James Jerome Hill.

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Assistance by state or nation will do less to extend the
farmer's credit than an increase of farm profits.

Those who compare the land credit systems of
France and Germany with ours and assign to them all
the difference between interest rates in the two fields
omit the principal factor, which is the difference in
production per acre. It makes a big difference in both
cash and credit resources. A man who is growing 13
bushels of wheat per acre, and getting fewer bushels
every year, cannot borrow on the same terms as one
who is getting more than twice that crop from his land
and regularly increasing the amount. Some tremend-
ously interesting facts in this connection are given in
a report on the Sugar Beet Industry, printed as a Sen-
ate Document within the last few months. Its charts
show that, omitting fractions, the wheat harvested per
acre in Germany rose from 17 plus bushels in 1879 to
30 plus in 1909, while in the United States it was going
from 13 plus to 15 plus. The percentages of increase
during these thirty years in the principal crops of the
two countries were as follows:

Wheat Rye Barley Oats
Germany 77. 96.8 67. 85.9

United States 14.4 11. 1.25 5.6

Of these four cereals combined, the United States in
1909 produced 1,947,065,000 bushels, from 88,944,000


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acres. Germany produced 1,373,000,000 bushels, or
about 30 per cent less, on 34,378,536 acres, an area 60
per cent less. The beet sugar advocates argue that
sugar beet cultivation raises the average production of
all other crops raised in the same district. The figures
show this to be true. It is due, however, not to any
virtue in the beet, but to the fact that it cannot be
grown successfully without deep plowing, frequent har-
rowing and a general resort to more intensive cultiva-
tion. That will insure large crops of anjrthing where
the soil is not sterile. Whatever the valuable and sug-
gestive sugar beet statistics may prove in other respects,
they establish conclusively, by such comparisons as
that between the United States and Gennany for the
last thirty years, the practicability of doubling by
better methods the acre yield of all our principal farm
products. The true remedy for lack of capital at rea-
sonable rates is the substitution of modem for antiquat-
ed, and correct for mistaken agricultural methods.

Another favorite theory of the time is that farm
profits are kept low by the increased cost of living. But
the rise in prices of commodities produced on the farm
adds to the increased cost of living. Here are some
prices of farm products; the first figure in each case
being the highest New York or Chicago price in 1905,
and the second being the highest figure reached in the
same market during 1912, up to October 1 : Live hogs,
$5.65 and $8.85; Butter, 22 and 32; Eggs, 35 and 42;
Cheese, 133^ and 16J^. Grain prices have risen also,
though not so much, while hay went from $11.50 per

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ton for baled timothy to $18.00. The heaviest tax on
the farmer, as on all the rest of us, is very significant,
on the other hand, because it furnishes the principal
and most neglected explanation of the increased cost
of living. This is the tremendous rise in all kinds of
wages. There is an actual national shortage of labor.
Immigration is still large, but it is being partly balanc-
ed by the annual return to Europe of those who have
got together their httle fortunes and are returning to
the old home. Those who stay here do not go to the
farm, as they did thirty or forty years ago. The native-
bom American is ceasing to do actual manual labor on
the land. So some part of the crop is lost every year
because help cannot be obtained on any terms. Three
dollars a day has been refused this season for unskilled
labor. No matter what the wage, the cry is always for
more men. Wages are the most important element in
the cost of production, and must enter into the forma-
tion of prices and regulate or destroy profits. The fallacy
that wages may be advanced indefinitely without a
corresponding rise of prices is perhaps the commonest
assumption in the discussions of the day.

