Soviet Union Information Bureau


THE position and prospects of the farming population were completely transformed as a result of the Revolution. In pre-war days in European Russia and the Ukraine the peasant was virtually land-starved. He worked the land under a threefield system, each field a separate small strip usually miles away from the other strips. His methods were most primitive and agricultural education was virtually unknown. Usually he was without any general education whatever. The country school was a rarity.

The peasants paid to absentee landlords upwards of $200,000,000 in rentals annually.

The Revolution increased the arable land available for the peasant in European Russia by 30 per cent, and in the Ukraine by over 70 per cent. To-day 96 per cent of the arable land in the Ukraine and from 97 to 99 per cent in Europeai Russia is in the hands of the peasants for use. The cold figures, however, give but an inadequate picture of the change. Under the old regime the favored wealthy peasants, relatively small in number, waxed fat at the expense of the mass of their less fortunate brethren. Like the feudal landlords, they owned the fields of others and controlled marketing resources, and squeezed their poor neighbors at every opportunity. They had become speculators, mortgage holders and middlemen as well as producers. The redistribution of land has deprived them of their privileged position and reduced their holdings to one-tenth of the land formerly in their control. The middle and poorer farmers have been the main beneficiaries of the change and have at last been placed in a position where they can enjoy the fruits of their toil. Moreover the new economic scheme of things favors the poorer farmer. To-day 35 per cent of the farmers are exempt from taxes.

Under the new order the conditions of land tenure have completely changed. There are no private titles in land. The land is held in trust by the State for all the people and is worked by individuals or groups under a system of perpetual leasehold. No land may be held out of use, or sold. A restricted system of private leaseholds has been devised to prevent the loss of land by families temporarily incapacitated. A single agricultural tax-which may be reduced or eliminated for sections suffering from impairment or loss of crops-is the sole charge for the land by the Government. The total agricultural tax in 1927-28 amounted to $170,000,000.

The redistribution of the land has brought new agricultural problems which are still in process of solution. Though the grain crops of the past four years were close to the pre-war average, less than half the pre-war tonnage of grain was available for the market and the greatly increased consumption both on the farms and in the cities left only a fraction of the pre-war tonnage available for export. The increasing consumption is due not only to the fact that the people have reached a markedly higher level of per capita food consumption than before the war, but also to the fact that the greatly decreased death rate has raised the annual increase of population to 3,000,000 persons.

The grain export situation became particularly acute during the past year.

The explanation of the situation is simple. Before the war half of the annual grain production and practically all the surplus for export came from the large estates and the rich peasants. The rest of the peasants, working on their little strip farms, consumed seven-eighths of their product, and in the bad years starved. Since the redistribution of land, the large private estates are no more and the acreage of the wealthy peasants has been greatly reduced. Some of the former estates are operated by the State as Soviet farms. There were 5,706 Soviet farms in 1927 with an aggregate area of 9,218,000 acres. A total of 375,377 persons cooperated in 1928 in 32,000 collective farms with an aggregate area of approximately 3,200,000 acres. Though the production per acre of the Soviet and co-operative farms was materially greater than that of the peasant farms, they furnished only 1.7 per cent of the total grain crop of the country. These enterprises, plus the product of the wealthy farmers, furnish only oneseventh of the total grain crop. The mass of the middle and poor peasants produce six-sevenths of the crop, but they live better than before the war and consume nearly 90 per cent of their product.

To meet the situation the Soviet Government has instituted a threefold campaign: i. To increase the number of collective farms. 2. To expand greatly the system of Soviet farms. 3. To increase the productivity of peasant farms by improved farm machinery, by better seeds and by the extension of the contract system, whereby groups of farmers or entire villages are supplied with seeds, etc., on condition that they deliver a corresponding amount of grain products.

The plans for the collective farms include increasing their aggregate area to 18,300,000 acres occupied by 4,900,000 persons, during the next five years.

