commerce, and ultimately the support of all human institutions. During the half century just past our country has devoted its energies to the development of manufacturing and commercial industries to such an extent that the scientific methods of agriculture necessary to insure not only the permanency of our institutions but the very existence of human life itself have been comparatively neglected. The pendulum is now swinging back to the farm, and our great Nation is becoming aroused to the fact that its most vital concern is the elimination of soil waste, the promotion of scientific methods of agriculture, and the conservation of that soil fertility which is the foundation of our entire social, political and commercial superstructure. (Applause) This new birth of agricultural progress comes at a psychological moment. We have developed American manufactures until the $16,000,000,000 product of our mills and factories exceeds that of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom combined. (Applause) We have built railroads by liberal public and private enterprise until the United States has about one-half of all the railway mileage and tonnage of the world. We have developed banking enterprise and home trade until we have the greatest banking power on earth, and an internal commerce which far exceeds the entire foreign commerce of the globe. We have become the model of the world in our free public schools and our republican form of government. But while we have demonstrated the possession of the greatest agricultural resources on the globe, and have heretofore supplied the world's markets with an unparalleled volume of farm products, we have wasted a wealth that would maintain our population for centuries. The loss in farm values in nearly all of the older States, as shown by the census records from 1880 to 1900, varies from $1,000,000 to $160,000,000 in each State and aggregates the enormous total of more than $1,000,000,000. Is this not sufficient to arouse the entire Nation and cause such a wave of reform as will put into activity every agency and instrumentality for scientific and progressive methods of agricultural reconstruction?
The unprecedented agricultural growth of the United States, in spite of wasteful methods, has been caused by the extraordinary fertility of its virgin soil, the great inducement offered by States and Nation to promote settlement and cultivation, the rapid growth of favorable transportation facilities, as well as the great demand for agricultural products resulting from the rapid increase of population, wealth and commercial enterprise.
Minnesota affords a splendid illustration of this development process, and I trust that I may be pardoned for using my own State for that purpose, since I am best acquainted with her conditions, development, and resources. Of her 50,000,000 acres of land area, about one-half is actually tilled, constituting the field area of about 200,000 farms whose aggregate area, including lands not tilled, approximates 32,000,000 acres, or 160 acres each. Nearly 4,000,000 acres of her area are covered by 10,000 lakes. This vast farm area possesses a soil unsurpassed by any State or any country in the world. The great glacier of several thousand years ago was generous to Minnesota. Its fine glacial drift almost wholly covers the old rock formations. Coming from many regions and rock sources, it has given to the soil an excellent chemical composition. This, together with the vegetal mold, accumulated for ages, makes the very best of hospitable soils. The incomparable fertility of the Minnesota soil and its ability to withstand fifty years of starvation methods in cultivation is accounted for by the almost uniform mixture of vegetal mold with all kinds of decomposed rock drift, thus making it possible for less than half of the State to produce farm products aggregating the enormous total for 1909 of more than $427,000,000. (Applause) It accounts also for the fact that, while Minnesota, like all other States, during this period of fifty years has been rather mining the fertility out of her soil than cultivating it, she has withstood the consequent impoverishment without appreciable shrinkage in farm value. There is perhaps not a single representative in this distinguished assemblage who cannot recall the day when the virgin soil in his locality did not produce from 50 to 100 percent larger crops than it does today, when dense forests covered large tracts now a barren waste, and when the bosom of the earth contained untold millions of mineral wealth now represented on the surface by huge spoil-banks and sunken surfaces. We remember only too well when our fertile fields yielded thirty-five to forty bushels of wheat to the acre, and that the same fields produced only about twelve bushels five years ago. In nearly every community there is found that pathetic onlen of decay, the deserted farm—even in this young State.
The economic importance of soil conservation is so great that it can scarcely be estimated. In making my estimates I have taken a very conservative view, and while no absolutely accurate figures can be obtained, the few that I shall give will be found sufficiently reliable to establish the paramount value of soil conservation. In Minnesota the low tide of soil impoverishment occurred about five years ago. At that time, after several years of apparently unsuccessful effort, the Agricultural College and schools, assisted by the State Farmers' Institutes and the press, succeeded in stemming the tide and arousing considerable interest in new methods of farming along more intelligent and intensive lines. Only within the last year, however, has progress been marked and rapid. When the first State Conservation Congress was called to meet in Saint Paul, March, 1909, nearly every township in the State was represented and all but two counties presented agricultural and industrial exhibits, attracting a total attendance of more than 150,000 people. The wonderful success of that Congress and the enthusiasm it stirred up all over the State gave a great impetus to this new era of agricultural reform in the entire Northwest and insured the complete success of this Congress from a local standpoint. Never before had 6,000 of the most progressive farmers of a State met for the purpose of discussing more intelligent methods of farming, as well as the suppression of wasteful methods in all fields of agricultural and industrial activity. During the past short period of five years the average cereal yield of this State has been increased more than five bushels per acre; the corn belt has been extended northward more than 300 miles to the Canadian boundary by the production of hardy and early maturing varieties of corn, yielding the State last year over 60,000,000 bushels, and placing Minnesota among the dozen leading corn States of the Union. It is estimated that plant breeding and seed selection alone last year added about $15,000,000 to our agricultural products. The cereal production has also affected clover, timothy and other tame grasses, thus largely contributing to the growth of the dairy industry, which has been increased ten-fold in twenty years until it now yields the State $50,000,000 annually, several counties netting more than $1,000,000 each. Similar progress has been made in the live stock, fruit, and truck gardening industries, and it is safe to conclude that Minnesota has entered in earnest upon a complete plan of agricultural reconstruction. But let us consider the opportunities for advancement that are still open, in order that we may determine the economy of soil conservation in terms of dollars and cents. The average yield of Minnesota wheat last season was seventeen bushels per acre. At the agricultural experiment stations the same wheat with improved seed selection and better preparation of soil by crop rotation and tillage yielded twenty-eight bushels per acre, climatic and soil conditions, as well as expense of tillage being otherwise similar, a difference in favor of intelligent farming approximating from five to eight dollars per acre, depending on local conditions. Assuming for the sake of