Except where unfair and arbitrary conditions are
enforced by law, wages and prices vary exactly as the
two terms of an equation. Any marked and continu-
ous change in one aflFects and is reflected by the other.
A bulletin of the Federal Department of Labor shows
that, in the thirteen years from 1894 to 1907, the aver-
age wages paid in 4,169 establishments rose 31.6 per
cent. The wages of farm labor, according to the Federal


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Department of Agriculture's reports, increased from
$18.33 per month for men without board in 1890, to
$27.50 in 1910; and for labor with board from $12.45
to $19.21. The increase is about 50 per cent. Within
the last two years there has been another almost un-
precedented advance. If prices had not risen corres-
pondingly, the farms must have gone untilled and the
factories been silent. Taking an average of the prices
of fifteen principal articles of consumption from 1890
to 1899 as 100, the average for the United States in
1911 was 146.9. By June, 1912, it had cUmbed to 158.1.
The relative prices of the articles of food used in work-
ingmen's families had risen to 143 in 1911, and to 154
in June, 1912. The index numbers used by commer-
cial reports show that general prices were 43.6 per cent
higher in 1911 than in 1896. All these figures unite to
prove that the rise of prices and the rise of wages have
corresponded very closely.

Much may be done to aid the farmer by equalizing
prices between him and the city consumer through co-
operation in distribution. It speaks ill for the intelli-
gence and organized ability of the United States that
we are still far behind most other countries of the world
in this particular. While the profits of the]]middleman
are often exaggerated, they are for the most part econ-
omic waste. On October 3, of this year, [eggs were sell-
ing in a town only forty miles distant from St. Paul for
20 cents a dozen, while the St. Paul retail price was as
high as 35 cents. The butter prices on the same day in
the two places were 28 and 32 cents per pound. The


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town referred to is surrounded by a fine dairying coun-
try, and great attention is given to that industry. On
October 3, milk was selling there at 103^ cents per gal-
lon, the freight to the Twin City was 2 cents per gallon,
and the retail price of milk in St. Paul was 8 cents per
quart. Such discrepancies could not exist if the machin-
ery for co-operative collecting and marketing were sup-

In most parts of Europe farmers long ago organiz-
ed for distribution. Their helplessness here is discredit-
able. It causes an enormous aggregate money loss. In
every large city in the country people pay every year
exorbitant prices for table articles that could be trans-
ported to their doors for a small sum, while tons of
these same articles are rotting in the fields or being fed
to hogs within one hundred, fifty or even fifteen miles
of them. Any kind of organization that should bring
demand and a steady supply in farm products together
with certainty and adapt each to the other with intel-
ligence would benefit both parties more than any pos-
sible reduction in the cost of transportation, cloth-
ing, groceries and lumber, the extension of agri-
cultural credit or all combined. All of these reme-
dies, however, are but palliatives of the trouble that
affects the farm. Were they all applied, agriculture
would still remain an invalid industry until it learns
to extract from the soil, by modem processes, the rich
potentialities stored within it.

I have stated many times and to many audiences,
within this state and outside it, the essential things


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that must be done to conserve the soil and at the same
tune give to its cultivator a large and increasing re-
turn. I shall therefore only recapitulate on this occasion
the practical steps which I hope will soon be as familiar
and as well accepted everywhere as is the multiplication
table. They are all summed up in the term, "intelli-
gent, modem agriculture^\ This means rotation of
crops; thorough and repeated cultivation; chemical soil
analysis to discover in what elements of fertility, if any,
it is deficient, and supplying them; the keeping of live
stock and the liberal use of barnyard manure; the selec-
tion of only the best products for use as seed, and a
careful test for germination before planting; then al-
ways more and better cultivation. In this way the
yield may be made sure and profitable beyond our past
experience in this country. What has actually been
done to improve com yields in Wisconsin and other
states, is instructive. The statistics of comparative pro-
duction here and abroad give some measure of our
neglected opportunity.

Many years ago I stated that the average crop of
the principal farm products of the United States might
be doubled, judging from the jrields obtained in other
countries, a comparison of soils and a contrast of
methods employed. The highest authorities not only
accept this conclusion now, but point to possibilities
still more surprising. It has been as well established in
demonstration fields and by intelligent farmers as it is
that an engine of a given horse power can do a given
amount of work. What, practically, does this mean?


