FOOD AND THE FARMERS

Contrasted with the unusual requirements of our allies for food, the extraordinary needs of our armed forces, and our necessities, is the prospect of a small crop yield for the current season. The Department of Agriculture, in its annual survey, estimates a total production of our food staples less than that of any year since the beginning of the European War. For war purposes it matters not how little or how much these smaller crops exceed in value these of previous years. Armies and nations are fed with food, not with money; it is the physical material itself which must be produced in adequate amount, be its price high or low.

To combat this dangerous situation, no thorough-going remedy has yet been put in operation. Food-saving campaigns to reduce consumption are not to be decried. But a community more actively engaged than ever before can not indefinitely reduce its diet without a loss in efficiency. Backyard gardens supply part of the demand for supplementary foods, but they do not relieve the crying need for staples. Appeals to the actual farmers only create irritation, since, with the labor and equipment available, they have always produced to the limit of their capacity in times of peace as in time of war.

Yet these actual farmers are only too willing to supply the nation's requirements if the proper assistance is given them. All farmers need more labor than they can now secure, and many need additional equipment. To supply the latter the Government should, directly or through the manufacturers, give the farmers credit to buy the labor-saving machinery they need. To fill the first want, women and men engaged in non-essential industries must be induced to undertake farm labor from patriotic motives or by virtual conscription. The failure of the campaign for voluntary aid last summer suggests the latter alternative. It should raise no more opposition than conscription to fill the armies.

Finally, action to be effective must be immediate. Farmers will not plant this spring the crops we need unless they are first given definite assurance of the men and machinery to harvest them.