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It has been testified that New York's annual food supply costs, at the railroad and steamer terminals, $350,000,000. But the consumers pay $500,000,000 for it. The balance of $150,000,000 does not necessarily indicate that any particular section of middle-men have been exacting excessive profits. It merely demonstrates that too many people handle the produce between the farm and the fireside. The provision of an adequate Terminal Market system for New York would apply the remedy.
New York stands alone, for a city of its importance, in having to face an annual deficit on its markets. The results elsewhere prove that the deficit could be turned into a profit by the creation of a Terminal Market system, equipped and administered on twentieth century lines.
America is exporting less foodstuffs than formerly. The annual value has fallen $126,000,000 in eleven years. The growth of the manufacturing population and the relative decrease of the agricultural population, together with the gradual impoverishment of much of our farm land, will soon make conditions worse unless we organize our food distribution.
The first step for New York is the establishment of a Terminal Market system. It is estimated that New York's population will continue to grow at the rate of fully 100,000 a year, so this problem admits of no further procrastination.
In natural resources America is the richest country in the world. Other nations have to import vast quant.i.ties of produce because of the restricted area of their territory, the comparative unfruitfulness of their soil, or their adverse climatic conditions. We have a wide land of boundless fertility, never wholly in the grip of winter's cold. Yet we no more escape the high cost of living than these less favored peoples overseas. They have partially compensated for their disadvantages by organizing their markets, while we have neglected that important branch of civic enterprise.
Everywhere in Europe, the provision of adequate terminal markets under munic.i.p.al control is pointed to as a powerful aid in keeping food prices down. There is a lesson in that for New York and other American cities.
There is a lesson also for growers in up-state districts, for experience shows that with adequate markets, supplying produce at lower rates, there comes a demand for more farm and garden stuff and a greater variety of it. This directly aids in developing rural prosperity and enhances the value of agricultural land.
I believe a marked improvement will be shown if a bureau is maintained to inform farmers as to the demands of the market and the best method of packing, preparing and despatching their produce so as to reach the market in prime condition. Not only will that aid the market, but it will have a powerful influence in arresting "the drift from the land"
to the cities.
The munic.i.p.ality should select central positions for its markets, with rail and river access. It should have effective control not only over the markets but the adjacent streets, wharves, and railroad sidings, so as to obviate evasion of the market tolls. The rentals should not be high, and no sub-letting should be allowed under any circ.u.mstances.
Under such conditions, with wise administration, New York's Terminal Market system could be made a model that would be studied by other cities in an age when economic questions absorb the attention of all our public-spirited men and women.
In the interests of the people's health and happiness, no less than in consideration of the munic.i.p.al finances, all should rally to the support of those who are seeking to secure the consummation of this urgent reform at the earliest possible moment consistent with a full consideration of all its aspects.
The Willett Press, New York