American Agriculture before the War
In nearly all important respects with regard to foodstuffs America has been not only substantially self-sufficing but a country of surplus. This has been true for many years, both before and during the war. Incidentally we were dependent upon our neighbors for certain commercial fertilizers, and the difficulties attendant upon getting along without them or getting them elsewhere are very great. However, America has been and is a land of surplus food. While this is true beyond all controversy, it is just as true and no doubt a good deal more astonishing to notice that the amount of the surplus has for some years been steadily on the decline.
The occasion for this lessening surplus is not mysterious. Of course if all the land in use were to be used to its fullest extent by the entire population, that is, if the country produced the minimum amount of other goods and utilities, devoting itself exclusively or mainly to agriculture, there would be an enormous surplus of food products. But since the normal course is to produce that which society wants most rather than that for which it will pay relatively little, we have no cause for complaint on account of the failure to make the land produce to its physical and biological maximum. Farmers, both consciously and unconsciously, limit their efforts in accordance with economic returns, instead of in accordance with the limits set by the laws of physics and biology.