Page images


The squirrels were by no means left destitute. The country which was picked over was thoroughly covered, but within less than a mile of the stripped areas there were other areas which because of lack of trails or too rough topography were untouched. Then, too, only white-pine cones were gathered, and those of all other species were left for the squirrels. Even in the most closely picked localities there were some caches that the pickers missed, and since the supply was many times greater than the squirrels could use, there was no privation for them. Toward the end the squirrels began to forsake their natural source of supply and learned to hunt for the sacks alongside the road in preference to going to the tree tops. As one old French Canadian put it: "Zee leetle thief; I swipe heem one sack, and heem swipe me two sacks!"


There were some losses of time; there were not enough pack horses and it was impossible to secure more. As a result the sacks stood long enough to be attacked by the squirrels. There should be, in future operations, one man whose sole duty it should be to supervise all the hauling work, which was not under any one of the camps. The teamsters' work would have been lightened and made more effective.

In computing costs the aim was to secure safe, conservative figures. The average quantity of cones per sack was placed at 14 bushels, since actual measurements showed that it was somewhat less than 2 bushels. In reducing the figures to unit costs this was the basis.

[blocks in formation]

In all, 21,440 bushels were gathered, according to corrected reports. Some cones were lost to the squirrels; in the last few days they worked with surprising rapidity and recaptured, in all, some 350 bushels. Several sacks were lost and were covered with snow before they could be found. All the camps together covered 20,676 acres, which gave an average of 1.04 bushels of cones to the acre.

The costs, which were easily tabulated, came well within the allotted $15,000, and the quantity of cones exceeded the original estimate by nearly 1,500 bushels. The cost figures are given in the table on page 441.

This made an average cost, for picking alone, of 21 cents a bushel, and about 55.5 cents a bushel counting all costs. This could be reduced on another operation of the same sort in the light of experience gained in this one. The hauling charge might be materially reduced, and a larger equipment of bags, supplies, and tents at the outset would have reduced the costs still more. As it was, the cost was less than half the previous average cost for collecting western white-pine





Physiologist in Charge of Farmers' Cooperative Cotton Handling and Marketing, Bureau of Plant Industry.


One of the most vital subjects before the country to-day is the efficient and economical handling and marketing of the products. of the farm. It presents a problem of the first magnitude both from an agricultural and economic standpoint. Upon its correct solution hinges in great part the reduction of the high cost of living. Present systems of distribution of many agricultural products are indirect, wasteful, expensive, and even destructive. In this respect cotton suffers fully as much as any other crop. A complex commercial mechanism has been developed, many elements of which are distinctly not in the interest of the producer, the manufacturer, or the ultimate consumer. It is not too much to say that our present method is susceptible of a great deal of improvement at every step from field to factory. It has been estimated by close students of the question that the present slipshod and wasteful system entails an annual loss to the growers of from $25,000,000 to $70,000,000. It is impossible to do more than approximate the total loss, but it is certainly exceedingly large.

It so happens that cotton, the purest known natural form of cellulose, will bear more abuse than any other crop material and still retain a large proportion of its value. It is so stable and enduring that it demands little care and gets less. Corn, because of its perishable nature, demands better treatment and gets it. If our billion-and-a-half-dollar corn crop were treated half as badly it would no doubt shrink in value fully a half billion dollars annually. There are corn cribs on the farm and elevators and warehouses at the railroad stations and primary and secondary markets for the protection of our corn crop. Still, 10 bushels of corn, worth usually at primary market prices only from $5 to $6, require as much space for storage as a bale of cotton worth from $50 to $60.


Cotton planters persist in growing too many varieties in each community, and are careless in many things, including picking and the care of both unginned and ginned cotton on the farm. Through

lack of thorough cooperation and organized business methods they share with too many middlemen the profits that are rightly theirs. Nevertheless, in a broad sense the individual farmer is absolutely unable, because of the complexity of the system and the industrial character of the crop, to cope with the great problems that exist. Most of the abuses about which spinners, especially foreign spinners, complain against the American farmer arise after he has parted with his cotton and when he no longer has any voice in its treatment. These facts must be clearly recognized, as necessary and permanent reforms can be brought about only by united community action among farmers and by cooperation between growers, ginners, compress men, common carriers, bankers, buyers, spinners, and merchants. In no department of agricultural activity is the formation of growing and marketing associations likely to secure greater advantages than in cotton.

