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Planting the Seeds of Research


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A study of America’s domination in global agricultural production

'Planting the Seeds of Research' explores why by the beginning of the twentieth century the United States dominated agricultural production worldwide. The thesis is that the ultimate investments made by the United States Department of Agriculture and State governments created the research structure that made American agriculture spectacularly successful. The social commitment, by business, government and farmers built the productive capabilities that generated sustainable prosperity in American agriculture. The ultimate investment in agriculture enabled Americans over time to spend less of their disposable income on food and more on other goods and services, and compete in international agricultural markets.

Preface; Introduction: The Anatomy of the Ultimate Investment; 1. Uplifting American Agriculture: Experiment Stations Scientists and the Office of Experiment Stations in the Early Years after the Hatch Act; 2. Higher Education for an Innovative Economy: Land-Grant Colleges and the Managerial Revolution in America; 3. Arming America Agriculture for the Twentieth Century: How the USDA’s Top Managers Promoted Agricultural Development; 4. Transatlantic Travails: German Experiment Stations and the Transformation of American Agriculture; 5. European Agricultural Development and Institutional Change: How German Experiment Stations Influenced American Stations, 1870-1920; 6. The Managerial Revolution and the Developmental State: The Case of US Agriculture; Index.



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Published 31 January 2020
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EAN13 9781785272646
Language English

