Зображення сторінки

farming interest must have been ruined ; but, as we have seen, they had been gradually changing their produce to suit the changing markets; and they probably will have to do this still more thoroughly in the face of the continuing competition. Already all sorts of vege tables, fruit, and flowers are cultivated to meet the demands of the cities. Had the farmers been fettered by covenants and leases, including fixed systems of rotation, none of them could have survived the depressing years which have now happily passed. The price of farming products has now risen, and the future of the New England farmers will be regulated by the ordinary principles of trade. The Eastern lands at present are probably cheaper as an investment than those of the West, that is to say, capital will yield more interest on land purchased in the Eastern than the Western section of the States. Taxes in the Eastern States must have a tendency to decline in the future, while in the West they must increase. Roads, schoolhouses, county buildings, already exist in Eastern States, and are paid for; but they have to be made and paid for in Western States. Every product of a farm can be converted into cash in the East, but there are only two products in the West, besides tobacco and cotton, which have cash value, viz. wheat and wool. Maize must be ó incarnated' in the more distant regions, that is, must be converted into beef or bacon, or it must be changed into spirit; in fact, it must be manufactured to get money for it. When Europeans learn more completely its admirable fattening qualities, no doubt more maize will be imported for cattle; but at present its sale is small compared with the great area of its growth. For these various reasons the values of Eastern lands will again rise, and the farmers will enjoy a moderate competence by their cultivation. As a mere investment the rental value is insufficient to induce capitalists to buy land, for it does not produce above three to four per cent., and that return, which is looked upon as fair for possession of land in England, has no temptation for the American capitalist. But such interest, added to the profits of the farm, gives a moderate competence to the farmer who owns the land which he farms. There is little desire for land as an object of ambition, because the landowner in America enjoys no social position above that of the possessor of any other kind of property.

There is a general impression prevailing in the New England States that the effect of Western competition was to drive the American farmers from the land, and to replace them by Irishmen and French Canadians. Certainly both these classes were constantly met with, not only as labourers but as farmers, in various parts. But I doubt whether the change has proceeded very far. In the State of Massachusetts, the last census (1875) showed that nativeborn farmers still amounted to 87 per cent. In Vermont, I was assured, the change was proceeding more rapidly, but I had no statistical returns on the subject. The Irishman, as soon as he has made money in the factories, looks for land as an investment, but he is not always successful in his ventures. The proportion of native The following table is instructive, and refers to the farmers in the State of Massachusetts :

[blocks in formation]

While there is so much higher a proportion of education among American farmers, it is not likely that in the face of advancing competition their places are likely to be occupied to any great extent by the Irish and Canadians, for it is not among the ignorant that competition can be successfully met by improved methods of farming.

Of course, the interest of this subject to English agriculturists is, how far this forty years' competition of the West with the East of the United States is likely to be represented in its results in the farming of our own country. A succession of bad seasons has made us feel the competition keenly, but hopes are sometimes expressed, as they used to be in the Eastern States, that it is not likely to be permanent. There can be no delusion greater than this. The single State of Texas, after deducting 50,000 square miles of desert land, has an area nearly twice as great as that of the United Kingdom. Excluding land fit only for grazing, there are about 1,500,000 square miles of arable land in the United States, and of that less than half, or 700,000 square miles, is occupied by farms in process of improvement; while only 400,000 square miles are estimated to be improved land suitable for cultivation. About 200,000 square miles, excluding cotton, are devoted to crops which might come into competition with us at the present moment, and from this might be deducted 42,000 square miles now devoted to hay. It is thus obvious that the force of American competition is far from its full development. It is true that when land becomes exhausted it is abandoned, and little or no manure is used to retain it in fertility; but it will be a long period before the fertile land is brought to this state of poverty. Agriculture is improving, though slowly. The produce of cereals, especially of wheat, does not yet equal one half the average quantity that might be expected from a fairly good system of agriculture. The population of the States is now about 50,000,000; but if it were 100,000,000, the farms already in existence, by reasonable improvements in production, could feed that increased population, and still have a large quantity for exportation. The produce of wheat per acre is now only 13 bushels, that of oats 28 bushels, and of barley 23 bushels. A small increase in this low produce, multiplied into the large area already occupied, or into the vast area which will ultimately be brought into cultivation, shows what the future competition of America with Europe in food production must be. It may be interesting regions of 221,769 square miles, which, after all, is only about one seventh of the estimated arable land in the United States.

[blocks in formation]

Large as these quantities are, it must be remembered that, in three years from now, another important competitor will have to be met. By that time the railway from Thunder Bay to the Red River ought to be in full operation, and the Welland Canal should be completed. Then the Canadian wheat-land of the north-west, even as far as 250 miles west of Winnipeg, will force its supply upon Europe, at a price far lower than the average cost of wheat in this country. The average price for thirty years is, I believe, 518. ud. per quarter ; while wheat is said to be grown at a profit in Manitoba for 158. a quarter. If this be true, with the experience of American transport, wheat could be delivered in Liverpool much below the average price just quoted. When such competition is added to that of the great wheat-growing territories of the United States Minnesota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Dacota, and even Montana-it does not require a prophet to see that either our production of wheat must be greatly increased by superior cultivation, or its profitable growth will be difficult for our farmers in the face of such a rapidly augmenting competition.