Permanent and necessary improvement can be brought about only when communities handle and market their product as a whole. The same is true as to fundamentally improved conditions in cotton production. The individual farmer can rarely sell a few bales of cotton as advantageously as a community organization could sell uniform lots of 50 or more bales. The individual can not afford to construct the necessary warehouses, nor can he as readily secure needed credit and many other things which organization would bring within his reach.

The California citrus-fruit organizations are handling about 50,000 carloads of fruit per annum. They have established packing houses, cold-storage and precooling plants, and have their own selling agencies all through the United States and in certain foreign ports. Their activities have revolutionized the business of marketing citrus fruits by controlling the supply placed on the market and by avoiding its glutting. They have given the country better fruit without increasing the cost to the consumer, and at the same time have increased their profits. They have also brought about greatly reduced freight rates on their products and more uniform prices have been maintained than would otherwise be possible. Before citrus exchanges were established 15,000 carloads of fruit were being marketed with greater difficulty than are 50,000 at the present time.

The grain-growing farmers of the Northwestern States have organized more than a thousand cooperative elevator companies and handle annually possibly as much as $250,000,000 worth of grain. A single farmers' elevator company in South Dakota handled over a million bushels of wheat in 1910.

1A discussion of the benefits that may accrue to cotton communities which will unite in the growing of single varieties and in the adoption of improved methods of breeding appeared in the Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture for 1911 in an article entitled "Cotton Improvement on a Community Basis," by Mr. O. F. Cook.

The cotton growers of the South have the same need, if not a greater need, to organize for the purpose of marketing their product to the best advantage as have the grain and fruit growers. Furthermore, especially in comparison with the fruit growers, the imperishable nature of their product should make handling and marketing problems easier. Something has already been accomplished along the line of cooperation in many localities through the educational work of such organizations as the Farmers' Union, the Grange, the Alliance, and other less widespread movements. Many people are inclined to think that most of these organizations have proved flat failures. This is not true, for even where after a period of years they have become moribund, the educational work they have done has been eminently worth while and will be a factor in bringing the fruits of cooperation home to the cotton farmer.

Many cooperative activities have failed, but some have succeeded. There are several cotton enterprises in the hands of farmers that are being operated with such success as to leave no doubt that others could do the same if they had the same determination and the same willingness to put self aside to some extent for the common good. Farmers are extremely individualistic, and naturally so; hence, the greatest trouble has been not that the farmers were slow to organize, but that they were altogether too willing to fall out with one another when matters did not go to their liking.

At Montgomery, Ala., the farmers have constructed a ginnery and warehouse, and conduct a general store. In marketing cotton they have operated successfully in both domestic and foreign business. Some of the members of the organization haul their seed cotton as far as 20 miles in order to have it ginned and handled through the farmers' company. They have two batteries of four gins each, one of which is connected with a square-bale gin compress. Warehouse facilities are furnished at reasonable rates. Gin-compressed bales are stored the first month free of charge, while flat bales are charged 25 cents per month, with a fairly low rate for the season. Direct connections have been established with Liverpool cotton buyers, and most of their gin-compressed cotton is shipped directly to England.

At Glendora, Miss., a group of planters has its own oil mill, which has been operated at a distinct profit to its membership. In fact, in a market that paid $17 per ton for the planters' seed they netted about $22 per ton through carrying out the manufacturing process as far as the crude oil. At Greenwood, Miss., the same group of farmers in part organized a cotton buying and selling company, dealing in about 4,000 bales over and above what they themselves produced. Their profits on this business ran into a number of thousands of dollars.

« PreviousContinue »