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LAND SETTLEMENT IN CALIFORNIA
Conditions affecting the agricultural interests of the state have received attention from the Club from time to time and the problem of land settlement received some attention in the discussion on “State Ajd to Agriculture" (Transactions, Vol. VI, No. 7, November, 1911), "Rural Credits" (Vol. X, No. 1, January, 1915) and “The Land Settlement Bill” (Vol. X, No. 5, May, 1915).
Following the discussion upon the subject, the Legislature of 1915 established the State Commission on Colonization and Rural Credits, and appropriated five thousand dollars for the purpose of investigating conditions in the state. At the request of the State Commission, the Commonwealth Club of California agreed to co-operate in the work, and the Board of Governors in March, 1916, appropriated $1,000 to be spent under the direction of the Club's Section on Agriculture to pay field investigators to gather data regarding current conditions. The data was collected during the summer of 1916 under the direction of Elwood Mead, Frank Adams and D. N. Morgan. The work of the Club has been under the general direction of the
Agriculture, Frank V. Cornish, Chairman, and more closely under the control of the Section's Committee on Land Settlement, with the following membership:
Elwood Mead, Chairman
Charles Wesley Reed
Frank Honeywell Ralph D. Robertson
George E. Springer
W. V. Stafford
Charles H. Kendrick F. H. Tibbetts
Charles B. Lipman E. J. Wickson
C. B. Wing W. B. Pringle The Committee prepared its report on the data collected and presented it to the Club at the meeting of November 8, 1916. The discussion of remedies was continued to a subsequent meeting.
L. A. Barrett
Edwin E. Cox
F. H. Gould
Meeting of November 8, 1916 At the conclusion of the recess that followed the dinner and business meeting of November 8, 1916, President Hodghead called the members to order as follows:
Remarks by President Beverly L. Hodghead THE PRESIDENT: The subject for report and discussion this evening is the land settlement question in California.
We come to wonder in these busy times what is the real basis of prosperity; whether it is war or agriculture. We are not able to exert much influence upon the war, so we have turned our attention to the subject of agriculture and land settlement problems.
The land settlement problem in this state is a serious and puzzling one. The settlers on government irrigation projects have in many instances not been able to meet their installments; there are many private colonization enterprises in the state that have proven unprofitable. Why is this so? Is it because the price of land is high, or because other conditions attached to the tenure make it burdensome or impracticable? Who knows? The Commonwealth Club has been attempting in a measure to find out. During the past six months committees of the Club have made a very extensive and somewhat expensive investigation of the land settlement conditions prevailing in the state. The investigation has not been conducted by the Commonwealth Club alone, but working in co-operation with and really upon the invitation of the agricultural department of the University, the State Rural Credit Commission, and the Federal Irrigation Investigation office. I say we have been working in conjunction with those institutions. In February last they invited the co-operation of the Commonwealth Club in pursuing the investigations which they proposed to undertake or had already undertaken, and which we were informed would require a considerable expenditure of time and money in order to make a detailed investigation throughout the various land settlements in the state.
That examination has been made in a very complete and comprehensive manner during the last six months. It has been very expensive. It probably cost about eight or ten thousand dollars to do the field work. The field examiners were supposed to go at that work with an entirely open mind, without any preconceived notions of results, but to find out what the facts are, and then, in real Commonwealth Club fashion, the committee has been trying to determine what those facts mean. That is what the Commonwealth Club undertakes in all cases to do-to find out the facts first. The Club has borne a relatively small proportion of the cost of the investigations. These institutions could not very well act in co-operation with any private organization of a commercial character, but they have honored the Commonwealth Club by assuming we were a disinterested public organization concerned in merely ascertaining the facts about public matters, and invited the co-operation of the Club, which we have given, and have contributed to the expense of the work in a moderate way, with the result that we have the report of these investigations here tonight to be delivered for the first time before the Commonwealth Club.
The committee will not undertake, of course, to go through the figures in detail this evening, but will summarize them. There has not been entire unanimity of opinion in the section. It would not be a very valuable section if there had. There has been quite a difference of opinion. I do not know whether it will be represented here tonight, but we hope it will.
I will not undertake to explain the workings of the committee, or how they accumulated the data and tabulated it. I will ask Mr. Cornish, who is the chairman of the general Section on Agriculture, to explain in a preliminary way what the committee attempted to accomplish and about what they have done. Mr. Cornish. (Applause.)
Remarks by Chairman Frank V. Cornish MR. CORNISH: You probably noted the accent that the President put on the word "general.” Since others are to speak for this special Committee on Land Settlement to report tonight, I will talk rather generally as to the plan of the general Section on Agriculture.
