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AGRICULTURAL ADVANCEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES.
PROFESSOR C. V. RILEY,
At the Organization of the American Agricultural Association, December, 1879.*
GENTLEMEN: You have organized a society for the advancement of American agriculture, and he were no patriot who did not wish you success in the good work you have set out to accomplish, or who failed to indorse the noble ambition which has inspired your organization. It is because I sincerely wish you success in your laudable object that I have concluded, in reply to Mr. Reall's repeated request, to suggest in as few words as possible, wherein, in my humble judgment, success is and is not attainable by an organization of this kind.
All nations, in all times, have recognized the importance of agriculture ; and in proportion as they have intelligently fostered it have they been prosperous ; for the decay of nations runs pari passu with decrease in productiveness of the soil. No country is more dependent for prosperity on the products of the soil than our own, and it is doubtful whether in any other this importance is more fully appreciated. One-half of our people depend on agriculture for support, and we are essentially a nation of farmers. By way of comparison, let us glance at what other great nations have done and are doing to advance agriculture, and then at what our own government has done and is doing. In this way we may possibly see more clearly the paths that lead to improvement and advancement, and also in how far an organization like this will be likely to successfully tread and lead in those paths. Taking, for comparison, three of the principal nations of Europe-England, Germany and France in which I have lived, I ask your indulgence while I state the leading facts, without entering into particulars.
An agricultural department has not entered into the scheme of the English Government, though there has been some recent talk of creating one. Schools have been established, however, which are under the patronage of the Government, and which are intended to promote the knowledge and science of agriculture. There are three of these schools--one in England, one in Ireland and one in Scotland. These are almost entirely self-supporting, as the appropriation yearly made for the maintenance of pupils, pay of teachers, stewards, gardeners, laborers, etc., is inconsiderable. Each of these schools stands on one hundred or more acres and is divided into three farms: 1st, a spade-labor farm of a few acres, cultivated as an example for cottage-holders ; 2d, a farm worked with inexpensive appliances, on a scale suited to the great bulk of small rent-paying farmers ; 3d, a farm of large dimensions, which is managed with a view to train large farmers.
These schools and farms are under the management and inspection of a general
* Some passages in this address, of application only when it was read, have been omitted with the consent of the author.-ED.
superintendent, and we have from the English budget the annual appropriation made to support the same, as follows, for the year 1878:
AGRICULTURAL ESTABLISHMENTS. Superintendent of Agricultural Department.
£395 One Inspector of Agricultural Schools....
200 Locomotion and the expenses of the above..
Total for general superintendence, etc
Or, $4,475 for the expense per year of that which represents with us the Agricultural Department of the Government.
The schools are maintained at an expense of less than $10,000 each per annum. These schools teach the usual English branches of knowledge, together with the the-ory and practice of agriculture. The English and Scotch schools are normal. The net expenditure for agricultural establishments in England is £3,886, or $19,430.
In every county in England there is an agricultural society or club composed of the resident farmers and land-holders, and these clubs are much after the manner of our local societies in their formation and object. The Royal Agricultural Society of London, is semi-national, though self-instituted and in receipt of no government patronage. It is composed of the leading nobility and gentry of the Kingdom who are interested in the promotion of agriculture. This society has agents throughout the country who make regular returns of the condition of the crops, etc., from which the society makes up its published reports. Agricultural Fairs are held under the patronage of the Royal Society, and premiums awarded in medals and money for superior stock, excellence of products, etc. Its success is due, first, to the limited area of England and the homogeneous character of her agriculture ; secondly, to the support of a wealthy and landed aristocracy, and thirdly (and principally), to its appreciation of scientific methods. The indirect encouragement which the government gives to agriculture, as in the support of Kew Gardens, the South Kensington Museum, etc., is an important factor to be considered, for these institutions are powerful, not only in advancing, by experiment, agricultural knowledge, but also in disseminating that knowledge among the
In the German Empire, as now united, no national department of agriculture has. yet been crystallized, and I will take the State of Prussia, with which I am most familiar, for illustration.
The Prussian Department of Agriculture is a co-ordinate branch of the Government, being represented in the Cabinet. Its annual appropriation-between two and three millions of dollars—is small when compared with that of the other departments. Its. sphere is not only to foster the agricultural interests of the country, but also to take charge of the public lands. These consist mostly of forest land, only a small proportion, scattered over the country in farms of 1,000 acres and upward, being devoted to general agriculture. Most of these farms are rented out, not to the highest bidder, but to wealthy farmers who must be well educated and trained in science. These are bound by contract to conduct the farms as model farms in every respect; to improve the stock as much as possible; to use only improved seeds, and to introduce such machinery as is recommended by the department. But a few of these farms-one in every province—are used as experimental stations, and these are all self-supporting. The products of these farms are marketed and disseminated only upon recommendation of the department. With these experimental farms there is always connected a horsebreeding station, which is not required to be self-supporting, and is, therefore, administered separately, receiving an annual appropriation. Farmers, upon application, are : permitted to bring to these stations mares of improved breeds, and are charged only a. nominal price when the animals are with foal.
