Credit and Tenure
in Land Use
Our analysis of land use in New England would be incomplete without attention to three sets of institutional factors that strongly condition it, credit, tenure, and public finance. Only 3.7 per cent of the farms of New England were not owner-operated in 1945, so that tenure in this region principally involves the circumstance under which farmers acquire and hold title to land, and this entails the use of credit. Most of this chapter is therefore devoted to credit. Public finance in its relation to land use is reserved for the next succeeding chapter.
Although 96.3 per cent of the farms of New England are owner-operated, 35.4 per cent of these are owned under mortgage. In terms of land in farms, 33.0 per cent of it was mortgaged in 1945. And owning land under mortgage has at times and places in the United States provided only a precarious claim upon it. In fact, it can be safely asserted that in general the owners of farms under mortgage in the United States have had less secure tenure in their land since 1920 than the farmers of England enjoyed in the same period under cash leases. In the period from 1920 to 1940, a total of 2,080,000 farm mortgages were foreclosed in the United States. This means that about one farm in three went through foreclosure, not allowing for more than one foreclosure on the same farm. In terms of farms mortgaged, the ratio was almost one to one. The foreclosures in New England were much fewer than this, probably only one in five mortgaged farms; but it was still pretty high in the counties noted in Chapter 32 as having land values largely based on agricultural income. Ownership under mortgage must therefore in all