Courtesy Reuters

Soviet Agriculture Marks Time

Nine years ago, Khrushchev addressed the first "agricultural" plenum of the Central Committee since Stalin's death. His frank exposure of the poor state of Soviet agriculture was followed by action along a wide front. Prices paid by the state for farm produce were substantially raised, investments in agriculture increased, peasant incomes showed a much needed and rapid rise from very low levels. Tax and other burdens on the private activities of peasants were eased, to the benefit of all concerned; for example, in five years the number of privately owned cows increased 25 percent. In 1958 a major organizational weakness was corrected: Tractors and other machinery formerly owned and operated by the Machine Tractor Stations (M.T.S.) were sold to the collective farms which the M.T.S. had previously "serviced" (and also supervised). In 1958, too, the government dropped its complex multiple-price system, under which farms received a low price for a quota of produce and a higher one for deliveries in excess of their quota; this was replaced by a single price for each product, with zonal variations.

The period 1953-58, then, was one of reform, of higher incomes, of large investments, of new methods. It was also one of higher production. The 1958 grain harvest set an all-time record. Sugar beets and cotton also did very well. Milk yields benefited from the improved diet of the cows. According to the official statistics, the annual rate of growth of gross agricultural output in the five years 1953-58 was 8.6 percent. This would be a remarkable achievement, if the statistics were reliable, but there are ample grounds for suspecting some degree of exaggeration. Even so, no serious observer doubts that a substantial advance was recorded in these years.

No doubt inspired by the figures with which they were supplied, Khrushchev and his colleagues projected an even more rapid growth of agricultural output in the Seven Year Plan (1959-65), and onward through 1970. Extremely ambitious plans were envisaged for meat production, in particular, and for other

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