Either by agreement to do so or from choice, the renters of the public farms accept pupils for training in practical agriculture, while the managers of experimental farms are bound to do so. The pupils pay a tuition fee, and must have some knowledge in agriculture and an ordinary school education. They are soon employed as overseers, and thus greatly lessen the cost of running the farms. Information tending to promote agriculture is conveyed to the public in a two-fold
First, through the official paper (Amtsblatt), circulated by the Government, and made self-supporting by the private advertisements that seek its columps; secondly, through the different Government officers in the provinces and counties, the department having control over these last, from the superintendent of the county to the rural police, who are required to gather statistical and other information within their precincts. Where the public good demands vigorous and concerted action, as in preventing overflows, or in preventing the importation of cattle diseases, etc., the department has unlimited control over the entire police force of the precinct, and, if this is not sufficient, the army is obliged to render assistance.
There is no free distribution of seeds except in case of total failure of the harvest over large districts.
The department publishes no annual reports, but frequently offers prizes for the best essay on any subject of importance.
It is part of the duty of the consuls and consular agents in foreign countries to make reports on agriculture and agricultural improvements, to send home new seeds, and otherwise advance agriculture in their own country.
There is a governmental school of agriculture, and also one of forestry. The pupils pay a tuition fee, and must pass examination in science before entering.
The Government offers small prizes at the regular county fairs, and gives free transportation on the railroads under its control, for all objects destined for such exhibitions, while private railroads are required to do likewise, or to carry for this purpose at nominal cost.
The public roads in Prussia are lined each side with a row of fruit or other useful trees, which are cared for by the Government, and private companies that build high roads are obliged to similarly line them. The crop from these trees is annually rented out, and the revenue obtained helps to keep the roads in repair. Finally, farmers are required to remove and destroy caterpillars and noxious insects whenever the public weal demands it. The perfect system of forestry under Government control is, also, worthy of study.
From the foregoing statements it is obvious that, wide as is the scope of the department, it is administered on a most economical basis.
In France there is a Department of Agriculture, which is a part of and connected with the Department of Commerce and Public Works. This department is presided over by a minister or cabinet officer, who is known and designated as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce. In the general budget for the expenses of the French Government, the department, as above organized, receives about $20 000:000 annually, while the annual appropriation for agriculture solely amounts to about 13,000,000 francs, or $2,500,000 ; but the scope of this department in France, so far as it relates to agriculture, is very large and comprehensive, and includes not only the personnel of the ministry and the machinery of the department, but schools of agriculture, model agricultural farms, appropriations for the introduction of fruit and shade trees, new and valuable seeds of grains, and all products that are likely to find a home in French soil. It includes also the purchase and maintenance, at appropriate stations, of improved stock of sheep and cattle, and of horses, and for the constant renewal of these by the introduction of the best breeds of each.
They have depots or stations where stallions are kept for the general good. They have veterinary schools and traveling professors of agricultural science, whose duty it is to visit all sections of the country and instruct the farming people. They have schools of trade and arts connected with agriculture.
This department gives encouragement to agricultural and stock exhibitions in public fairs, etc., with premiums for excellence. It encourages the sports of the turf and competition in the speed and endurance of the horse. There is, in fact nothing connected with agriculture, directly or remotely, that this department in France does not comprehend and include. Its policy is most broad and liberal, and its encouragement to everything calculated to advance agriculture extends beyond the confines of France, as its testimonials to citizens of other nations abundantly show. Although it is an expensive department of the government in comparison with those of other countries, the return in the production and agricultural wealth of the country far exceeds that of any other, and constitutes the great strength and power of the French nation.
A review of the progress of agricultural economy in this country brings out strikingly the fact that, as in the development of her silk and sugar beet industries, so in all other branches of her agriculture—a full appreciation of science and scientific methods is at the bottom of success.
