Title: Technological trends in Florida agriculture
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Title: Technological trends in Florida agriculture
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Creator: Alleger, Daniel E.
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Agricultural Economics Series No. 49-6*

TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS IN FLORIDA AGRICULTURE

by
Daniel E. Alleger
Associate Agricultural Economist
Florida Agricultural Experiment Station

The output per worker is an important measure of technological development.
In the process of production the increased use of improved tools and machinery is
commonly thought of as technology.l_ Technical progress is also reflected in im-
proved strains of livestock, or more productive varieties of crops, or improved
cultural techniques, among others. The increased use of farm tractor power, and
tractor equipment, and of new and improved types of farm machinery, is transforming
Florida agriculture. Tractor power exerts a powerful disrupting force on manual
and horse methods of farming. This has far-reaching economic and social impli-
cations. Most Florida farmers do not realize how profoundly technological changes
are effecting their daily lives, and in some cases their very existence as farmers.
Here are some facts.

In 1920 mules and horses provided 56 percent of the total horsepower avail-
able on farms in the United States, and gas tractors and trucks, 20 percent; in
1930 these figures were 24 and 63 percent respectively. By 1940 horsepower units
provided by farm mules and horses dropped still further, probably more than an ad-
ditional 5 percent as the total number of mules and horses on farms fell from 19
to 14 million.

Some basic changes that have taken place over a 25-year period can be in-
terpreted from Table 1.

From 1920 to 1945 the number of Florida farms rose from 54 to 61 thousand,
or about 13 percent, while the total farm acreage more than doubled, reaching over
13 million acres. The acreage in crops changed from 2.3 to 2.9 million acres, or a
rise of 26 percent.

The significance of technological changes is seen in the,tripling of the
farm acreage cared for by one work animal. In Florida from 1925 to 1945 the crop
acreage per work animal increased by 53 percent, or from 32 to 49 acres. It is
interesting to note that during the interval in which work oxen were discarded and
tractors introduced, the comparable average was about 27 acres. Even this was 36
percent higher than the national average. While accurate statistics prior to 1925
are not available it is to be surmised that human labor contributed to this dif-
ference, as well as better cultural methods and higher per acre productivity in
many other parts of the United States.

From 1940 to 1945 the number of tractors on farms in Florida rose from about
8 to 13 thousand (Fig. 1),2. and motor trucks from over 14 to nearly 22 thousand
(Table 2). Undoubtedly the increased use of tractors and motor trucks on farms
encourages farming in large acreages, and promotes greater efficiency in large-scale
operations. The number of hired farm workers in Florida dropped during these five

* This paper was prepared for classroom use and is not to be used for publication,
either wholly or in part, without permission.
I/Interstate Migration, Union Calendar No. 114, 77th Congress, 1st session,
House Report No. 369, p. 403.
2/"For each unit increase in the number of tractors between 1930 and 1940 there was
a decrease, for the United States as a whole, of 7.1 in the number of horses and
mules on farms." Sixteenth Census of the United States. Agriculture, General
Report, Vol. III, p. 452.







Table l.--Farm Work Units and Land Relationships for Florida, 1920 to 1945

:Average: Average Acreage Per Farm Work Unit
Year : Size :Horses & Mules1/ : Tractors :Motor Trucks
: Farm :Farmland:Cropland:Farmland:Cropland:Farmland:Cropland

1920 : 112 : 75 : 8,892 : : 3,739
1925 : 99 : 82 : 32 : 2,112 : 821 : :
1930 : 85 : 81 : 37 : 993 : 433 : 412 : 186
1935 : 83 : 103 : 42 : : : : -
1940 : 134 1 : 148 : 1 :1,082 : 371 : 581 : 200
1945 : 214 : 221 : 49 : 1,0212/: 225 : 605 : 133

1/ All horses and mules on farms, including colts, whether used for
draft work or not.
2/ Had land included in farms in 1945 been comparable to the U. S.
Census of 1940, this figure may have dropped to about 800 acres.
Some grazing lands were included in the 1945 Census which were
excluded in the 1940 Census.
SOURCE: Calculated from data in the United States Census of Agri-
culture, 1945.

years from 71 to 36 thousand; farm tenants from about 16 to 10 thousand; and farm
mules from 36 to 33 thousand. At the same time the number of crop acres harvested
in 1945 exceeded 1940 by over 100 thousand acres. As we look into the future we
realize that not only must farm management practices be revised constantly to meet
changing conditions, but landlord-tenant relationships must be re-evaluated, and
farm labor needs readjusted, particularly in the hired labor categories. The
answers to these problems are being sought not only by the farmers themselves but
also by state and Federal agriculturalists. In appraising future potentialities
of farm mechanization the historical past sheds some light on the subject.

