Published: Jan 1948
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The subject which I have been assigned suggests two distinct but closely related markets—the tractor market and the petroleum market emanating from agricultural mechanization. The tractor market being fundamental to the other must receive first consideration. Unfortunately, this necessarily involves considerable statistical data, but I promise to be very sparing in the use of fractions, if that is any encouragement. During the past quarter-century, the number of tractors on American farms has increased ten-fold—from slightly less than a quarter of a million in 1920 to almost 2 1/2 million in 1945, the year of the latest agricultural census. The greatest gain for any comparable period was a 54 per cent increase from 1940 to 1945. Production and sales since 1945 have been at high levels, and the number of tractors today is estimated as at least 2 3/4 million. If the manufacturing bottlenecks of manpower and material shortages could be eliminated it is generally believed that the number could be increased speedily to 3 million or more, notwithstanding that at least 400,000 of the present number are in need of replacement. The present status of farm mechanization adds up about as follows: American agriculture has a total area of approximately 1.1 billion acres, according to the 1945 data of the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Of this area about 350 million acres, slightly less than one-third the total, is producing crops for harvest and provides the base for most tractor operations. The total farm area is divided into less than 6 million individual farm units, of which only slightly more than 2 million have tractors. Only about one of each 20 farms has more than a single tractor, and only one of each 12 mechanized farms has more than one. From these data, it would seem that the optimum mechanization is several years removed.
Everett, H. E.
Editor and Vice President, Implement & Tractor, Kansas City, Mo.