Let us now, with these illustrations before us, glance at the past and present working of our own Department of Agriculture. Starting in 1839, as a Division of the Patent Office, with an appropriation of $1,000 for the purpose of collecting and distributing seeds, prosecuting investigations and procuring statistics, it continued with this connection till 1862. Up to 1854 the annual appropriation had not reached $6,000 in any one year; yet the reports published under the auspices of the Patent Office, up to that time, are valuable and creditable, considering the means and facilities for work then at command. By 1854 the work of the Patent Office had so stimulated agricultural enterprise that Congress that year appropriated the sum of $35,000, and the present organization of the department was fairly instituted. The annual reports from this time till 1862, when a separate Department of Agriculture was established, were most creditable, and the discussions and experiments in the reports prior to this time, on tea culture, corn-stalk sugar, etc., and the negative results that have come from them, are well worth pondering, in the light of recent sanguine claims for those proposed industries ! The history of the department since that day is familiar to all, and, if popular verdict be a just criterion, the working of the institution has, for the most part, been disappointing. In the words of Senator A. S. Paddock, of Nebraska : “ This department, as at present organized, is a disgrace to our agriculture, and a reproach to the country. Hitherto in the popular estimation it has had no status except such as it has made for itself through its partial and unsatisfactory distribution of seeds, in answer to demands based rather upon political considerations than the exact interests of agriculture. * Appropriations have been freely made for seeds, while scientific investigations in the interests of agriculture have, as a rule, been scoffed at, and, if not entirely ignored, they have been neglected by Congress."
To enumerate the many directions in which it has failed to keep abreast with the times—the golden opportunities for increased usefulness which it has lost-would extend my remarks beyond all reasonable limits and weary you.
Suffice it to say, whether in the statistical, horticultural, chemical, botanical, entomological, or microscopical divisions, its work has been inferior to that in the same line by many private associations and State institutions, and has sometimes been of such a character as to seriously reflect upon the department. It has too often exhibited a want of knowledge of what other countries have done in special fields, and shown contempt for really scientific work.
A study of its past history and a year's insight into its present workings, have confirmed me in an opinion which, with others, I have long held, that there is need of a radical change in its character. The farming community has so far had no voice in the appointment of the man who is to represent it. Either personal or political influence has governed. Agriculture is non-sectional, non-political, and the department should be, as far as possible, independent of politics. Competent representative men at its head must needs be the exception, so long as political hydraulics must be brought to bear to obtain the appointment.
There are no regents or trustees to watch over the Commissioner's management of affairs ; no councils, such as the other heads of departments find in cabinet meetings. The Department of Agriculture is, in fact, an autocracy. It has no vital connection with the different State organizations having similar ends in view. The salaries of the divisional heads, as also that of the Commissioner, are insufficient to attract first-class talent.
We want a thorough system of statistics and crop reports ; not indefinite ones, gathered from a few voluntary correspondents and mailed to the farmer weeks, and perhaps months, after they have become stale and valueless; but gathered by numerous trained observers, paid for their work, and wired every few days over the country and announced through the daily press—not from our own country alone, but from other countries. In ordinary business the seller puts the price upon his wares, but with agricultural products the case is reversed, and the seller is at the mercy of the buyer. With timely crop returns from other countries, the farmer would have more to say in this important matter. By co-operating with the Signal Bureau, this could be easily and inexpensively done.
We want permanent divisions of Veterinary Science, and perhaps of Forestry. We want increased efficiency in all the present divisions of the department. Their heads are now paid as second or third rate clerks, and, indeed, are not unfrequently looked upon as such, having no more voice in the working of the department. They should be men so eminent in their several specialties that they would form a national Advisory Board, with which the Commissioner would be glad to counsel, and to which the country could look for advice and for the most authoritative opinions on all questions in any way connected with agriculture. They should form a tribunal or national commission competent, and with sufficient power and means, to carry on investigations for the solution of any problem that may arise, such as the prevention and cure of diseases of animals and plants ; the suppression of insect enemies ; the thorough test of new products, etc., etc.
The faculties of the different State Agricultural Colleges should be made subsidiary to these national professors, so as to give aid when required, if there is ary possible way of bringing that end about.
With each of the department divisions fully equipped and supported in this manner, there will be no further need of the various special offices and commissions that it has been found necessary to create, under present conditions, to perform work legitimately belonging to the Department of Agriculture, and there would, in fact, be a real saving of expense to the Government.
In the light of the past history of the German experimental stations and their work, or of that in our own State of Connecticut, the expediency of purchasing an experimental farm of large dimensions in the vicinity of Washington, is very questionable. There can be no doubt, however, of the value of a good experimental station there, that shall have its branches in every State of the Union. The results to flow from such stations will not depend upon the number of acres at command, and it will be far wiser and more economical for the Commissioner to make each agricultural college that accepted the Government endowment auxiliary to the National Bureau, so