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TABLE 8.—Month in which tenants move-Continued
The table shows the movement of tenant farmers only, but it is a well-known fact that the movement of owners tends to correspond in time with that of tenants inasmuch as changes of farms must be made at the time the farms become vacant. According to this table, in the United States as a whole, 65 per cent of of the tenants who move make the change in the period from December to March, inclusive. Most of this movement comes in January and in March. The movement in December is only 772 per cent of the total number of tenants moving, and it is known that this occurs mainly in Southern States and in the latter part of the month, particularly from Christmas to the first of the year. In the Southern States the movement is heaviest in January, averaging 53.9 per cent in that month. In the North Central States, however, March is the period of heavy movement, averaging 44.1 per cent.
It is very clear from these facts that a very large proportion of the farmers of the United Sttes on April 1 will not be on the farms which they occupied in the preceding year, and consequently if they are asked to report the various lines of information contained in the agricultural census as of the preceding year for the farms which they are now occupying, they will have no such information since they will just have begun their operations for the new year.
It might be thought that it would be practicable to ask such farmers to report for the farms which they occupied in the preceding year. From a statistical standpoint, such a procedure is wholly impracticable; it would lead to indescribable confusion in the statistics. A considerable number of persons will have moved into cities and will not be reached by the agricultural census enumerators. A large proportion will have moved from one county to another county or State, and their replies will be included in the statistics in the county or State in which they are living on April 1 although the statistics apply to another county or State. It is true, it has been suggested that farmers do not ordinarily move a long distance. This is the case with regard to a considerable number, but on the other hand, inquiries from crop correspondents as to the distance farmers move yielded the results shown in the following table (Table 9):
TABLE 9.- Distance farmers move; tenants and owners, 1925-26
According to this table, for the United States as a whole, 58 per cent of the farmers moving moved a distance of 5 miles or over and 35 per cent moved a distance of 10 miles or more. In the Southern States the long distance moves were somewhat smaller percentages than in other sections of the country. A move of 10 miles would carry a large proportion of the total number of moving farmers out of the county; for instance, in a county 28 miles square, which is larger than the average county in the United States, in which any considerable numbers of farmers live, assuming an even distribution of the farms geographically, 92 per cent of the farmers would live within 10 miles of the county line and 48 per cent of the farmers would live within 4 miles of the county line.
It is very clear, therefore, that if this agricultural census is taken on April 1 we shall be unable to obtain accurate data for approximately one farm out of every seven except such data as may be picked up from inquiries from landlords and other persons who are able to answer in the place of the farmer who actually occupied the farm in the year for which the enumeration is made. It is true, in the case of a considerable percentage of Southern croppers, the landlord or his manager may be present and able to give the data. However, croppers constituted in 1925 less than 40 per cent of the total number of tenants and croppers in
the South and only about one-fourth of the number of tenants and croppers in the United States. In the case of tenants, as distinguished from croppers, the landlord in a large proportion of cases is not able to give all the facts concerning their farms.
Furthermore, there is a large proportion of tenants whose landlords are absentees who would not be reached by the enumerator or in any way connected by him with the farm occupied during the preceding year by the tenant who had moved. In accordance with a study made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, 53 per cent of all tenants lived within 3 miles of the residence of the owner, while 47 per cent of all tenants in the regions studied lived a distance of more than 3 miles from the residence of the landlord.
Some objection has been raised to the proposal that the census of agriculture be taken as of December 1 on the ground that it will be impracticable to complete it before Christmas. We believe that it would be desirable to begin the enumeration about November 15. While the interval between this and Christmas is a little shorter period than has usually been devoted to the canvass, we know of no essential reason why the census of agriculture could not be taken in that length of time provided the organization of the field work was planned with that end in view. It is believed that in most parts of the country less inclement weather would be encountered before Christmas than after January 1, as in the past. On the other hand, in April dirt roads are likely to be in very bad condition as a result of the spring thaw and spring rains. When it is recalled that in 1925, 43 per cent of the farmers lived on unimproved dirt roads, and another 31 per cent on so-called improved dirt roads, it will be apparent that enumerators would encounter a serious difficulty in April on account of poor roads.
