William Stull.

The food crisis and Americanism online

. (page 5 of 9)
Online LibraryWilliam StullThe food crisis and Americanism → online text (page 5 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

license. The license fees should be nominal, but the
failure to procure and furnish data, or the neglect to
follow and promptly comply with the rules and regu-
lations, should be subjected to severe penalty. With
each license, there should be sent a package of properly
printed post cards, addressed to the Food Administra-
tor's representative in the licensee's county. These
licensees should be required to fill out and mail one of
these daily, during the threshing season, giving the
exact number of bushels of each cereal threshed on
that date, estimated acres of grain, for whom, and the
owner's post-office address. As there is now a rural
mail box on practically every farm, less than five min-
utes daily of the thresher's time would be required to
fill out and mail these cards. The county agent should
tabulate these at the end of each week or month, and
transmit the results to the Food Administrator at
Washington. Thus, by November ist of each year,
the Food Administrator will know exactly the amount
of each cereal in the country, and just where it is lo-
cated. He would then not only be able to make defi-
nite plans, but to have each mill supplied with wheat
from the adjacent or nearest territory, thus making a
great saving of time, fuel, rolling stock and man-
power. The Food Administrator, if wheat deliveries
were slow, would know just what communities were
withholding their wheat, and the card index in the
hands of his county representative, in case requisitions
were necessary, would show exactly where each bushel


of wheat in his community was located. With this
system established, preliminary estimates would in
time become more accurate and valuable, as there
would be a positive check against them. As it is now,
they are of little or no value, because we have never
been able to know with any degree of accuracy the
number of bushels of any cereal produced in any par-
ticular year. We may find out how much has reached
the elevators, but there is not at present, nor has there
ever been, a way of knowing the amount retained upon
the farms for seed and home consumption, the amount
wasted, fed to stock, or amount sold to local mills.
Possibly other valuable information might be secured
at the same time, and means devised to secure authen-
tic data in regard to corn, and I feel sure that a similar
plan might be worked out concerning our meat, and
other products. The cost would be nominal, the re-
sults of enormous value. Incidentally, this method
would interfere with the cornering of the cereal mar-
ket and the wholesale exploitation of food stuffs.
Conjectures by the Department of Agriculture have
been very expensive. In the past, false or erroneous
reports in regard to crop conditions and yields have
induced the farmers to hurry their grain to market,
only to find that a little later, when the bulk of the
crops was in the central elevators, the reports were
misleading and prices advanced.

A recent report of the Federal Trade Commission
throws light upon the ignorance, injustice or indiffer-
ence of Congressmen concerning the American farmer
or farming interests. In a dispatch to the Omaha
World-Herald dated Washington, June 29, 1918, the


commission is quoted as saying in substance: That
the profits on milling increased from 12 per cent, for
the four years ending June 30, 1916, to nearly 38 per
cent, for the year ending June 30, 1917; and then in
quotation, presumably from the commission's report,
said, " These profits " it is stated " are indefensi-
ble, considering that an average profit of one mill for
six months of the year showed as high as $2 a barrel.'*
If these things be true, it is evident that the profiteers
were appropriating to themselves all and more than
would have gone to the farmers under the Gore
Amendment. The farmers fail to see how the taking
of money out of their own pockets and putting it into
the pockets of the profiteers savors of patriotism.
Possibly these Congressmen can explain. As the Gore
Amendment was before House and Senate for several
months, its passage vigorously contested by these
statesmen, and " these indefensible conditions " in
the milling business, according to the Federal Trade
Commission, continued for at least six months, these
Congressmen were estopped from pleading ignorance.
Will the Food Administration advance the price of
wheat, and thus stimulate production, or does it con-
sider this extravagant margin between price of wheat
to producer and cost of flour to the consumer as legiti-
mate plunder for the profiteers? The consumers
would rather pay a higher price for flour than to con-
tinue to pay the extortionate prices now exacted for its
inferior substitutes.