The plans for opening new State farms are elaborate and involve the development of some 15,000,000 acres of unused land during the next five years, to yield an annual crop predicated at 1,800,000 tons of grain. The farms will be operated in large units of from 75,000 to 100,000 acres. Tractors and the latest farm mechanism generally will be utilized. The sum of 1,000,000 rubles was spent on the new farms in 1928.

In addition to the plans for increasing the yield of grain the system of purchasing and distributing has been unified and coordinated by the creation of a Grain Center (Khlebocentr) which operates as a single state organ in the marketing field. The Grain Center replaces a number of State and cooperative organizations that hitherto operated in competition, with more or less duplication and waste. The system of a single Center in the marketing field has been worked out successfully for several years for other farm products such as flax, butter, eggs, etc. Hitherto the State and co-operative organizations operating under a federal plan purchased about 75 per cent of the marketable grain. The remainder has been handled by local co-operatives and by private traders. The role of the private trader has been steadily decreasing.

The tremendous advance of the co-operative movement during the past five years (statistics of which are given elsewhere) has re-enforced the changed position of the farmer resulting from the redistribution of the land. The co-operatives, heavily backed by Government credits, have fostered a system of cooperative credit societies which operate throughout the country and are adapted to the peculiar needs of the local rural economy. With the aid of the co-operatives the middleman and his fat percentage have largely vanished from the rural scene. The co-operatives enable the farmer to market many of his products through his own mediums and to purchase his necessary machinery and implements and stock on liberal credit terms. In this respect the co-operatives bring to the farmer somewhat similar advantages in collective bargaining that the trade unions provide for the urban worker. They also assist him to make a more scientific, as well as a more economic use of his time and labor. They are constantly creating better quality standards for his products, with excellent economic results.

In the production of certain types of technical crops and agricultural or dairy products which require a form of manufacture for the market, the co-operatives have come to hold a dominating position. These organizations are responsible for 92 per cent of the butter placed on the market, 76.5 per cent of the cotton, 76.8 per cent of the tobacco, 6.8 per cent of the peasant tobacco (makhorka), 44.6 per cent of the sugar 31.2 per cent of fodder, 48.8 per cent of starch products, 24.9 per cent of flax. These figures are for 1926.

Though agricultural production is still predominantly individualistic, it is becoming more and more socialized, and in the marketing field collectivist forms are widespread.

Along with the development of co-operative marketing has come a development of the contract system, whereby industrial enterprises provide farmers with seeds, implements and fertilizer and contract for the crop on a given acreage. This system has reached considerable proportions in such crops as sugar beets, cotton, tobacco and flax, which move direct from the field to the factory.

The period of war and civil strife, followed by the famine of 1921-22, cut the volume of agricultural production by about one-half. Naturally this was less than the drop in industry, which in 1921-22 fell to i per cent of the pre-war output. In 1922 the cultivated area in the Soviet State was 63 per cent of that of 1913, the gross agricultural production 51.9 per cent. The number of horses had fallen to 65.5 per cent of 1913, cattle to 72 per cent, sheep and goats to 64 per cent, hogs to 45 per cent. The farmers' basic capital in machinery and implements had declined by 40 per cent by 1920 and the available man-power on farms by 30 per cent. Since 1922 there has been a steady recovery. For the past four years the agricultural output has been close to the pre-war average. Livestock, with the exception of horses, had increased above the pre-war figure by 1927. Horses were 83 per cent of the pre-war figure. On the other hand, the number of tractors in use in the fall of 1928 was 33,000, as compared with less than 500 before the war.

In other respects the system of agriculture is showing improvement. The uneconomic threefield system is being done away with. Rotation of crops is being introduced. Before the war crop rotation was practiced on only 1,000,000 to 2,200,000 acres, to-day it obtains on 31,500,000 acres-one-fifth of the whole cultivated area in the R.S.F.S.R. and is gaining rapidly. Early plowing, deep plowing, the development of fodder sowing, the development of technical seeds and deep-root crops-these things have all come during the past decade. The radio is being utilized to disseminate agricultural education.

