Market for Farm People
by Helen Hill
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1932 the number of arrivals on farms (via other means of transport
than the stork) exceeded the number of departures (via other
means of transport than the hearse) by over half a million people.
Farm people were unable to sell themselves to the cities at
any price; at the same time part of their former city market
for foodstuffs came home to roost and ate what they had produced
expecting to sell.
return of the prodigal was mighty hard on the hired man. Dad
took the attitude that if friend son was coming home to stay
awhile, the least he could do was to tend to the cows and lend
a hand on the tractor. The hired man was let out. During the
first quarter of 1933 when farm employment was at its lowest
ebb, the supply of men looking for jobs as farm laborers was
213.5 percent of the demand for men to work.
refugees from the city who didn't have a home to go to, went
to any place they could find. People who had no vestige of title
or kinship to serve as lien on the good farm lands squatted
on land whose exhaustion the 1920's had made apparent. They
got a little shelter, a little fuel, a little food.
the industrial pickup that began in 1933, the market for farm
people recovered a little. Since then, though at greatly reduced
rates, the net movement of population has once more been away
from the farms. But what of the years to come?
disadvantage under which agriculture has labored because of
selling its products in both domestic and foreign markets at
unprotected world prices, while buying, mostly in domestic markets,
at prices protected by one of the world's highest tariffs, is
generally conceded. Even with the vigorous efforts of the AAA
to balance prices of farm and industrial products, the purchasing
power of the farmer's dollar rose only from 61 cents in 1932
to 86 cents in 1935 as compared with the 1909-13 average. But
the exchange of agricultural for industrial goods is only part
of the story. City and country exchange more than farm commodities
and individual goods.
addition to industrial products the city has provided the country
with most of its credit, most of its insurance, most of its
higher education. The city has been paid for these services,
and the payment has drawn on the resources of the country no
less than the payment for industrial goods.
addition to foods and fibers, during the years of the bull market
the country supplied the city with many of its people. There
was a net migration from farms of about six and a third million
during the 1920's. Most of these people went to the city at
the age when they were best able to work. The cost of production
of this factory and office manpower was not returned to the
farm. Dr. O. E. Baker's estimate of the cost of raising a child
in the country does not seem exorbitant at $150 a year. That
means $2000-$2500 from the cradle to 15 years of age or some
$14 billion for the six and a third millions who left the farms
during the 1920's. Fourteen billion dollars is $2 billion more
than the gross farm income of the best of the years during which
the migration tool: place. It is more than twice the gross farm
income of 1934.
True enough, the immigrants
to the city probably sent occasional remittances back to the
farm in the same way that similar immigrants from the Old World
sent remittances back to Europe. The amount of such payments
is unknown. But agrainst that amount must be set the payments
in cash settlements of estates sent to the city by the son who
stayed on the farm and took over the old place when the farmer
died. Dr. Baker estimates that such payments to migrant sisters
and brothers amounted to between $3 and $5 billion for the decade
of the 1920's. In addition, over $7 billion was paid as interest,
mostly on mortgages, to city people, and about $10 billion on
the country didn't get paid for the part it took in supplying
the manpower of the boom.
Neither did it get paid for
the part it took in supporting the manpower of the bust.