NOTHING touching the food question can be done so
mutually advantageous to both producers and consum-
ers as the enactment of a law creating and encourag-
ing grain elevators, analogous to the law for the
establishment, encouragement and supervision of
national banks. Not government-owned elevators, but
simply those authorized, licensed, encouraged and su-
pervised by the Government. These should be re-
quired to file reports, showing capital, assets and
liabilities, with the Food Administrator at Washing-
ton, and to publish these reports the same as the banks
now do at the call of the Comptroller of the Currency.
They should also be subject to inspection by Federal
examiners the same as the banks. These inspections
and reports would be much more effective, accurate
and valuable than those concerning the banks. Prac-
tically all that the reports to the Comptroller, made
either by the bank itself or by the National Examiner,
show is the face value of the paper held, not the intrin-
sic value of that paper.

One-tenth the time required to examine a bank
would be required to examine an elevator of the same
amount of assets, and these reports would be absolute,
not only as to the amount, but as to the quality of each
cereal. These warehouse certificates would be the
best of collateral and everywhere accepted, and would



give to the farmers, whether great or small, a credit
accordingly a credit of real value to them, instead
of to the exploiters. Their funds would be available
when needed interest stopped when the emergency
passed. On account of the high cost of labor and ma-
terial, an almost infinitesimal percentage of our farm-
ers have suitable and permanent storage for their
grain. Hence, there is enormous waste. On the
other hand, if stored on the farms, it adds little or
nothing to their credit except locally. Therefore,
most of them are obliged to sell as soon as the grain
is harvested. Such a system would tend to a more
even distribution of sales of farm products through-
out the year, and check the sharp market fluctua-
tions, which are of advantage only to the profiteer.
Small mills would spring up as they did before dis-
criminating freight rates drove the small miller, and
with him the local storage warehouse, out of business.
In addition to discriminating rates and lack of storage
facilities, the country miller, during a large part of
the years, has to buy his grain from the elevators in
the large grain centers, subjecting him not only to the
expense of brokers' commission and profits, but to
freight on the grain to and from those centers.

It is an economic absurdity that a large percentage
of the flour consumed in such States as Iowa, Nebraska
and Illinois should be milled at Kansas City or Minne-
apolis, or other cities entirely outside of these States.

The trend of traffic in the United States is along
east and west lines, so except what little goes by the
Great Lakes during summer season, all food stuffs
produced west of the Great Lakes must be brought


south to get around Lake Michigan on its way to the
seaboard and our great consuming centers. So the
Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois wheat sent to Minneapolis
for milling, and later to the Eastern markets, must
be subjected to the unnecessary expense of freight to
and from the initial point to Minneapolis. Again, a
line east and west through the south point of Lake
Michigan is approximately the dividing line between
our winter and spring wheat areas, and as large
quantities are shipped from each area to the other
to be mixed in milling, this enormous expense can
be avoided by milling the grain near this dividing
line, or during the war, at least in the Allied
countries. They need the by-products, as well as the

As every one knows, these uneconomic practices
were the result of specially low rates north and south
to meet " river competition " in other words, to rob
the public at large from the benefits of water trans-
portation on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
With government control of railroads, it would seem
that there was no longer any possible excuse for con-
tinuing this unnecessary burden upon producers and
consumers taking from the selling price of the for-
mer or adding to the purchase price of the latter, and
continuing the waste of fuel, man-power and rolling
stock. As to the economy in milling, because of water
power, large capacity of mills, etc., one may not be an
expert, may even be a novice in the milling industry,
to see the fallacy of this theory. A few decades back,
local toll mills were all over the country, and few
States but what had laws governing them. In most