The decline of the irrigation system, which set in before the revolution, became acute during the period of civil strife. The irrigated area in Transcaucasia and Turkestan decreased from 4,400,000 hectares to I,500,000 hectares, and the cotton area in particular was reduced to 8 per cent of pre-war. During the past five years a complete recovery has been effected. The area under irrigation in 1927 was greater than before the war and new constructions such as the Dnieper river project will bring water to millions of hectares of arid lands during the next few years.

The farmer lives better than he did before the war. He consumes more of his own products, including meat, eggs and dairy products, and especially wheat. He has far better opportunities for the education of his children. He is a citizen instead of a subject and runs his own show. On the other hand he still has to pay more for clothing and implements than he did before the war.

During a good part of the past ten years he has suffered from the prevalent shortage in manufactured goods. During the past year this shortage has been materially reduced and the price of manufactured goods has moved steadily downward. Production of agricultural machinery and implements during 1927-28 was materially greater than in 1913.

The Commissariats for Agriculture in the six Constituent Republics and their local organizations have general supervision Dyer agriculture, including forests. The activities of the Cornnissariats include work for improvement of cultures, cattle reeding, methods and soils, financial assistance when needed, veterinary assistance, organizations of irrigation projects and vater supply, combating cattle and plant diseases and parasites, administration of State agricultural enterprises, administration of forest funds and management of forest economy, elaboration and execution of general economic measures in the interest of agriculture and forestry.

The immense area of the Soviet Union includes great diversities of climate and soil. The temperature ranges from the subarctic cold of northern Siberia to the sub-tropical heat of Central Asia. Almost every variety of commercial plant can be grown within the Soviet territory.

About 85 per cent of the population lives by agriculture.

GRAIN CROPs.- The last three years witnessed a continuous increase of the area under grain crops, the figure for 1928 having reached practically the pre-war standard.

Figures for the total sown area, including peasant farms as well as Soviet and collective farms:

1913 257,013,000
1925 217,465,400
1926 234,222,800
1927 240,304,500
1928 234,056,600 (1)

As regards the various grain crops, the sown area of the peasant farms was distributed as follows (in thousands of acres):

  1925 1926 1927
Rye 70,287. 8 69,790. 2 69,586.6
Wheat 59,771. 0 70,874. 4 75,942.3
Barley 15,715. 6 18,217. 7 17,479.6
Oats 31,414. 2 37,573. 6 42,955.2
Buckwheat 7,057.3 6,999.3 6,811.1
Millet 15,276. 9 13,061. 0 10,51 2.2
Corn (Maize) 8,287.9 7,294.9 7,131 .3
Other grain crops 5,603.3 6,344.9 5,804.7
Total grain crops 213,414.0 230,156.0 236,223.3

Gross grain crops, in thousands of metric tons:

  1925 1926 1927
Rye 22,290 22,944 23,571
Wheat 19,868 22,314 20,389
Barley 6,081 5,515 4,677
Oats 11,584 14,340 13,035
Buckwheat 1,653 1,891 1,938
Millet 4,607 3,295 3,684
Corn (Maize) 4,488 3,644 3,782
Other grain crops 1,859 2,341 2,044
Total grain crops 72,430 76,284 73,120

The gross grain crop of 1928 was 74,292,103 metric tons. Production of grain in the present territory of the Soviet Union before the war was about 75,000,000 metric tons.

TECHNICAL CROPS.- Planted area under the various technical crops, as expressed in thousands of acres (for peasant farms only, except in the case of sugar beets):

  1913 1925 1926 1927
All sorts of flax (2) 4,589.5 4,241.5 4,168.4 4,350.9
Long-fiber flax region only 3,293.7 2,926.8 2,892.7 2,841.2
Hemp 1,781.8 2,333.6 2,345.5 2,321.2
Sunflower 3,455.6 7,984.7 6,677.5 7,479.3
Sugar beets (3) 1,538.8 1,319.1 1,329.1 1,642.8
Cotton 1,727.8 1,612.5 1,731.1 1,987.5

The area under potatoes was 12,404,900 acres in 1925, 12,849,900 acres in 1926, and 13,615,000 acres in 1927.