VII. ORGANIZATION AND COST
Statisticians who have worked with the census data realize that there is need for increasing their accuracy by paying enumerators enough to induce them to make a more careful and complete canvass, by providing such a type of supervision as will check up on the activities of enumerators, and such technical assistance in the central office as will permit an adequate scrutiny and checking of the data in the processes of tabulation and summarization. Representatives of the Bureau of the Census state that it is desirable not only to provide a somewhat more adequate appropriation for the expenses of enumeration, but also to distribute the appropriation more effectively. More adequate supervision might be obtained by providing county supervisors or by arranging for smaller supervisory districts and more adequate assistance to the district supervisor in cases where because of the size of the county or density of population it appears to be desirable to make a unit of supervision out of a group of counties. We urge provision for these methods of organization as a means of improving the quality and accuracy of census enumerations.
It should be noted that the number of lines of inquiry desirable for an agricultural census is steadily increasing rather than decreasing. The growing concern of agricultural leaders and of the general public in the economic status of agriculture and the increasingly varied use of the agricultural statistics not only by research workers, extension workers and other agricultural leaders, but also by many kinds of business whose prosperity depends on buying, transporting or selling agricultural products, or on selling to farmers means that we should contemplate not only more adequate provision for insuring greater accuracy, but also for enlarging the scope of the agricultural census. Various organizations representing special lines of agricultural production and marketing are eager to obtain more inquiries in the agricultural census throwing light on their business.
For instance, it has never been found feasible to make the census cover adequately all the various types of specialty crops grown in some our subtropical areas, such as southern California, Florida, and southern Texas. There is a strong demand from such areas for more data along these lines. As pointed out above, the proper correlation of the census of distribution with the census of agriculture will also necessitate some increase in the scope of the latter census.
Assuming that the census of agriculture is taken in connection with the census of population, we believe that not less than $9,000,000 should be provided for this purpose. In case it is found desirable or necessary to make the agricultural enumeration at a different time from that of the population census, this would probably add $1,850,000 to the cost, making a total expense of about $11,000,000 for the regular decennial census of agriculture.
1 Department Bulletin No. 1432.
In case it is considered essential to move the date of the census of population to April 1, we should like to urge the importance of separating the two censuses in order that the agricultural census may be taken at a time which will insure effective results for the money expended. If we are to spend $8,000,000 or $9,000,000 in taking the agricultural census, it would be in the interest of economy to spend another $2,000,000 in order that it might be taken at an effective time, so that the results will be more serviceable and more comparable with previous enumerations.
It is also highly important that provision be made for sorting and tabulating the results by townships. There are many counties in which the systems of farming vary widely within the county. A township tabulation, though not adding greatly to cost, would increase the accuracy of the census, permit a more detailed picture of the geography of agriculture, and greatly facilitate research and extension work in the field of farm management.
VIII. VITAL IMPORTANCE OF THE AGRICULTURAL CENSUS
It might appear to the uninitiated that we are giving undue emphasis to unimportant considerations. Only those who are continually employing these statistics realize how vital and important they are not only to the agricultural interests of the Nation but to a large proportion of the other business interests.
In addition to the direct use which the farmer makes of the Census statistics, he also benefits indirectly through the use made of these materials by the various agencies which are working in his interest. From time immemorial farmers have been at a disadvantage because of inadequate knowledge of what to produce, when to produce it, and when and where to sell their product. A great many manufacturing and commercial agencies are well equipped with such information. They are not jumping in the dark as the farmer is compelled to do. He has the uncertainty not only as to how much he himself will produce as affected by weather and other conditions, but also as to what his competitors, the other farmers in this and other countries, are doing or are going to do. It is not too much to say that whatever can be done toward stabilizing agriculture will depend absolutely on having adequate statistical data concerning the factors of agricultural production, the acreage planted or to be planted, the volume of production and the disposition of the products.
The agricultural census is the most important single statistical document for agriculture. It provides an inventory or cross section every 5 or 10 years of the productive resources and current status of the agricultural industry. It, therefore, provides the basic data for research work in agricultural economics and for extension work.
While the census comes only every 5 years, formerly only every 10 years, it constitutes the basis for an adequate system of annual statistics and monthly crop and livestock estimates. It would, of course, be more desirable to have an annual census, but this would probably be too expensive. Therefore we have developed the system of supplementing the information in the census by annual estimates which have as their point of departure the data enumerated in the census of agriculture. In order to keep these estimates from getting out of line it is necessary to check them back every five years to an actual enumeration. Otherwise the errors in estimating crop acreage or numbers of livestock would be carried forward and exaggerated in the annual estimates, resulting in a cumulative percentage of error. In other words, the census and the annual estimates are interdependent and both are necessary.