Changing Agriculture

Prior to 1830 farm work animals supplemented hand labor. Between 1830 and
1860 new inventions, extended public works, and improved methods of farming com-
pletely transformed the American scene.3/ For the following 50 years horses and
mules displaced man as motive power for agricultural implements. In the early
'twenties the n1ber of farm draft animals in Florida reached an estimated peak
of 85 thousand.! Year by year thereafter the number of farm work animals de-
clined.5/ In five years, 1920 to 1925, the number of tractors on Florida farms
increased from 680 to 2,777. Tractor'power now began to rapidly displace horse
power, Mechanization and level topography placed a premium on large-scale
farming (Table 3).

/ Expansion of the cotton economy, revival of tobacco after 1850, rise of Louisiana
sugar plantations; invention of the steel plow, introduction of an improved
wheat drill, the threshing machine, and numerous other items of farm equipment;
era of canal and railroad expansion; construction of public highways; national
industrial expansion and the development of overseas trade.
4/ The United States 25.7 million.
/ Horses used for pleasure and cattle ranging partly account for the increase
in numbers in Florida from 1940 to 1945.









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Table 2.--Number of Farm Work Units in Florida by Counties, 1945.
: Number of Farm Work Units
County : Horses Mules :Tracrs : Motor : Auto-
Hoes T rs : trucks : mobiles


Alachua
Baker
Bay
Bradford
Brevard
Broward
Calhoun
Charlotte
Citrus
Clay
Collier
Columbia
Dade
DeSoto
Dixie
Duval
Escambia
Flagler
Franklin
Gadsden
Gilchrist
Glades
Gulf
Hamilton
Eardee
Hendry
Hernando
Highlands
Hillsborough
Holmes
Indian River
Jackson
Jefferson
Lafayette
Lake
Lee
Leon
Levy
Liberty
Madison
Manatee
Marion
Martin
Monroe
Nassau
Okaloosa
Ckeochobee


Orange
Osceola
Palm Beach
Pasco
Pinellas
Polk
Putnam
St. Johns
St. Lucie
Santa Bosa
Sarasota
Seminole
Sumter
Suwannee
Taylor
Union
Volusia
Wakulla
Walton
Washington


1,266
195
119
387
180
384
196
54
246
193
74
379
327
282
97
412
565
132
27
444
257
190
81
170
814
.163
21l6
329
1,360
363
33
1,264
164
125
301
259
535
646
155
276
433
1,590
183

231
210
302
226
570
619
536
195
1,808
357
268
7
655
374
151
999
433
257
246
337
92
403
446


State 25,588


1,556
S 277
85
S 491
20
S 442
708
S 2
S 31
86
: 53
1,069
215
38
S 70
: 345
627
94
7
S 1,996
S 365
2
62
S 838
S 286
9
66
S 7
: 1,012
1,860
20
S 5,062
S 1,396
412
229
S 55
S 951
4 28
S 135
S 1,907.
342
894
S 38

S 174
S 703
12
: 67
S 23
S 370
85
S 64
S 386
156
266
S 1
S 1,066
S 51
: 253
374
: 1,855
269
461
S 202
S 153
858
: 1,089

33,531


S463
S 47
6
S 67
235
S293
71
21
S 76
58
S 37
S159
448
S102
25
150
S141
66

187
S119
68
S 4
147
21.0
285
68
107
941
: 54
328
236
152
138
398
218
1 16
186
: 15
164
257
505
124
2
47
43
62
397
149
846
162
223
969
184
235
182
180
209
358
S 165
447
13
39
S 238
35
63
37
S12,812


681-
S 110
68
S 362
293
S 749
S 177
S 29
S 146
139
S 80
S 253
: 1,194
S 122
63
S 455
242
77
24
S 250
145
: 78
S 38
S 239
S 499
192
133
238
S 1,118
224
S 231
S 650
S 256
109
701
258
S 183
S 231
S 59
S 326
491
S 631
S 200
5
S 147
119
101
S 636
165
S 1,188
326
295
S 1,541
332
: 281
: 181
358
S 265
462
S 439
537
: 170
139
567
S 97
284
S 210

21,639


907
178
106
325
527
497
126
44
222
190
64
444
1,110
216
59
1,096
556
94
10
725
160
72
141.
276
612
117
184
375
3,043
280
398
720
329
202
1,103
288
290
367
72
422
473
980
242
7
187
159
118
1,402
283
756
787
510
2,780
638
386
168
627
424
451
505
751
201
190
1,136
121
217
275

31,721





Table 3.--Cropland Acres Farmed by Principal Power Source, 19451/.

