Magazine May 1, 2017, Issue

Letters

More Food, Fewer Farmers

Robert D. Atkinson’s piece “In Defense of Robots” (April 17) made me reflect on the great impact that advances in technology have had on my own field, agriculture. The labor requirements for crop production have been markedly reduced, and crop productivity greatly increased.

In the 1930s, some 30 percent of our population worked in agriculture. Now it is less than 2 percent. My family farmed cotton, corn, and hay, and had beef cattle and milk cows. According to Mississippi State University ag economists, in 1940, 145 hours of human labor were required to produce an acre of cotton with mules, hoes for weed control, and hand harvesting. This time was concentrated in about three months in spring to start and weed the crop and two months in autumn for harvest. A family could handle only ten to fifteen acres of cotton. Income was quite limited, although the typical farm family produced much of its food from a garden and some chickens and milk cows.

I worked in ag research in Ohio in the 1960s and pioneered the development of no-tillage, which cut down trips over the field. I came back to Mississippi and began working on no-tillage for cotton. With a system that had a trip to plant, two or three spray operations for weeds and insects, and machine harvest, we got the time required for an acre to just over one hour. That is a hundredfold decrease in human labor. During this time, the cotton yield has increased from a half bale to the acre to two bales. Corn yield as well has increased by a factor of five to ten. Ag research has also increased productivity and reduced labor requirements for other major crops, such as soybeans and wheat.

These advances in agriculture have markedly reduced the amount of disposable income required to feed ourselves. And if we wanted to eat cheap by soaking dry beans to cook and making cornbread and biscuits, as my mother did, we could decrease our outlay for food even more.

I expect to continue to see changes in the way we do things, and we will have to adapt to new methods.

Glover Triplett

Via e-mail

SCOTUS on Secession

Kevin D. Williamson’s otherwise excellent article on Calexit states correctly that “there is no legal or constitutional process for a state’s separating from the Union” but fails to note that there was a Supreme Court decision to that effect, Texas v. White (1869). White involved the action of the rebel Confederate government of Texas using federal bonds to purchase military supplies for its war effort against the United States. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase ruled that this act had been illegal, along with others taken by the “seceded” states. According to this interpretation, the U.S. is a “perpetual,” “indissoluble,” and “indestructible” union. No subsequent Supreme Court decision or act of Congress has nullified this ruling. A Lincoln appointee, Chase vindicated all the anti-secession arguments made by Lincoln in his first inaugural address and in his message to Congress of July 1861.

David Wells

Shreveport, La.

NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

More Food, Fewer Farmers Robert D. Atkinson’s piece “In Defense of Robots” (April 17) made me reflect on the great impact that advances in technology have had on my own ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ It takes a special talent to come off as the bad guy in a conversation about Bashar al-Assad and Adolf Hitler. ‐ Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s national-security adviser, admits, after ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

WHAT CAME BEFORE When the mists of antiquity roll down the mountain with what came before written history, before the celestial irresolution of dark and light, when persistent survival was a near miracle, at the ...

Most Popular

Media

Martha McSally’s Blasphemy

As I note in my New York Post piece today, I don’t believe that Martha McSally, who is serving her first term in the Senate after being appointed to take John McCain’s seat, is going to be helped much by accusing CNN’s Manu Raju of being a “hack.” Attacking the press might be an effective way to excite ... Read More
Media

Martha McSally’s Blasphemy

As I note in my New York Post piece today, I don’t believe that Martha McSally, who is serving her first term in the Senate after being appointed to take John McCain’s seat, is going to be helped much by accusing CNN’s Manu Raju of being a “hack.” Attacking the press might be an effective way to excite ... Read More
Elections

Lying Liz

Ever since she began explaining how her Medicare for all plan would be funded, and how she would pass it, Elizabeth Warren has been sinking. Ahead of last week’s debate, her camp leaked a story that her friend Bernie Sanders met with her in 2018 to discuss plans for 2020, and that at this meeting, Sanders had ... Read More
Elections

Lying Liz

Ever since she began explaining how her Medicare for all plan would be funded, and how she would pass it, Elizabeth Warren has been sinking. Ahead of last week’s debate, her camp leaked a story that her friend Bernie Sanders met with her in 2018 to discuss plans for 2020, and that at this meeting, Sanders had ... Read More

People Make New Orleans

I had my first taste of southern hospitality the day I moved to New York. A young woman from New Orleans, whom I had met only briefly over Skype (she had advertised a room in the Bronx, though I preferred a room in Manhattan), had asked if anyone would be picking me up from the airport. No, I told her. I didn’t ... Read More

People Make New Orleans

I had my first taste of southern hospitality the day I moved to New York. A young woman from New Orleans, whom I had met only briefly over Skype (she had advertised a room in the Bronx, though I preferred a room in Manhattan), had asked if anyone would be picking me up from the airport. No, I told her. I didn’t ... Read More
White House

The GAO’s Report

The Government Accountability Office issued a short report yesterday concluding that the administration had broken the law in freezing aid to Ukraine last summer. A common response from the president’s defenders has been that the GAO has found such violations of the law on many occasions, and the press did not ... Read More
White House

The GAO’s Report

The Government Accountability Office issued a short report yesterday concluding that the administration had broken the law in freezing aid to Ukraine last summer. A common response from the president’s defenders has been that the GAO has found such violations of the law on many occasions, and the press did not ... Read More