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FIG. 48-SHOWING THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE AREA IN POTATOES IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1899
(Data from Twelfth Census Report)
Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota the potato acreage has increased faster than the population in the past ten years. New York comes in the same belt. The per capita production of potatoes in the United States is given as about 3.5 bushels. About one-third of the total crop of the Southern States is shipped North as early potatoes, and some late potatoes are shipped back from the North. The consumption north of Mason and Dixon's line is about 472 bushels per head, exclusive of potatoes used for seed or starch-making. The South consumes a relatively small amount, being less than 1/2 bushels per capita. · Knowing the approximate consumption and the area and condition of the crop (obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture reports, which are posted monthly), the farmer can form an idea of the outlook of the business. Thus, in 1903 there were 2,916,855 acres grown, and the yield as now known was 247,127,880 bushels. The table below will show the uses to which this crop was put. In 1904 as large an area would need to be planted (a larger one ought to be, because the population is increasing); hence, 10 bushels of seed are allowed per acre on:
Bushels 2,925 000 acres . . . . . . . . . 29,250,000 Plus 10 per cent, loss in storage ... 2,925,000 Used for starch-making, etc. (largely
small potatoes, etc.) . . . . . . . 5,000,000 Available for human consumption . . . 209,952,880
i Consult Twelfth Census Report, 1902.
The public can consume about three bushels of potatoes per head per year, and as there were 79,000,000 people to be fed, it would require 237,000,000 bushels to furnish this quantity. The shortage of 27,000,000 bushels insured a fair price, 61.4 cents per bushel being the average farm value.
The States having a surplus of potatoes are the Southern and Eastern Coast States (notably Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, and Florida), their market being the cities of the East and interior. The Trans-Mississippi and Nortwestern States also have a surplus.
The potato trade is a home trade. The yield is seldom more than is required for home consumption, and several times it has been less—as in 1902, when over 8,000,000 bushels were imported.
Factors Influencing Farm Prices.-Farm prices are the net value of farm products to the producer upon delivery at the local market. Between the grower and the consumer profits must be made by the local buyer, the wholesaler, the retailer, and perhaps a broker or two, and the transportation companies. To yield a profit to the grower the price received from the consumer must exceed (1) the expenses of distribution, including transportation, (2) the cost of production. It may not. The market price is regulated by the law of supply and demand.
In marketing live stock, cotton, grain, tobacco, and wool the main tendency is to eliminate the expensive middle man. This is easier accomplished with nonperishable products than with perishable ones. There are tîree reasons why the expensive middle man has been retained in the marketing of perishable prod. ucts
1. The extraordinary risks of depreciation. 2. Insufficient capitalization of the distribution end. 3. Absence of large-scale handling of the products.
There is little consolidation in marketing potatoes. Generally speaking, selling on commission is antiquated and should be abandoned, as it is the most demoralizing feature of farming. The market is niore stable when goods are bought and sold outright. An interesting feature is that rural districts are doing more of their own banking, so far as the financiering of the grain and some other crops is concerned, and the same will eventually be extended to potatoes. Cold storage improves prices, preventing slumps and excessively high prices, both of which are injurious. High prices inevitably lead to reduced consumption. The absence of public markets where consumer and producer can meet is a noteworthy feature of American cities and towns. Such markets have a salutary effect upon the distributor and middleman wherever they exist. The useless retailers are eliminated and the service of the survivor is improved, and both producer and public are benefited.
One important cause of this lack of system is the poor roads. Hauling is high. It costs, on an average, 25 cents to haul a ton of produce a mile, and in many cases more. 90 per cent. of all the freight handled by the railroads is brought to them on wagons; most of it is farm produce. With team and man at $3.50 per day, the cost of hauling this freight aggregates about as much as the cost of running the railroads one year. It is useless to double the production of the farm unless we increase the facilities for marketing the produce, and to do this it is imperative that we have good highways. In Belgium loads of farm produce are hauled 60 to 70 miles in competition with the railroad. Let every farmer join the good roads' movement; then he will be able to go to market with produce on days when the land is too wet to work or when the price is high. How many miles will $1.25 haul a ton of potatoes or other farm produce on a road, a trolley road, a railroad, and on water?
$1.25 will haul a ton 5 miles on a common earth road ; 127/2 to 15 miles on a well-made macadam road; 25 miles on a trolley road ; 250 miles on a steam railway; 1,000 miles on a steamship.
The value of cheap steamship transportation is seen in the Eastern potato trade. The prices of potatoes are better sustained in the Central States than in the Eastern because, although the tariff of 25 cents per bushel is an ample safeguard for the producer, as soon as potatoes are 50 cents per bushel, wholesale imports from Europe and the West Indies are apt to prevent them from going much higher.
The South Atlantic States, from Florida to Virginia, supply the early potato trade of the Eastern cities. The water transportation enables them to handle large quantities at low rates, and to compete with Northern potatoes (old) during at least three months of the year.
Modes of Selling.-1. The Local Market. This deserves attention, as higher prices are received in it by the producer than when shipped away.