Puslapio vaizdai

First: storage warehouses for cotton, wool, and tobacco, and elevators for grain, of sufficient capacity to meet the maximum demand on them at the peak of the marketing period. The farmer thinks that either private capital must furnish these facilities, or the state must erect and own the elevators and warehouses.

Second: weighing and grading of agricultural products, and certification thereof, to be done by impartial and disinterested public inspectors (this is already accomplished to some extent by the federal licensing of weighers and graders), to eliminate underpaying, overcharging, and unfair grading, and to facilitate the utilization of the stored products as the basis of credit.

Third: a certainty of credit sufficient to enable the marketing of products in an orderly manner.

Fourth: the Department of Agriculture should collect, tabulate, summarize, and regularly and frequently publish and distribute to the farmers, full information from all the markets of the world, so that they shall be as well informed of their selling position as buyers now are of their buying position.

Fifth: freedom to integrate the business of agriculture by means of consolidated selling agencies, coördinating and coöperating in such way as to put the farmer on an equal footing with the large buyers of his products and with commercial relations in other industries.

When a business requires specialized talent, it has to buy it. So will the farmers; and perhaps the best way for them to get it would be to utilize some of the present machinery of the largest established agencies dealing in farm products. Of course, if he wishes, the farmer may go further and engage in flour-milling and other manufactures of food products. In my opinion, however, he would be wise to stop short of that. Public interest may be opposed

to all great integrations; but, in justice, should they be forbidden to the farmer and permitted to others? The corporate form of association cannot now be wholly adapted to his objects and conditions. The looser coöperative form seems more generally suitable. Therefore, he wishes to be free, if he finds it desirable and feasible, to resort to cooperation with his fellows and neighbors, without running afoul of the law. To urge that the farmers should have the same liberty to consolidate and coordinate their peculiar economic functions, which other industries in their fields enjoy, is not, however, to concede that any business integration should have legislative sanction to exercise monopolistic power. The American people are as firmly opposed to industrial as to political autocracy, whether attempted by rural or by urban industry.

For lack of united effort the farmers, as a whole, are still marketing their crops by antiquated methods, or by no methods at all; but they are surrounded by a business world that has been modernized to the last minute and is tirelessly striving for efficiency. This efficiency is due in large measure to big business, to united business, to integrated business. The farmers now seek the benefits of such largeness, union, and integration.

The American farmer is a modern of the moderns in the use of labor-saving machinery, and he has made vast strides in recent years in scientific tillage and efficient farm management; but as a business in contact with other businesses, agriculture is a 'one-horse shay' in competition with high-power automobiles. The American farmer is the greatest and most intractable of individualists. While industrial production and all phases of the huge commercial mechanism and its myriad accessories have articulated and coördinated themselves, all the way from natural raw

materials to retail sales, the business of agriculture has gone on in much the one-man fashion of the backwoods of the first part of the nineteenth century, when the farmer was self-sufficient and did not depend upon, or care very much, what the great world was doing. The result is that the agricultural group is almost as much at a disadvantage in dealing with other economic groups as the jay farmer of the funny pages in the hands of sleek urban confidence men, who sell him acreage in Central Park or the Chicago City Hall. The leaders of the farmers thoroughly understand this, and they are intelligently striving to integrate their industry so that it will be on an equal footing with other businesses.

As an example of integration, take the steel industry, in which the model is the United States Steel Corporation, with its iron mines, its coal mines, its lake and rail transportation, its ocean vessels, its by-product coke ovens, its blast furnances, its open hearth and Bessemer furnaces, its rolling mills, its tube mills, and other manufacturing processes that are carried to the highest degree of finished production compatible with the large trade it has built up. All this is generally conceded to be to the advantage of the consumer. Nor does the Steel Corporation inconsiderately dump its products on the market. On the contrary, it so acts that it is frequently a stabilizing influence, as is often the case with other large organizations. It is master of its distribution as well as of its production. If prices are not satisfactory, the products are held back, or production is reduced or suspended. It is not compelled to send a year's work to the market at one time and take whatever it can get under such circumstances. It has one selling policy, and its own export department. Neither are the grades and qualities of steel determined at the caprice of the buyer;

nor does the latter hold the scales. In this single integration of the Steel Corporation is represented about 40 per cent of the steel production of America. The rest is mostly in the hands of a few large companies. In ordinary times the Steel Corporation, by example, stabilizes all steel prices. If this is permissible (it is even desirable, because stable and fair prices are essential to solid and continued prosperity), why would it be wrong for the farmers to utilize central agencies that would have similar effects on agricultural products? Something like that is what they are aiming at.