States, the miller's remuneration was restricted to one-
tenth to one-eighth of the wheat ground, or its equiva-
lent in money. From almost any railway station in
Nebraska, the freight to Minneapolis on a bushel of
wheat is more than one-eighth of its value, to say
nothing of the freight for returning the flour and by-
products bran, middlings, etc. The average price
of wheat from 1893 to 1915 inclusive in the Chicago
market was 88.3 cents per bushel. The freight on a
bushel of wheat from central Nebraska to Minneapolis
on rates quoted just prior to advance under Govern-
ment control was 13.74 cents per bushel, or one-sixth,
instead of one-eighth, the value of the wheat. The
same applies to the by-products bran, shorts, mid-
dlings indispensable to successful dairying. The
high cost of these commodities has practically driven
the small farmer out of the dairy business, resulting
in an increased cost of milk, butter and cheese to the
consuming public. Thus it is seen that larger profits
to the farmer do not necessarily mean higher prices to
the consumer. In fact, with marketing conditions
such as obtained before the war in nearly all European
countries, the price of food stuffs to our consumers
could have been largely diminished during the last
twenty years, and at the same time profits to the farm-
ers enormously increased.

As side-lights on the present agricultural situation
in general and evidences of the deplorable marketing
conditions, some contemporaneous facts should be con-
sidered. One of these is the dividend of $80,000,000
400 per cent. on the capital of $20,000,000 re-
ported declared in 1916 by one of the packing com-


panics. At the time this dividend was declared,
press dispatches quoted the vice-president of the com-
pany, in explaining it, as saying : " The $80,000,000 "
(this dividend) " surplus involved in the increased
capitalization stock dividend was earned in the period
from 1901 to 1912, when few dividends were paid."
A " few " cannot be less than two probably several

but even if dividends covering only two years' prof-
its had been declared, it would still leave a net annual
earning of 44.4 per cent, covering the other nine years,
and this without taking into consideration the princely
salaries usually paid stockholders of such concerns as
officers of the companies. Table No. 2 is taken from
the April number of the Farmer's Open Forum, Wash-
ington, D. C., in its discussion of the Heney investi-
gation. This table does not indicate that profits have
been reduced to any great extent.


IN 1917

Capital Profit Per

stock and loss Net cent

outstanding surplus Sales income earned

Swift & Co $100,000,000 $59,965,000 $875,000,000 $34,650,000 34.65

Armour & Co 100,000,000 56,126,680 575,000,000 21,293,563 21.29

Morris & Co. 3,000,000 37.293.554 (not given) 5,401,071 180.04

Cudahy Packing Co. 20,000,000 7,730,120 184,811,000 4,430,530 22.15

Wilson & Co., Inc. 30,476,400 15,051,045 (not given) 6,504,422 21.34

Facts disclosed at the investigation started (but not
completed) by Mr. Heney, at Chicago the ratio of
the price of live hogs to cost, as shown in Table No. i

would indicate that the packing business had been
vastly more profitable than disclosed by the above fig-
ures. Why was the Heney investigation carried to the
point of maximum benefit to organized labor in the


packing houses, and abandoned just at a point when
facts were being disclosed which should be of advan-
tage to unorganized labor on the farms and the con-
suming public throwing light upon the internal
workings of the big packing concerns in our meat in-
dustry? If present laws were inadequate, why should
not Congress, then in session, have immediately, by
amending them, furnished a remedy? Has the lamp
of the legislative Diogenes gone out in a search for
" combination in restraint of trade," or is it because he
feels that it is only a bunch of unorganized farmers
who are making complaint the consumers being ig-
norant of the source of their trouble, the misinformed,
subsidized or misguided press assuring them that it is
to be found in the greed of the farmers?


THE state census of Iowa, 1915, covers seven years
of those included in the packers' dividends quoted
above. This census shows, among other facts, that the
total buildings, implements and live stock on the aver-
age farm in that State, one hundred and sixty- four
acres, were worth only $4,391.80. The mortgage
on the average Iowa farm is more than that. If
to that we add the farmers' local indebtedness to
banks, etc., the depreciation of soil (25 to 50 per
cent.), what have the farmers of Iowa to show for
more than two generations of hard work, with the
minimum amount of recreation and luxury of anv
kind? A result of these conditions is reflected in a
loss, during the decade covered by the last Federal
census, of about one hundred thousand of its farm
population. The state census, under the head of " Oc-
cupation," shows that during the decade, the number
following agricultural pursuits decreased from 40.7
per cent, in 1905 to 36.3 per cent, in 1915; those in
" Trade and Transportation " increased from 16.4 per
cent, in 1905 to 25.4 per cent, in 1915 ; that the num-
ber of cattle turned in for assessment was practically
a half million less than those turned in ten years be-
fore. That 48.4 per cent, of the acreage of Iowa
farms are operated by renters. As the rented farms
are smaller, and as a rule no help is hired upon them,