Are: Power Source Proportion
horses & Mules: Tractors :Horses & Mules: Tractors
: Acres : Acres : Percent : Percent
State: 1,596,213 1,280,981 : 55.5 44.5

1 : 607,014 : 147,635 : 80.4 19.6

2 : 557,523 : 555,021 : 49.5 50.5

3 : 343,683 : 338,795 : 50.4 : 49.6
4 92,853 : 234,670 : 28.4 : 71.6

i/ In both 1890 and 1900 the U. S. Census reported about 27 acres
of cropland for each Florida farm work animal, and 19.8 for the
United States as a whole. The acreages in the table were com-
puted with 27 acres as the normal work performance per Florida
animal, times the number of farm work animals in each area.
The figures give a general idea of the importance of mules vs.
tractors in the several areas of the state and provide reasonably
good data for comparative purposes for areas of large size. It
is recognized that both tractors and mules may work the same
land in the production of a given farm crop.


GEOGRAPHICAL AREAS

........... .........
... ... ... ..



Comparison of Average Farm Incomes by Selected
Geographical Areas of Florida, 1940 and 1945.


: Farm Incomes :Increase in i
Area : Total* :Total Income
: 1940 : 1945 :1940 to 1945

1 :$ 568:$ 1,505: $ 937
2 972: 2,328: 1,356
3 : 1,977: 7,051: 5,074
4 : 5,717: 11,115: 5,398

State :$1,517:$ 4,346: $2,829
*All farm products sold or used by
farm households.
SOURCE: The U. S. Census of Agriculture, 1945.
Fig. 2.--Map Outlining Geographical Areas of Florida and
Table Showing Income Comparisons Between Areas
for 1940 and 1945.





S Tractor farming reduced the need for farm labor, an. released farm lands,
formerly devoted to horse feed, for human food production._/ Of significance was
the shift from .a laboring farm hand to a mechanically trained farm operator. Today
thousands of acres of Florida farm land are cultivated intensively and are under the
control of a single individual, tens of thousands under a single corporation, cul-
tivating beans, celery, potatoes, and other crops. During the 1945-46 season over
million bushels of snap beans, 116 thousand tons of cabbage and over 6 million
crates of celery_/ were produced. Harvesting echines have not yet replaced the
hand in picking beans, peas, tomatoes, celery,V cabbage and other vegetable crops.
Probably over 20,000 migrant workers are required in the Everglades alone during the
peak-of harvest. In spite of heavy demand for human labor large-scale vegetable
farming is highly mechanized and capital requirements exceedingly large.

A physical measure of technological change is the differential labor accom-
plishment between tractor and horse-drawn equipment. Operational per acre labor
requirements vary greatly by areas in Florida, by the season of the year, and by
types of crops grown.

However, general lalor requirement averages compiled by the United States
Department of Agriculture.9 illustrate the increased labor efficiency of tractor-
drawn implements.

Table 4.--Labor Performance in a 10-hour Day in Florida.


Iv
I

I
I;


Kind of Farm Average Work Dcne in 10 .Hours
Machine or Implement : orse-dre-an : Tractor-draw.7
: Acres : Acres
old-board plows 1.0 1.6 :'0
)isk plows :4.0 7.0
?isk harrows 5.8 15.0
tov-crop cultivators 3.9 8.01 : 14.0
tow-crop planters 5.6 16.0


*Unpublished data at the Florida Agricultural Experiment
Station at Gainesville indicate increased efficiency of
present tractor-drawn equipment has since taken place
in several areas of Florida.
1/3.9 acres for 1-horse, 5.0 for 2-horse, 8.0 for row-crop
cultivators, riding.
2/1-horse.
A greater reliance on mechanized agriculture in Florida will likely increase
the dependence of operators on hired labor, and with the development of new tech-
niques and new skills a higher pay-scale for the regular labor force may result.
Nevertheless many crop followers, in commercialized crop areas, may have permanently
lost their security, the benefits of home and community life, and a chance to educate
their children in the traditional American way.

About 35 million acres were released in the United States by 1940. Yearbook of
Agriculture, 1940. U.S.D.A. p. 106. In Florida the drop in number of livestock
from 1940 to 1945 would have released about 165 thousand acres of corn land, and
about 10 thousand acres for other grains had all the feed been produced in Florida;
also saved 50 thousand tons of hay, corn and sorghum roughage, according to the
estimates of the author.
7/ The celery shipments represent over 13 thousand carloads of celery. About 4
thousand carloads were shipped from the Everglades, and 5.6 thousand from
Seminole County (Sanford-Oviedo-Zellwood Area).
8 A few mechanical celery cutters are now in use.
/ Number and Duty of Principal Farm Machines, Brodell and Cooper, F.M. 45, U. S.
Dept. of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Washington,D.C., Nov. 1944.




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