Some farmers, favored by regional compactness and contiguity, such as the citrus-fruit-raisers of California, already have found a way legally to merge and sell their products integrally and in accordance with seasonal and local demand, thus improving their position and rendering the consumer a reliable service of ensured quality, certain supply, and reasonable and relatively steady prices. They have not found it necessary to resort to any special privilege, or to claim any exemption under the anti-trust legislation of the state or nation. Without removing local control, they have built up a very efficient marketing agency. The grain, cotton, and tobacco farmers, and the producers of hides and wool, because of their numbers and the vastness of their regions, and for other reasons, have found integration a more difficult task; though there are now some thousands of farmer's coöperative elevators, warehouses, creameries, and other enterprises of one sort and another, with a turn-over of a billion dollars a year. They are giving the farmers business experience and training, and, so far as they go, they meet the need of honest weighing and fair grading; but they do not meet the requirements of rationally adjusted marketing in any large and fundamental way.

The next step, which will be a pattern for other groups, is now being prepared by the grain-raisers through the establishment of sales media which shall handle grain separately or collectively, as the individual farmer may elect. It is this step the plan of the Committee of Seventeen which has created so much opposition and is thought by some to be in conflict with the antitrust laws. Though there is now before Congress a measure designed to clear

up doubt on this point, the grain-producers are not relying on any immunity from anti-trust legislation. They desire, and they are entitled, to coördinate their efforts just as effectively as the large business interests of the country have done. In connection with the selling organizations, the United States Grain Growers Incorporated is drafting a scheme of financing instrumentalities and auxiliary agencies which are indispensable to the successful utilization of modern business methods.

It is essential that the farmers should proceed gradually with these plans, and aim to avoid the error of scrapping the existing marketing machinery, which has been so laboriously built up by long experience, before they have a tried and proved substitute or supplementary mechanism. They must be careful not to become enmeshed in their own reforms and lose the perspective of their place in the national system. They must guard against fanatical devotion to new doctrines, and should seek articulation with the general economic system rather than its reckless destruction as it relates to them.


To take a tolerant and sympathetic view of the farmers' strivings for better things is not to give a blanket indorse ment to any specific plan, and still less to applaud the vagaries of some of

their leaders and groups. Neither should we, on the other hand, allow the froth of bitter agitation, false economics, and mistaken radicalism to conceal the facts of the farmers' disadvantages, and the practicability of eliminating them by well-considered measures. It may be that the farmers will not show the business sagacity and develop the wise leadership to carry through sound plans; but that possibility does not justify the obstruction of their upward efforts. We, as city people, see in high and speculatively manipulated prices, spoilage, waste, scarcity, the results of defective distribution of farm products. Should it not occur to us that we have a common interest with the farmer in his attempts to attain a degree of efficiency in distribution corresponding to his efficiency in production? Do not the recent fluctuations in the May wheat option, apparently unrelated to normal interaction of supply and demand, offer a timely proof of the need of some such stabilizing agency as the grain-growers have in contemplation?

It is contended that, if their proposed organizations be perfected and operated, the farmers will have in their hands an instrument that will be capable of dangerous abuse. We are told that it will be possible to pervert it to arbitrary and oppressive price-fixing from its legitimate use of ordering and stabilizing the flow of farm products to the market, to the mutual benefit of producer and consumer. I have no apprehensions on this point.

In the first place, a loose organization, such as any union of farmers must be at best, cannot be so arbitrarily and promptly controlled as a great corporation. The one is a lumbering democracy and the other an agile autocracy. In the second place, with all possible power of organization, the farmers cannot succeed to any great extent, or for any considerable length of time, in fixing prices.

The great law of supply and demand works in various and surprising ways, to the undoing of the best-laid plans that attempt to foil it. In the third place, their power will avail the farmers nothing if it be abused. In our time and country power is of value to its possessor only so long as it is not abused. It is fair to say that I have seen no signs in responsible quarters of a disposition to dictate prices. There seems, on the contrary, to be a commonly beneficial purpose to realize a stability that will give an orderly and abundant flow of farm products to the consumer and ensure reasonable and dependable returns to the producer.