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It means that we could add billions of dollars every
year to the wealth of the country, and at the same time
leave the soil better than we found it. It means the end
of such records of failing yield as Minnesota has made
during twenty to thirty years. It means progress and
comfort and wealth now undreamed of for the farmer.
It cannot and must not be neglected or postponed.
The fear lest so great an increase in production might
provoke a decline in prices is mostly groundless. In
every other line of production an increase in volume and
even a fall of price have been accompanied by larger
profits for the producer. An intelligent direction of
industry will do the same for the farm. Instead of rais-
ing the wheat jrield to the suggested maximum over an
annually enlarging acreage, let more of the coarser
grains be grown and fed to live stock. Here is a profit
and a use for all the increased output of the land likely
to be realized. Of cattle other than milch cows there
were fewer in the country on the first of last January
than there were twenty years before. The total has
been declining since 1907, and is now 14,000,000, or 28
per cent less than it was five years ago. Only within
the last two years has the number of hogs exceeded
that of twenty years ago. Although this season of
bountiful crops assures plenty of feed for live stock,
prices continue high. The Chicago quotations for the
best cattle on October 4 were $10.75 to $11.00 in 1912,
as against $6.25 in 1905. Hog prices at South St. Paul
were $8.45 to $8.85 in 1912 and $4.85 to $5.35 in 1905.
Large profits are to be made by converting into pork


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and beef the added product of the land; while at the
same time its fertility will be maintained by the manure
from cattle and hogs. Live stock play an indispensable
part in the profitable adjustment of farm industry to
the new regime. Such to my mind, is the very sunmait
and crown of the conservation idea. Upon its realiza*
tion ought to be concentrated the energy, enthusiasm
and determination of this body and others dedicated
to the same purpose all over the country.

These theories of improved agriculture and its value
are borne out by the actual practical results obtained
by the Great Northern Railway Company on the dem-
onstration farms it has maintained during the last year
for the instruction of farmers and the agricultural ad-
vancement of the Northwest. We employed an expert
to superintend and direct the work. We selected five
acres from each of 151 ordinary farms in Minnesota
and North Dakota last season. We agreed with the
owner of each farm to give him the product of this plot,
and to pay him eight dollars per acre for his work on
it, on condition only that he farmed it exactly as di-
rected. Then we had all these demonstration farms
handled on the lines just laid down. We were not then
in a position to make a chemical analysis of all the soils
because we were not equipped for the work. But we
supplied to each tract, as nearly as we could ascertain
it, the elements of fertility required to enable it to grow
a good crop. We saw that only tested seed was used.
We made sure that the ground was cultivated properly.
The proof of the pudding is the eating; and the vindi-


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cation of the modem agricultural idea is the thresher
return and the elevator receipt. Returns have been
received thus far from 69 of the 71 farms in Minnesota
on some or all of their crops. The average yields per
acre for 1912 from the farms in Minnesota are as fol-

Wheat Barley Oats

Great Northern plot Bus. 30.31 44.70 72.20

Returns have been received from 77 of the 80 farms

in North Dakota^ showing these average yields per acre:

Wheat Barley Oats
Great Northern plot Bus. 31.30 49.90 78.60
The highest yields per acre from Great Northern
plots in the two states^ are as follows:

Wheat Barley Oats
Mmnesota Bus. 42 63.10 97.75

North Dakota Bus. 43 78.40 137.60

The average wheat yield of Minnesota this season
is probably about 17 bushels per acre. This may be
compared fairly with the 30.31 of our demonstration
plotSy and the gain in both cases be assigned, on the
one hand directly and on the other indirectly, to the
new methods employed. This is but the beginning of
an educative process which will be carried out on a
larger scale next year.

