Regional Policy and Program
The last chapter makes very clear that the next two or three decades are highly critical for the rural economy of New England. The agriculture of New England seems to be rounding the turn after sixty years or more of decline. But confessedly there is a considerable measure of optimism in this statement. Recession could easily set in again after a few years. There is still more optimism in the last chapter's statement about the future of forestry. Verily, rural New Englandcould become an expanse of disheveled landscapes of brush, slash, and struggling trees, interspersed with areas of run-down farms and occasional patches of open fields and green pastures.
The danger of such further recession is real. The institutions and agencies set up in New England and at the national level to halt the recession have labored diligently and intelligently and with much effect. But until now at least, and in general, their efforts in agriculture and in forestry have not been sufficient. The forces of recession, operating in a favoring milieu of widespread indifference and defeatism, have been too powerful for them. Rural New England, so far as its agriculture and forestry are concerned, has been drifting, until recently at least, toward obscurity, and the efforts to check the drift have thus far been too weak. Both residential and recreational land use have been expanding, in recent decades especially, but not enough to fill the vacant spaces left by the retreating agriculture and forestry.
What is needed to insure that the turn in agriculture is really being rounded, and in forestry soon will be, is not so much more effort, as better organized and directed effort, and the use of more effective instruments and methods. If the efforts are to be better directed, they must become more concerted and fit into some sort of integrated rural program.
But before this can be done there must be such a program, and New England has never had one. To be sure, one agency or another at some point has