Economic Development in the Southern Piedmont, 1860-1950: Its Impact on Agriculture

Economic Development in the Southern Piedmont, 1860-1950: Its Impact on Agriculture

Economic Development in the Southern Piedmont, 1860-1950: Its Impact on Agriculture

Economic Development in the Southern Piedmont, 1860-1950: Its Impact on Agriculture

Excerpt

This study attemprs to investigate the resource and income problem of Southern agriculture within the context of substantial technological and economic development on the American scene. Three considerations motivate the study. First of all, geographical differences in farm income (per farm worker or per farm family) appear to be chronic, indeed increasing much of the time, in this country. The problem, with its implication of inefficient resource use, remains serious even today after some fifteen years of unprecedented economic prosperity. Scrutiny of the changes in the relative income positions of Ohio and South Carolina over the past one hundred years will serve to highlight the situation.

During 1850-60, a farm worker in South Carolina was about as productive as one in Ohio. The Southern farmer then had about as much capital and improved farmland at his disposal. In later years, however, his relative resource and income position swiftly deteriorated as the nation entered its era of rapid economic development. By 1870- 80, his productivity had dropped to about 75 per cent that of his counterpart in Ohio; by 1900, to about 50 per cent; and by 1940, to no more than 40 per cent. Since that time his relative position has improved slightly--not nearly enough, however, to warrant the conclusion that his problem will solve itself in the near future.

Secondly, the nation's low-income problem is essentially Southern and agricultural in character for two reasons. A disproportionately large number of low-income families is found in the South. At the same time, Southern nonfarm incomes, when adjusted for cost of living differences, are not appreciably below the level of the non-South. These well-known facts suggest that the South, as the nation's outstanding low-income region, acquired this status by reason of its relatively low level of farm incomes.

Thirdly, any solution of the chronic farm problem would seem to require a thorough-going farm reorganization--a task that will fall . . .

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