A History of American Agriculture

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1 A History of American Agriculture th-18th Centuries 17th century Small land grants commonly made to individual settlers; large tracts often granted to well-connected colonists 1619 First African slaves brought to Virginia; by 1700, slaves were displacing southern indentured servants 18th century English farmers settled in New England villages; Dutch, German, Swedish, Scotch-Irish, and English farmers settled on isolated Middle Colony farmsteads; English and some French farmers settled on plantations in tidewater and on isolated Southern Colony farmsteads in Piedmont; Spanish immigrants, mostly lower middle-class and indentured servants, settled the Southwest and California Continental Congress offered land grants for service in the Continental Army 1785, 1787 Ordinances of 1785 and 1787 provided for survey, sale, and government of northwestern lands Total population: 3,929,214 Farmers made up about 90% of labor force 1790 The U.S. area settled extended westward an average of 255 miles; parts of the frontier crossed the Appalachians Sparse immigration into the United States, mostly from the British Isles 1796 Public Land Act of 1796 authorized Federal land sales to the public in minimum 640-acre plots at $2 per acre of credit Total population: 5,308, Louisiana Purchase 1810 Total population: 7,239, Florida and other land acquired through treaty with Spain Total population: 9,638,453 Land Law of allowed purchasers to buy as little as 80 acres of public land for a minimum price of $1.25 an acre; credit system abolished Total population: 12,866, The Mississippi River formed the approximate frontier boundary Land speculation boom 1839 Anti-rent war in New York, a protest against the continued collection of quitrents Total population: 17,069,453 Farm population: 9,012,000 (estimated)

2 Farmers made up 69% of labor force 1841 Preemption Act gave squatters first rights to buy land The potato famine in Ireland and the German Revolution of 1848 greatly increased immigration Texas, Oregon, the Mexican cession, and the Gadsden Purchase were added to the Union 1849 Gold Rush Total population: 23,191,786 Farm population: 11,680,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 64% of labor force Number of farms: 1,449,000 Average acres: 's Successful farming on the prairies began 1850 With the California gold rush, the frontier bypassed the Great Plains and the Rockies and moved to the Pacific coast Free land was a vital rural issue Graduation Act reduced price of unsold public lands The miners' frontier moved eastward from California toward the westward-moving farmers' and ranchers frontier Total population: 31,443,321 Farm population: 15,141,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 58% of labor force Number of farms: 2,044,000 Average acres: Homestead Act granted 160 acres to settlers who had worked the land 5 years The sharecropping system in the South replaced the old slave plantation system Influx of Scandinavian immigrants Cattle boom accelerated settlement of Great Plains; range wars developed between farmers and ranchers Total population: 38,558,371 Farm population: 18,373,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 53% of labor force Number of farms: 2,660,000 Average acres: 153 Total population: 50,155,783 Farm population: 22,981,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 49% of labor force Number of farms: 4,009,000 Average acres: 's

3 Heavy agricultural settlement on the Great Plains began 1880 Most humid land already settled Most immigrants were from southeastern Europe Total population: 62,941,714 Farm population: 29,414,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 43% of labor force Number of farms: 4,565,000 Average acres: 136 Drought reduced settlement on the Great Plains 1890's Increases in land under cultivation and number of immigrants becoming farmers caused great rise in agricultural output 1890 Census showed that the frontier settlement era was over Total population: 75,994,266 Farm population: 29,414,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 38% of labor force Number of farms: 5,740,000 Average acres: Continued agricultural settlement on the Great Plains 1902 Reclamation Act Policy of reserving timberlands inaugurated on a large scale Total population: 91,972,266 Farm population: 32,077,00 (estimated) Farmers made up 31% of labor force Number of farms: 6,366,000 Average acres: Dryland farming boom on the Great Plains Immigration of agricultural workers from Mexico Total population: 105,710,620 Farm population: 31,614,269 (estimated) Farmers made up 27% of labor force Number of farms: 6,454,000 Average acres: Immigration Act greatly reduced number of new immigrants Total population: 122,775,046 Farm population: 30,455,350 (estimated) Stock Raising Homestead Act

4 Farmers made up 21% of labor force Number of farms: 6,295,000 Average acres: 157 Irrigated acres: 14,633, Drought and dust-bowl conditions developed Executive orders withdrew public lands from settlement, location, sale, or entry 1934 Taylor Grazing Act Total population: 131, Farm population: 30,840,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 18% of labor force Number of farms: 6,102,000 Average acres: 175 Irrigated acres: 17,942, 's Total population: 151,132,000 Farm population: 25,058,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 12.2% of labor force Number of farms: 5,388,000 Average acres: 216 Irrigated acres: 25,634,869 Many former southern sharecroppers migrated to war-related jobs in cities 1956 Legislation passed providing for Great Plains Conservation Program Total population: 180,007,000 Farm population: 15,635,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 8.3% of labor force Number of farms: 3,711,000 Average acres: 303 Irrigated acres: 33,829, 's State legislation increased to keep land in farming Wilderness Act 1965 Farmers made up 6.4% of labor force Total population: 204,335,000 Farm population: 9,712,000 (estimated) Farmers made up 4.6% of labor force Number of farms: 2,780,000 Average acres: , 1990 Total population: 227,020,000 and 246,081,000 Farm population: 6,051,00 and 4,591,000 Farmers made up 3.4% and 2.6% of labor force Number of farms: 2,439,510 and 2,143,150 Average acres: 426 and 461 Irrigated acres: 50,350,000 (1978) and 46,386,000 (1987)

5 1980's For the first time since the 19th century, foreigners (Europeans and Japanese primarily) began to purchase significant acreages of farmland and ranchland 1986 The Southeast's worst summer drought on record took a severe toll on many farmers 1987 Farmland values bottomed out after a 6-year decline, signalling both a turnaround in the farm economy and increased competition with other countries' exports 1988 Scientists warned that the possibility of global warming may affect the future viability of American farming 1988 One of the worst droughts in the Nation's history hit midwestern farmers

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