The agricultural census provides the most important body of economic information concerning the economic life of the Nation. It is more important than the manufacturing census because it is much more detailed and because the products of agriculture constitute the materials of manufacture and trade.
Statisticians realize that the fluctuations in agricultural production exert a most powerful influence on the variations in the business cycle and affect almost every current of economic life. The census is, therefore, of tremendous significance for the business man. It provides cotton manufacturers, cereal merchants and millers, and other processors with information concerning the raw materials employed in their business. Mail-order house and other commercial agencies are vitally interested in the buying power of farmers in various sections of the country and are anxious to know the amount of product which the farner has produced and the price he is receiving for it in various areas. Railroads need to know how much is to be produced, or is likely to be produced, so that they can make their arrangements to haul the product to market. Bankers find that the success or failure of crops in the various parts of the country has tremendous influence on the volume of credit required, the amount of reserves to be kept, and the general condition of the money market; and other credit agencies lending to farmers are vitally concerned with such information.
Sometimes the statement is made that speculators are the only people who profit by the agricultural information in the census, as well as by the information put out by the division of crop and livestock estimates of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. There is no greater mistake than this. Almost every line of legitimate business is concerned with these materials. However, even in the case of speculation it is in the interest both of the farmer and of other classes of business that speculation shall be as intelligent as possible. In so far as speculation is inteiligent it makes for prices justified by conditions of supply and demand, present and prospective. Insomuch as it is unintelligent it results in erratic markets and market conditions.
While it is true that these agricultural statistics are not directly used by the majority of individual farmers, it is possible for the research and extension agencies to organize the statistical information from this and other sources in such a manner as to throw a great deal of light on the outlook for the various lines of agricultural production and to take this information to the individual farmer. This work is only in its infancy, but it represents a line of development which agricultural leaders for a half century or more have recognized as essential if the farmer's business is to be placed on a plane of intelligent action in any manner comparable with that enjoyed by other lines of business.
The interpretation of the highly complex data concerning production and marketing conditions and outlook is a job of great technical difficulty, wholly beyond the range and abilities of the individual farmer. Existing technical agencies are trying to translate these facts into their actual significance and bearing on the farmer's business, so that he will not continue to be at a disadvantage as compared with other classes of producers. It is desirable not only to interpret the outlook but also to aid the farmer to determine the relationship of the existing outlook to the proper readjustments called for in the type of farming which he pursues. This implies a knowledge of the systems of farming in the various parts of the country, and the agricultural census is the most important source of information along this line.
Some people have the impression that these statistics and the interpretation made of them, as well as the technical activities of the Department of Agriculture, only injure the farmer by helping to increase his production. It is desirable to correct the impression that because we have the surplus problem it is not worth while to help the farmer improve his productiveness. Every kind of improvement which helps the farmer lower his cost of production, either by better technical methods or by more effective adjustment of his plans to market conditions, enables him to compete to better advantage with producers in other countries and increases his chance of making a profit. If the resulting production is excessive, the remedy is to reduce the acreage and amount of labor employed in agriculture, but not to decrease the efficiency of the individual farmer on the land. Both the Nation as a whole and the farmer as a producer are vitally interested in bringing the level of efficiency of agriculture up to the highest point possible; and accurate statistics, of which the census of agriculture is the essential foundation, will be of the utmost importance in contributing to this result.
Mr. OLSEN. I will be very glad to do that. Then I would like to make a brief comment on the question that Mr. Gosnell presented before the committee a few days ago. He presented an estimate of the cost of taking the census, and as far as I can recall, it included around $8,500,000 for the agricultural census. As I understood his statement, it does not provide for a more detailed supervision by counties, nor did it provide for tabulation by townships. We have felt very keenly that that type of supervision would go very far to increase accuracy of the census, and we thought that if it was included in the census, it would be helpful. It would probably mean a cost of $1,000,000 additional to handle that sort of thing, although we are not in a position to supply an adequate estimate of that additional cost, but we think it would be a very important thing to consider in shaping the plans for the next census; that is, to put in county supervisors, if possible, in order that they can carefully check