When we began work we divided the section into five committees, the first of which I will call it the first in order to refer to it—was called the state market commission committee, of which Professor John W. Gilmore, of the department of agronomy in the College of Agriculture of the University of California, was made chairman. There had been a committee on rural credits which had reached the point where the members were unable to proceed further for the reason, I believe, that an irresistible force in that committee met an immovable body. So a second committee, composed of the old membership on rural credits and such new membership as desired to join, was formed, and Mr. E. W. Wilson, vice-president of the Anglo & London Paris National Bank, was made chairman of that committee. The third was a committee on advances to settlers, of which Dr. Elwood Mead, professor of rural institutions of the University of California, was made chairman. There was a fourth committee-on land settlement-and Mr. Frank Adams, in charge of the United States irrigation investigations in California, was appointed chairman of it, he having had some experience with proposed legislation along these lines which had been presented to the Legislature and through a constitutional amendment had been submitted to the people and failed of adoption. There was still another or fifth committee, of which your uncle was to take charge. I may add, that committee has been so far quiescent, because it was feared it might so outshine the others that until they made their report it would be better not to be active.
The function of this last committee was to be the consideration of a plan for the consolidation of all the various state boards dealing with agriculture, such as the State Board of Agriculture, the State Board of Horticulture, Viticulture, and allied subjects. By this plan these various boards and bureaus would be thrown into one department of agriculture similar to the United States Department of Agriculture; at the head of it would be appointed a secretary of agriculture.
This proposition was before the last Legislature, but it failed to pass. We still have the organization of this fifth committee under contemplation from the membership of the whole Section on Agriculture, and we shall likely ask through conference the co-operation of the various agricultural organizations of the state. It was thought to be a good plan to ask the farmers what they think about it, and we may have a general conference at a time that will be convenient for all the interested parties. There is being considered at the University, I am informed, a plan for the general conference on the subject of rural life, to take place next summer during the summer session, and we may be invited to assist in that undertaking.
That makes five committees of the Section on Agriculture. Now, as we got along with the work, it was discovered that the committees on advances to settlers and land settlement had very much in common. It was decided to consolidate these committees under the name of the Committee on Land Settlement, to make the report tonight, Dr. Elwood Mead taking the chairmanship of the combined committee.
In order to facilitate this work, it being a committee of some thirty members, whose names appear on the announcement which you
have all received, the Committee on Land Settlement appointed again a subcommittee. You see, there is a general Section on Agriculture, then there is a sub-section, or Committee on Land Settlement; now we have a sub-committee of the last, consisting of three members, composed of the Chairman, Dr. Elwood Mead, and two members appointed by the committee, Mr. Frank Adams and Professor D. N. Morgan, of the College of Agriculture of the University of California. This sub-committee then reported to the meetings of the general Committee on Land Settlement.
We established several precedents on this committee, in one or two of which I think you will be interested. One precedent I want to particularly refer to, and that is the one referred to by the President. He has minimized the magnitude of this particular precedent in referring to the small amount of the contribution made by the Club as compared with the expense involved in this investigation. He stated that about eight thousand dollars had been required, and the Club has appropriated one thousand dollars to this one Committee on Land Settlement. I want you to remember that this is not two committees, but one committee, because the other three committees I have described are proceeding with their investigations on state market commission, rural credits and a state department of agriculture, and for their work they have not yet received a cent. Now they, of course, will be entitled each to a thousand dollars. If there are any members of the Board of Governors present, I hope they will take notice of that. (Laughter.)
To go back to committee No. 1, the state market commission committee. It was planned to co-operate with the State Market Commission. The State Market Commission, I think, has been so far unable to find itself exactly, and has been a little bit shy about undertaking to assist us very much; perhaps because they have had a great deal to do. But we hope to co-operate with them.
The work of the Committee on Rural Credits has been proceeding. The University of California has been paying some attention to that subject, and the United States Government has, as we have all heard from the Farm Loan Board, at the luncheon which was held in order that the board might appear before the Club, been proceeding with that problem. We hope in a short time that our Committee on Rural Credits, of which Mr. Wilson is chairman, will be able to make a somewhat interesting report on this plan of Uncle Sam's, its workings, and perhaps something of its practical operation, now an established fact.
The committee on conference as to a state department of agriculture, as I said before, is waiting to do the final act which will outshine the others, because it will comprise the whole membership of the section.
The thirty members of the Committee on Land Settlement, with this thousand dollars and several hired investigators, have produced a report covering interviews with 991 settlers on lands that have been occupied in different colonies in the state where these settlers are trying to make their living off of their land. That is a cost to the Club of practically a dollar a head.
In this brief outline I have endeavored to show you the general plan of working of the section, and I think it will be proper for me now