In 1927 the gross production of technical crops, both as regards oil seeds and fiber, exceeded that of 1926. Sunflower seeds showed an increase of 59 per cent, while the production of sugar beets was 60.6 per cent above that of the previous year.

Production of oil seeds, in thousands of metric tons:

  1925 1926 1927
Flax 610 520 571
Hemp 559 504 555
Sunflower 2,656 1,557 2,481

For 1928 the corresponding figures were: flax 578, hemp 568, sunflower 2,080.

Production of fiber in thousands of metric tons:

  1925 1926 1927
Flax 374 331 343
Long-fiber region only 287 243 249
Hemp 486 436 512
Cotton (unginned) 544 540 632

For 1928 the corresponding figures were: flax 346, hemp 496, cotton 860.

Sugar beets in thousands of metric tons:

  1925 1926 1927
Sugar beets 8,389 6,138 9,863

Production of sugar beets in 1928 was 10,621,200 metric tons.

Production of potatoes was 41,712,000 metric tons in 1925 and 44,812,000 metric tons in 1926.

LIVE STOCK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS.- The increase of the numbers of live stock is shown by the following figures, covering peasant, Soviet and collective farms (in thousands of head) :

Year Horses Cattle Sheep Goats Hogs
1916 35,523 60,28 0 111,05 1 9,78 2 20,3 36
1923 23,160 52,632 78,621 5,651 11,278
1924 25,158 58,055 92,081 6,831 19,403
1925 26,618 61,146 106,800 8,226 19,095
1926 28,950 64,439 113,600 8,594 18,398
1927 30,931 67,327 121,739 9,340 20,222

The progress of milk production is shown by the following figures:

Year Metric tons Index
1916 24,659,400 100.0
1923-24 27,527,400 111.6
1924-25 27,825,000 112.8
1925-26 31,210,600 126.6
1926-27 31,411,000 127.4

Production of butter for market, in metric tons:

1924-25 42,500
1925-26 48,800
1926-27 64,560

Exports of butter, in metric tons:

1924-25 24,490
1925-26 27,251
1926-27 30,291
1927-28 32,851

Production of eggs for market (carloads):

1926-27 13,926
1927-28 17,750

Exports of eggs:

  Carloads Value
1926-27 5,865 $14,859,810
1927-28 8,633 $20,838,940

In 1927 there were 17,850 collective farms representing some 140,000 peasant families. In 1928 the number had increased to 32,506 farms representing 375,377 families, working a total acreage of 3,247,000 acres. The crop returns per acre worked by the agricultural collectives average 20 to 25 per cent higher than those for land worked by individual peasants.

Soviet State farms in 1927 comprised 5,706 enterprises with an aggregate of 9,218,000 acres of land.

Grain procurements, in metric tons, for agricultural years ending June 30:

1926-27 11,510,000
1927-28 11,455,000

Grain exports were resumed in the fall of 1922. In 1923 for purposes of coordination, they were placed in the hands of the Exportkhleb, a stock company composed of representatives of the principal grain procuring organizations interested in export trade. This organization has a monopoly of grain export. The amount of grain exports for the argicultural years ending June 30 is shown in thousands of metric tons in the following table:

1923-24 2,985
1924-25 885
1925-26 2,644
1926-27 3,086
1927-28 520

Sixty per cent of the grain export goes to Germany, England and Holland.

(1) Excluding some 15,000,000 acres of sowings ruined by early inclement weather in Ukraine, North Caucasus and Central Black Soil region.

(2) Fiber producing flax area: 1925-3,974,500 acres; 1926-3,889,500 acres; and 1927-3,946,500 acres.

(3) Sugar-beet area and production on both peasant farms and State enterprises.