while the farms operated by owners are larger, and
they hire much help, this means that 60 per cent, of
the people on the farms of Iowa own no land and little
other property. Iowa is undoubtedly the best agricul-
tural State in the Union, if not the best agricultural
area in the world, its people the most intelligent
(having only one per cent, of illiteracy) of any com-
munity of its size in the World. If with all these
favorable factors, the above lamentable conditions ex-
ist, what must be the condition of the farms and farm-
ers in other States less favored by soil, climatic condi-
tions, and especially those who after more than a cen-
tury of use have only an impoverished or exhausted

Again, Nebraska, one of the most fertile agricul-
tural States in the West and perhaps the most ex-
clusively agricultural State in the Union on a parity
with Iowa as to soil, climatic conditions, and character
of its farmers, containing approximately 150,000
farms during ten years six of them included in
the eleven mentioned in interview with packer re-
ferred to increased its farm mortgage indebtedness
at least $180,000,000. (Exact figures are not obtain-
able, as during each of those years from three to nine
counties, evidently not pleased with the showing made,
failed to report. Without these, the aggregate in-
crease shown in those reports was $162,274,364.30.)
The highest estimate made by those in position to
know, is that this $180,000,000 constituted only 35
per cent, to 40 per cent, of the mortgages then resting
on the farms of Nebraska; but assuming that it is 40
per cent, the highest estimate, that would make the


total farm mortgage indebtedness of the State $450,-
000,000. This is, in my opinion, a low estimate.

Bulletin No. 210 of the Nebraska State Department
of Agriculture, dated November 25, 1916, shows that
the total value of all permanent improvements, all
the cattle, horses, mules, sheep and hogs on the farm,
is, in the aggregate (and this on a very liberal basis),
worth $353,933,047. So that the Nebraska farmers
have earned, as a result of more than fifty years' labor,
since Nebraska became a State, to say nothing of the
work done during territorial days, a meager living, and
at least $90,000,000 less than the mortgage indebted-
ness for their labor. To this deficit should be added
indebtedness to banks, etc., for implements, store debts,
etc., which would amount to millions more.

If the pauper peasantry of Russia, occupying an
area equal to that bounded on the north by a parallel
drawn through the southern borders of the Great
Lakes, on the west by the looth Meridian, on the south
by a parallel through the Ohio River, and on the east
by the Alleghany Mountains, could borrow an amount
equal to the mortgages now resting upon the farms of
that area the very heart of the Corn Belt it would
have sufficient money to duplicate every house, barn,
granary, crib and fence; to buy all the cattle, horses,
hogs and sheep now upon those farms; and have hun-
dreds of millions of dollars left with which to buy
Ford cars, Victrolas and see the " movies."

Such a loan made to them by the Allies would tem-
porarily suspend the Bolshevik movement now devas-
tating Russia. But should the Allies at the same time
impose upon these peasants the same labor and mar-


keting conditions which have rested upon the Amer-
ican farmers during the last ten years that is, in
spite of their utmost efforts, the mortgage indebtedness
could not be reduced, but on the contrary, has been
augmented at an ever-increasing ratio from year to
year ; and millionaires would, in Russia, multiply just
as they multiplied in our country during the last two
decades, But Bolshevism will rejuvenate itself, not
to fight with pitchfork and club, but with bayonets
and machine guns, and just so sure as our labor and
marketing conditions are not changed for the better,
an agrarian revolution in America is inevitable.
Many think that in the Non-Partisan League they
see the beginning of such a revolution, and are alarmed.
This revolution would probably be bloodless, but it
would sow the seeds of an anarchy worse, if possible,
than Bolshevism of to-day.