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Planting the Seeds of Research
Planting the Seeds of Research
How Āmerica’s Ultimate Investment Transformed Āgriculture
Louis Ā. Ferleger
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2020 by ANTHEM PRESS 75–76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Louis A. Ferleger 2020
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Library of Congress Control Number: 2019955637
ISBN-13: 978-1-78527-262-2 (Hbk) ISBN-10: 1-78527-262-4 (Hbk) ISBN-13: 978-1-78527-265-3 (Pbk) ISBN-10: 1-78527-265-9 (Pbk)
This title is also available as an e-book.
To William Lazonick and Jay Mandle, with gratitude
List of Tables
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Anatomy of The Ultimate Investmen t
Uplifting American Agriculture: Experiment Statio n Scientists and the Office of Experiment Stations in the Early Years after the Ha tch Act
Higher Education for an Innovative Economy: Land- Grant Colleges and the Managerial Revolution in America
Arming Agriculture: How the USDA’s Top Managers P romoted Agricultural Development
Transatlantic Travails: German Experiment Station s and the Transformation of American Agriculture
European Agricultural Development and Institution al Change: German Experiment Stations, 1870–1920
The Managerial Revolution and the Developmental S tate: The Case of U.S. Agriculture
2.1 2.2 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4
Distribution of U.S. experiment station experime nts, by region, 1892–1909 (percentage) Distribution of experiment stations with regions and the United States, 1892– 1909 (percentage) Distribution of experiment station experiments w ithin regions and the United States, by periods (percentage) Percent of 17-year-old population graduating fro m high schools Actual and projected enrollments by course in la nd-grant colleges, 1894–1914 Total farms and acreage, United States, 1890–199 0 Farm output per labor-hour, 1910–86 Cooperative extension funds, by source, 1915–88 Federal agricultural research organizations, 186 2–1953
in 1887, the U.S. Congress declared that “natîonal prosperîty and securîty” depended on “a sound and prosperous agrîculture and rural lî fe.” To thîs end, the Hatch Act promîsed to make ît “the polîcy of the Congress to promote the effîcîent productîon, marketîng, dîstrîbutîon, and utîlîzatîon of product s of the farm as essentîal to the health and welfare of our peoples.” The Hatch Act w as just one of myrîad ways în whîch the Amerîcan developmental state turned the U nîted States înto the fertîle breadbasket of the world. The rîse of Amerîcan agrî cultural supremacy îs a fascînatîng story, but ît was no accîdent. Nor was ît a consequence of the “natural” forces of free market competîtîon. instead, through a serîes of legîslatîve acts that forged a collaboratîve relatîonshîp between the prî vate sector, educatîonal înstîtutîons, and governmental agencîes at all leve ls, the Amerîcan developmental state unleashed the full potentîal of Amerîcan agrî culture to ensure, as the Hatch Act promîsed, “the health and welfare of our peoples.” Over the last four decades, i have explaîned how th e developmental state fostered agrîculture’s organîzatîonal foundatîons în artîcle s about Amerîcan agrîculture. These artîcles are collected here în one place for the fî rst tîme. The artîcles încluded în thîs volume appeared în varîous forms as presentatîons a nd publîshed essays. Over the same perîod that i wrote them, Amerîcan hîstory sur vey textbooks have însuffîcîently descrîbed the full story of how Amerîca transformed îts agrîcultural sector înto an agrîcultural powerhouse. Thîs îs a paradox, because hîstorîcally the vast majorîty of the world’s populatîon has been farmers. Therefore, a socîety’s move from predomînantly countrysîde to predomînantly urban ma rked a major transîtîon, and not untîl 1920 dîd the Unîted States rank as less than 50 percent rural. if a unîfyîng theme unîtes the followîng essays, ît îs that thîs transîtîon was predîcated on an actîve role for the state în facîlîtatîng the growt h of organîzatîons that conducted research crîtîcal to the success of U.S. agrîcultur e. That îs, the developmental state planted the seeds of research. The story i tell focuses on the admînîstratîve hîst ory of the Unîted States Department of Agrîculture (USDA), Offîce of U.S. Ex perîment Statîons, and State and Regîonal Experîment Statîons. The USDA and îts agen cîes worked tîrelessly to împrove Amerîcan agrîculture. Theîr efforts transfo rmed the agrîcultural sector and contrîbuted sîgnîfîcantly to hîgh levels of agrîcul tural productîvîty. As a result, Amerîcan consumers could purchase food at lower and lower prîces. Amerîcan farmers, however, were not as fortunate as Amerîcan consumers. As agrîcultural productîvîty încreased because of împroved technolo gy and food processîng many farmers left farmîng and moved to urban areas. The plîght of Amerîcan farmers îs an împortant story but not the focus of thîs book. i owe debts to many frîends, colleagues, acquaîntan ces, conference partîcîpants, and edîtors who have collectîvely and îndîvîdually înfluenced my thînkîng and wrîtîng on agrîculture. They have, whether they realîze ît or not, contrîbuted to my work în numerous ways through theîr observatîons, crîtîcîsm , and thoughtful remarks. i am especîally grateful to Wîllîam Lazonîck, who coauth oredChapters 2 and6. i also thank the edîtors ofEgricultural History,Business and Économic History andThe Journal of the Historical Societypermîssîon to reprînt prevîously publîshed wor k. for Sîmîlarly, i thank Thomas Summerhîll and James Scot t, edîtors ofTransatlantic Rebels: Egrarian Radicalism in Comparative Context.
Matthew Lavallee and Jamîe M. Grîschkan helped me î n many small and large ways—i am very grateful for the research support an d suggestîons. The book îs dedîcated to Wîllîam Lazonîck and Jay Mandle, both of whom i have coauthored and collaborated wîth over the years. Through our conve rsatîons and collaboratîve work, Jay and Bîll have înspîred and pushed me în numerou s ways, servîng as models of întellectual rîgor, vîgor, and generosîty. i owe ea ch a specîal debt. Lastly, thîs book îs also dedîcated to those unackn owledged and crîtîcal publîc servants whose work on behalf of Amerîcan agrîcultu re în the USDA and other subsequent agencîes made ît possîble by the early d ecades of the twentîeth century for Amerîca to become the largest and most successf ul agrîcultural producer în the world. Rememberîng the contrîbutîons of theîr exper tîse îs all the more împortant în an age when experts are dîsregarded and the noble î deal of publîc servîce îtself îs under sustaîned attack.