I have tried, however, to show that an agriculture conducted by farmers free from trammels, and able to adapt their culture to the changing conditions of competition, has been able to adapt itself to new conditions in the Eastern States of America. The growth of wheat in America is not the highest representative of cultivation. It is really the pioneer of agriculture. Scarcely a generation bas passed since the Genessee valley and the central parts of the State of New York were covered with wheat. But now its growth has passed to the west and north, and yet the farms of that State are more productive and better cultivated than they were then. Dairy produce has greatly increased, and become of great national importance. Mr. Atkinson states that the value of butter and cheese is nearly, if not quite, as great as the cotton crop; and if the value of milk used as food be added, the total value of the dairy products in the States is more than that of the cotton crop, and as much, or more, than that of the wheat crop.' Our farmers in this country, if they are to hold their own, must make great improvements in dairy products. We have allowed France to beat us in butter, and America in cheese. There have been great improvements in refrigeration, and ice is no longer necessary to produce cold, for air compressed by a steamengine is equally efficacious. In the future butter from the great

oleo-margarine, at half the cost, is a more agreeable substance than butter indifferently made.

Our own pastures are fitted to give splendid results in the production of butter, if our farmers would use the inventions of other lands to obtain their products with uniformity and regularity. Even our old reputation for cattle-breeding does not stand without challenge on the other side of the Atlantic. Last autumn I visited a farm in Vermont where I saw, among the cattle, dukes and duchesses of genuine pedigree which would have rejoiced the hearts of our best breeders. There has been a widespread distribution of excellent Jerseys, and other good breeds, all through the States, and fresh grass butter, during the whole winter, can be had in New York from the Mississippi, Tennessee, and other regions. While we have been contented in recent years to depend more and more on the lean stock of Ireland, so as to produce high-priced beef, and neglected the breeding of cattle, the farmers on the other side of the Atlantic are continually trying to improve their breeds. In the future the competition in beef will be great, for transport is improving, and the cattle on the prairie lands are increasing so fast that their surplus must be exported, even at small profits. Sheep are now fed over the cotton lands, on the seed, after the expression of the oil, and are thus reared with much economy, for their manure greatly improves the crop, while their wool, being added to profits, enables the mutton to be exported at little cost. Already all the products of the hog are competing heavily with our home supply. On visiting one of those huge factories at Chicago where thousands are daily slaughtered and converted into transportable products, the owner remarked to me that they were a mere concentration, or, as he expressed it, “incarnation,' of Indian corn, and therefore the cheapest way of getting that bulky corn transported to Europe. It is true that the price of meat to the consumer of the United Kingdom has kept up well during the past years, but how long such prices will continue is a question for experience to determine. I may be wrong, but I think the future supply of animal food from the West will ultimately keep down the prices of meat as well as of corn. In regard to oats and barley we have little to fear, and we ought to hold our own against dairy produce when the pressure of competition teaches the farmer that he must improve in quality as well as increase in quantity.

My views are of no more value than that of any other intelligent observer, for though I have paid considerable attention to the science of agriculture, I have never been engaged in its practical operations. Still, as a chemist, I am much struck with some facts in regard to the agriculture of this country, to which I can now make only a passing allusion. The production of human food, especially in Ireland, is decreasing very rapidly. We have seen that the effect of competition on the New England States has been to increase the production of the soil for various kinds of crops. But this notably is not the case in Ireland, especially in regard to the crop of potatoes. Previously to 1845 six and seven tons of potatoes per acre were constantly raised upon Irish soil. This produce dropped to 5.6 tons between 1847 and 1851; to 5.3 between 1852 and 1856; and fell as low as 3'1 tons between 1869 and 1878. In other parts of the United Kingdom there has been little falling off in the produce of this crop; and the weakened state of the tuber, to which the decline is commonly ascribed, as a result of the potato disease, has no real foundation. It is a canon in agriculture that the best manure for any crop is that of the animal which fed on that crop, because all its ingredients are in exact proportion to the wants of the plant. It is in this way that the cotton lands of America are now so benefited by the sheep which feed upon the pressed seeds. In Ireland, however, a great change has taken place in the habits of the population. Formerly the potato was a staple article of food; the people lived upon the farms and restored to the land what was extracted in the growth of the potatoes, but when many emigrated to America, and when the residue changed so materially their mode of diet, the manurial balance of production and restoration was much changed, and the immense falling off of production has been the consequence. It can only be by due restoration of the abstracted ingredients of the soil through artificial manure that the land of Ireland can regain its old fertility. Cereals during a lengthened period have been lessening, and cattle increasing, in Ireland. If the balance of nutritive equivalent be struck between them, the startling result follows that Ireland could have fed 2,520,000 more people in 1856-7 than it could in 1878. During a large portion of that time England and Scotland were increasing in food-producing power, but latterly they have been decreasing also, though not nearly to the extent of Ireland. I state this important fact because it clearly shows that our agriculture is already changing its condition. The economical aspect of the question is another matter. It might pay a farmer to grow nothing but lavender, and the land might be fulfilling its functions without growing food at all, if it produced profit to invest in food from other lands. But changes are going on, and rapidly, in the production of food in this country, and it is a problem for all of us to consider attentively. As a very small contribution to it, I have given the impressions produced upon my own mind during a pleasant residence of a few months in the New England States last autumn.

Postscript. Since the above has been in type I have read Mr. Caird's letter, in the Times' of May 12, referring to American competition with English farmers. It is gratifying to me that so eminent an agricultural authority has come to the same conclusions as myself in regard to the probable results of future competition. In fact, our arguments and mode of viewing the question are so similar that I have thought it right to add this postscript, to assure the reader of this artic'e that I had not the advantage of knowing Mr. Caird's views when it was written.

« НазадПродовжити »