I read with interest the article by David R. Francis, "Advances in Soviet Agriculture, (JofC, Oct. 17) and although I cannot disagree with the authorities that Mr. Francis quotes, I feel that they have, nevertheless, ignored a very significant factor in Soviet agriculture, and that is the Soviet's economic system and the manner in which the Soviet farms are structured.
Robert Koopman - with whom I could, incidentally, more readily agree - did indicate some consolidation of the Soviet ministries of agriculture and those that are involved in agriculture, but he has not indicated that the basic problem in Soviet agriculture is in the lack of real incentives to the farmers nor is there any indication of the individuals on any of the farms on whom the responsibility for agricultural production is fixed.The Soviets have apparently taken pains to assure that there will be no unemployment problems, and the number of families living on a large farm or cooperative is unbelievable to an U.S. farmer, who could work the same acreage with far fewer workers - something like 1,400 people on the Soviet farm, compared to about seven or eight on the U.S. farm of approximately the same acreage! Without any ability or right to own either the farm inputs, such as land, machinery, etc., the farmer has little incentive to continue to produce for the farm, saving his strength and his dedication to his own half-acre of land, provided him for his own use. These plots constitute about 2 percent of the total available land in the Soviet Union, yet they produced about 36 percent of the total produce that was marketed to urban consumers, since the farmer may market his own production.
Eastern Europe has a much more modified agricultural system, which differs
from country to country. Most of the East Europeans have greater freedom to farm than the Soviet farmers. This would explain why the improved agricultural technology of which Sir John Harvey-Jones spoke would produce results in Eastern Europe, whereas, I would venture to say, will not produce similar results in Soviet agriculture. The Soviets have so far apparently felt neither need nor the desire to free their agricultural system, and they obviously hesitate to institute this chink in their socialistic armor. Until they do, however, their agriculture will continueto be inadequate.
I might add also the fact that the Soviets have actually never been able to produce on their land the quantities of food that one might have assumed, judging by their earlier grain exports to Western Europe. Countless numbers of Soviet peasants starved to death when the Czarist state forced them to export grain to Western Europe at the turn of the century. The Soviet people have, furthermore, never had the availability of food to which the capitalistic world has free access, and the Soviets were able to export grain, therefore, at the expense of their own people. Now forced to provide livestock products to their population the Soviets need grain to feed the livestock and find they have a serious grain deficiency. They should continue to have such a deficiency unless they are willing to change their system adequately so that their farms can produce their needs. This would mean relocation of vast numbers of Soviets living on farms and some modification to permit ownership or, at the very least, some means of making farm workers responsible for the production and, individually rewarding properly those who do their work well.
As it is, Soviet agriculture is really more like a rural Civil Service System than the sort of food production system the U.S.S.R. needs.
Joseph Halow Executive Director North American Export Grain Association Inc. Washington