In view of the supreme importance to the national well-being of a prosperous and contented agricultural population, we should be prepared to go a long way in assisting the farmers to get an equitable share of the wealth they produce, through the inauguration of reforms that will procure a continuous and increasing stream of farm products. They are far from getting a fair share now. Considering his capital and the long hours of labor put in by the average farmer and his family, he is remunerated less than any other occupational class, with the possible exception of teachers, religious and lay. Though we know that the present general distress of the farmers is exceptional and is linked with the inevitable economic readjustment following the war, it must be remembered that, although representing one third of the industrial product and half the total population of the nation, the rural communities ordinarily enjoy but a fifth to a quarter of the net annual national gain. Notwithstanding the taste of prosperity that the farmers had during the war, there is to-day a lower standard of living among the cotton farmers of the South than in any other pursuit in the country.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the farmers are chiefly striving for a generally beneficial integration of their business, of the same kind and character that other business enjoys. If it should be found, on examination, that the attainment of this end requires methods different from those which other activities have followed for the same purpose, should we not sympathetically consider the plea for the right to coöperate, if only from our own enlightened selfinterest, in obtaining an abundant and steady flow of farm products?

In examining the agricultural situation with a view to its improvement, we shall be most helpful if we maintain a detached and judicial viewpoint, remembering that existing wrongs may be chiefly an accident of unsymmetrical economic growth, instead of a creation of malevolent design and conspiracy. We Americans are prone, as Professor David Friday well says in his admirable book, Profits, Wages and Prices, to seek a 'criminal intent behind every difficult and undesirable economic situation.' I can positively assert, from my contact with men of large affairs, including bankers, that, as a whole, they are endeavoring to fulfill, as they see them, the obligations that go with their power. Preoccupied with the grave problems and heavy tasks of their own immediate affairs, they have not turned their thoughtful personal attention or their constructive abilities to the deficiencies of agricultural business organization. Agriculture, it may be said, suffers from their preoccupation and neglect rather than from any purposeful exploitation by them. They ought now to begin to respond to the farmers' difficulties, which they must realize are their

[blocks in formation]

year-and particularly at a meeting called by the Kansas State Board of Agriculture and at another called by the Committee of Seventeen - I have met many of the leaders of the new farm movement, and I testify, in all sincerity, that they are endeavoring to deal with their problems, not as promoters

of a narrow class-interest, not as exploiters of the hapless consumer, not as merciless monopolists, but as honest men bent on the improvement of the common weal.

We can and must meet such men and such a cause half-way. Their business is our business — the nation's business.



IT is more than eighteen months since the writer described in these pages naval competition between the United States and Great Britain as the greatest danger that threatened civilization. We were then in the first enthusiasm of our relief from war, and hope ran high that the United States, within or without the League of Nations, would help the Old World to nurse the ideal of peace through freedom for which the war had been fought; and the danger of naval rivalry between us was then only just visible. But in the disappointments of the past year it has gathered form and body, and it is now no longer a vague apprehension but a rapidly maturing problem, with well-marked political lineaments. Unfortunately, there is reason to fear that our two governments (as is the way with all governments, if they are left alone), instead of going to meet it, may wait until it is on their backs. We are told that we must not hurry or unduly press projects of appeasement; but if precipitate action is to be feared, what other insur


ance can we have against that than timely discussion?

Our discussion must be frank and practical, for this problem is not one to be solved along the lines of revivalist agitation. There are forces stronger in America than in Great Britain that are working for the estrangement of the two countries; but in both there is an immense preponderance of goodwill capable of removing mountains, if only some convenient fulcrum for its activity can be devised. What holds us back is not the want of a wholesome sentiment, but the fact that, in our motions toward each other and toward service to the general good, our feet are held in snares from which they must be freed before we can accomplish the undoubted will of the vast majority in both countries.

One of these snares is the natural apprehension that the United States has on the side of Japan. The causes of the differences between them need not be discussed here; Englishmen know and appreciate them, from the Australian

« AnkstesnisTęsti »