The great merit of modem scientific agriculture as
exhibited in the work on these farms is its extreme
simplicity. The only technical step in the whole pro-
cess is soil analysis. It is not necessary that the
farmer should be a college graduate or a highly educat-


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ed man. He can send a sample of his soil to the nearest
agricultural college, all of which ought to be equipped
to comply promptly with every such request that may
be made upon them. He can select his seed, test it him-
self, cultivate his ground properly and do all the rest
just as well as the expert. We don't have to wait until
the old farmers die off before agriculture can be im-
proved and modernized. With a little of the right kind
of instruction they can handle the new methods with
their own hands on their own land as expertly as they
do the new machines which now gather the crops
once harvested by hand. It is the duty of all the agri-
cultural colleges, of every educational institution in
which any agricultural instruction is supposed to be
given, to take up and push more practice and less
theory. It is the duty of the state and the nation to
conserve the liberal cash appropriations they abready
give by insisting that these be used to encourage this
educational work on the farm and to provide it with
such men and resources as will extend it to every coun-
ty and to every township. It is for them to rescue a
partially discouraged and declining interest, by show-
ing it how it may come into the heritage that nature
has guarded for her children.

We cannot postpone this duty to the next genera-
tion. This year's wonderful crop must not blind us to
the underlying facts of the real situation. Because for
once weather conditions so conspired as to produce a
large return, the plow may not be left in the furrow or
the old ways clung to as good enough. We must save


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our soil from such deterioration as it has undergone in
the last fifty years. We must increase the product of
our land in preparation for the increased demand that
has already made itself felt. We must recognize the
farm as the cornerstone of national prosperity and of
national character itself. We must see in improved cul-
tivation not only a road to riches, but a bulwark of our
free institutions. The work now being done with the
younger generation has its place, but we cannot wait
for that. We must take the farmer just as he is, send
instructors to him and show him by results actually
won by his own hands, on his own land, what he has
lost and what he stands to win. It is possible in this
way, within a few years and with the material at com-
mand, to restore soil fertility, regenerate an industry
and enrich a nation.

This is real Conservation. It is not a temporary
fad, not a method of serving personal ambition or local
interest, but a sjrstem of harmonious co-operation be-
tween the laws of man's environment and his liveliest
anticipation and most joyous activity. If we are to
begin with the foundation of our building, instead of
constructing a gilded dome and then looking about for
walls on which to place it, we will accord to other
branches of conservation all they deserve. But until
we shall have enriched and utilized the soil, and fixed
in every mind the conception of man's right relation
to and treatment of it, our main duty will not be ful-
filled. Not in extending foreign trade, not in multiply-
ing great factories to be filled with the cheapest and


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poorest human material that other lands can furnish,
not in heaping together intrinsically worthless forms
of wealth, but in establishing the commercial possibili*
ties as well as the intellectual and moral values of the
right care of our one priceless and imperishable posses-
sion — ^the soil — ^lies the highest aim of labor and of life.
With something of that prophetic insight which
seems to remain to man even in his lowest estate, the
people of our huddled population centers have applied
the most bitterly ironic expression they could coin to
those thoroughfares where are congr^ated all the gar-
ish and offensive symbols of the idleness, estentation,
decadent mentality and moral corruption that eat for-
ever at the vitals of this century's civilization. Not
there, never there, but among cool woodlands, by still
waters, through fields burdened with a bounty which
nature yields unceasingly to those who have come
under the pleasant rule of her laws and learned the
lessons that she has put for ages before unwilling
minds, — ^up to the gate of the farmstead where alone
man can ever really find the full message that this life
holds for him, — thither runs The Great White Way.


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The Annual Dinner of the Railway Business Association,
New York City

DECEMBER 19, 1912

The subject of national transportation is many-
sided. One aspect of it takes precedence in one com*
munity or in the opinion of one interest, while for
others some different phase ranks aU the rest. But
every interest and every community should under-
stand that the main need today of transportation and
of the many activities connected with and dependent
upon it is an increase of terminal facilities. It is no
exaggeration to say that the commerce of the country,
its manufacturing and agricultural industry, its pros-
perity as a whole and the welfare of every man in it
who engages in any gainful occupation can escape
threatened disaster only by such additions to and en-

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largements of existing terminals at our great central
markets and our principal points of export as will re-
lieve the congestion which now paralyzes traffic when
any unusual demand is made upon them. Our natural
material growth will make this their chronic condition
in the near future unless quick action is taken.