The most grave question before the American people
is not as to the issues of the great war, but whether
or not, when victory is won, personal and property
rights, regardless of class, shall be recognized and se-
cure in our land.

As to the profits on increased value of land, every
intelligent farmer knows that his acres in virgin soil,
still unprofaned by the plow, are more salable, as well
as of greater intrinsic value, than those that he has so
laboriously and profitlessly tilled, and that the advance
in selling price, be it great or small, is not so large but
that his equity is more than likely to be wiped out by
the first financial depression; just as such equities
were wiped out by the thousands during the depression
that followed the panics of 1837, 1857, 1873 an d 1893.


The ratio of the intrinsic value of the farmers' pre-
sumable equity to their indebtedness is less now than
in either of the four preceding periods referred to.

I know of no State in the Union which would make
a showing more favorable than either Iowa or Ne-

It is these thoughts that have prompted hundreds of
thousands of the best American farmers to realize upon
their equities while it is possible. It is their energy,
efficiency and money, driven thence by our intolerable
labor and marketing conditions, that has made possible
the wonderful development and prosperity of the Ca-
nadian Northwest.


IN June, I spent ten days in one of the most fertile
sections of Illinois. Leaving it on an interurban rail-
way, I shared a seat with a factory operative a
farm-reared boy on his way to work. He pointed
out his father's farm, where he was born. He told me
that his wage was 52 cents per hour, but at the end
of each week, if he worked full schedule time for the
six days, he received a bonus of $7.80 $1.30 per
day or about 1 1 cents per hour additional. This
was not for service rendered at all that was already
fully paid for; no such excuse or pretense was made.
This bonus was simply a reward for working regular
schedule time at an extremely liberal wage a wage
400 per cent, higher than is received by the average
farm owner if he be allowed 3 per cent, on his money
invested. The income tax returns confirm this. Only
one farmer in four hundred has a gross income of
$3000, and this without allowing anything for wages
paid his sons or other members of the family. Why
should this young man and his brothers remain on the
farm ? Did this young man own a farm all the
acres he could possibly work he could not afford to
till it. It would be more profitable to let it lie fallow,
and stick to his job. They are not remaining, and tens
of thousands of their fellows are leaving the farms
for similar reasons.



In the whole history of the development of our coun-
try, from the time the New Englanders first began to
migrate to the country west of the Alleghanies, there
has been no parallel to the high character of the farm-
ers emigrating from the best States of the Corn Belt
to the Canadian Provinces. In the settlement of the
great plains and valleys between the Alleghanies and
the Rockies, the average emigrant from States farther
east seldom brought more than a poor team, one cow,
plow, harrow and a few household goods, aggregating
on the average less than $300 per family.

The Canadian records show that the assets of the
average emigrant, coming from the American farms
to their Northwest Provinces, vary from $3,000 to
$10,000 in money, together with an ample supply of
farm implements and household goods. Yet in view
of these appalling facts, the present Congress, panicky
in the fear that the American farmer may be too pros-
perous, is so restricting the prices on his leading com-
modities, that under present labor and marketing con-
ditions, their production is unprofitable. This, too, in
face of the fact that organized labor and most com-
mercial enterprises are reaping greater profits than
ever before in the history of this, or any other, coun-
try. Had unorganized labor on the farms during the
last ten years received the same consideration that
organized labor in our industries has received, and had
marketing conditions been one half as favorable as in
any European country, " Meatless and Wheatless
Days " would have been absolutely unnecessary
even if the war continued indefinitely and food
prices vastly lower.


How is it that such conditions can exist and the
public is so misled concerning them ? There are many
reasons. Perhaps one of the most potent is found
in the fact that six out of every ten business and pro-
fessional men, including bankers and salary earners,
and an army of farmers and wage earners, are directly
interested in land speculation. Hence, it is prac-
tically impossible to secure publicity of anything that
tends to check the boom, or that might bring a reces-
sion of land prices. The United States Department
of Agriculture, whether consciously or unconsciously,

1 2 3 5 7 8 9

Online LibraryWilliam StullThe food crisis and Americanism → online text (page 5 of 9)