If you increase the size of a bottle without enlarg-
ing the neck, more time and work are required to fill
and empty it. That is what has happened to the trans-
portation business. In 1907 traffic was blocked on
nearly all the principal Eastern railway lines. It took
months to convey an ordinary shipment of goods from
one domestic market to another. The dead-lock was
broken partly by a panic that lessened the volume of
busmess and partly by the efforts of railway manage-
ments to add, by increased efficiency, to the moving
power of facilities at command. We neither anticipate
nor desire perpetual business depression. While the
limits of efficiency have not been reached, we know
that it cannot be made to cover the demands of our
growth in population and production. The records of
any large city will prove this. The tonnage of the
Pittsburgh District, for example, by railroad alone,
grew from 64,125,000 to 152,000,000 in the ten years
between 1901 and 1911. It is both practical and pa-
triotic to ask what is to be done.

First, let us examine the following table, compiled
from the reports of the Interstate Commerce Conmiis-
sion, showing the recent growth of the transportation
business in the United States:

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Increases Per Cent
1895 to 1905. 1905 to 1910. 1909 to 1910









Passenger Cars




Freight Service Cars




Passenger Mileage




Freight Ton Mileage




Business is beginning to feel the swell of a revival.
The freight ton mileage of the country was less by
seventeen and a half billions in 1909 than in 1907, and
very little more than in 1906. Ck)ntrast this with the
growth of the single year between 1909 and 1910. The
freight ton mileage grew in that year eleven times as
fast as trackage, and five times as fast as equipment.
This ratio will be subject to increase rather than de-
crease. It will be much greater in this year of large
crops and added tonnage. If any manufacturer were
confronted with such conditions, it would be clear to
him that he must either refuse business or more than
double his plant. The railroad cannot refuse business.
If it could do so legally, that policy would still mean
national panic and individual ruin. It must enlarge
its plant. Just what this means in the expenditure of
billions of dollars on new track and rolling stock I de-
monstrated more than five years ago, and the facts
have now been accepted by all authorities. But even
the existing plant cannot be worked to its capacity
without larger terminals. Hence the supreme import-
ance at the very outset of this factor of the transpor-
tation problem.


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This matter is vital not only to the raikoads, but
to every business man. It is the immediate concem of
every large city. Cities can grow, they can escape de-
cline, only as the movement of business between and
through them is kept free. When the people find that
their business cannot be handled, they must either
move away or cease producing* and consuming. They
will decentralize their traffic, so far as that can be done;
and the inability of the railroads to prevent this, by
reason of conditions imposed on them from without,
will work injury to all the great markets which have
arisen through the free play of economic forces and the
wise judgment of the builders of our prosperity. No
city can afford to place its trade, which is its life, on a
false basis. When the commerce naturally tributary to
it is handicapped by poor terminals, or overloaded with
too heavy charges on account of the excessive cost of
enlargement, it will go elsewhere. There are a dozen
places between the Maine coast and Norfolk that could
be made available for relief. A city can never grow
great enough to defy safely the demands of the laws of
trade and its proper acconmaodation. Should the de-
centralization plan be forced on traffic, some of our
greatest cities would not merely forfeit their natural
share in national growth, but they would surely decline
in business, wealth and power.

Interest in this question should be not local only,
but national. A railroad terminal performs the same
function as a harbor. It is actually the largest and
most valuable harbor used by the nation's commerce.

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Probably no greater volume of rail and water traffic is
transferred in any city anjrwhere than in Duluth-Super-
ior. On the land side almost the whole of this is carried
by three railroads. It is received^ transferred and dis-
charged without congestion in the busiest seasons and

Online LibraryJames Jerome HillAddresses by James J. Hill → online text (page 37 of 48)