Major developments in agriculture

After ten years of costly and disappointing efforts to boost grain production through the development of the USSR's vast "virgin land" areas, Soviet agricultural planners turned to the concept of "intensive cultivation". As a result, things did get better between 1965 and 1975. Soviet grain harvests increased by 40 percent and agricultural labor productivity rose by 58 percent. Agricultural production per capita grew by 25 percent (Narodnoe khozyastvo SSSR, 1982). Importantly, this growth in grain production was achieved due to progress in productivity. Not

Table 8.1. Changes in crop areas in some economic regions of the Russian Federation, 1965-1970 (thousands of hectares)

Region Total crop Change Cereal crop Change Fodder crop Change area % area % area %

Table 8.1. Changes in crop areas in some economic regions of the Russian Federation, 1965-1970 (thousands of hectares)

Region Total crop Change Cereal crop Change Fodder crop Change area % area % area %

1965

1970

1965

1970

1965

1970

RSFSR

123,945

121,912

-2

77,594

72,689

-6

33,554

37,427

+12

Northwest

2,843

2,904

+2

957

934

-2

1,339

1,506

+12

Central

13,902

13,732

-1

7,087

6,690

-6

4,631

5,093

+10

Volga-Vyatka

6,577

6,542

0

4,315

3,916

-9

1,489

1,958

+31

Central Black Earth

10,992

10,964

0

6,022

5,685

-6

2,937

3,422

+17

Volga

27,858

27,697

0

19,149

18,223

-5

6,564

7,394

+13

North Caucasus

16,157

15,698

-3

9,066

8,473

-7

4,913

5,194

+6

Urals

16,165

15,878

-2

11,400

10,718

-6

4,011

4,478

+12

Western Siberia

18,938

17,757

-6

13,349

11,786

-12

4,740

5,201

+25

Eastern Siberia

7,623

7,629

0

5,031

4,969

-1

2,297

2,405

+5

Far East

2,492

2,713

+9

1,042

1,148

+10

432

551

+28

Source: Narodnoe khozyastvo v RSFSR v 1987, 1988.

Source: Narodnoe khozyastvo v RSFSR v 1987, 1988.

only did the total crop area not change, it even decreased in some parts of the country (Table 8.1.).

The new agricultural policy was adopted after a week-long session of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee in 1964. The plenum continued to play down the importance of the virgin lands experiment and called instead for maximum use of existing farmlands. The committee's official resolution declared: "We must solve the task of ensuring that the country's demands for grain and other products are met through a sharp increase in harvest yields and the intensification of agricultural production in every way possible." The plenum announced a target to transform agriculture from an inefficient, labor-intensive, mainly crop-producing sector to one which is efficient, capital-intensive, and multi-product, thereby reducing the instability of year-to-year production and providing reliable supplies of major farm products. In the livestock sector, the plenum suggested the transformation of Soviet livestock breeding into a highly industrialized and specialized branch.

The next plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU (in March 1965) confirmed the new course and adopted the resolution "On urgent measures for the development of agriculture", which called for the comprehensive intensification of Soviet agriculture. It was declared that the main emphasis should be on creating stable economic conditions in order to stimulate incentives for farmers. Fixed (for several years) plan targets for farm grain deliveries were promised. The resolution proposed the introduction of a bonus system for deliveries of agricultural products over the plan figures, as well as other stimuli.

The period between 1965 and 1975 is characterized by the unprecedented scale of financial support for Soviet agriculture. In the eighth five-year period (1966-1970) 82.2 billion rubles (105.4 billion dollars) were allocated, and in the ninth five-year period (1971-1975) the figure rose to 131.8 billion rubles (168.9 billion dollars). By way of comparison, during the seven-year plan period, 1959-1965, investment stood at 48.6 billion rubles (or 2.7 times lower). The proportion of agricultural investment in terms of overall state capital investment rose from 19.6 percent in the 1960 to 1965 period, to 23 percent between 1965 and 1970, and to 26 percent between 1970 and 1975. During this period the USSR invested the equivalent of two-thirds of all the money invested in agriculture prior to 1965 (Golikov, 1975).

The resources allocated to Soviet agriculture were massive even in comparison with Western countries. Parker (1972) notes that Soviet expenditure on agriculture expanded much more rapidly than the American, especially when allowance is made for monetary inflation in the USA. According to his data, in relation to total national investment, spending on agriculture in the USSR amounts to about 18 percent of the whole budget against a mere 5 percent in the USA (148). "There can be little doubt that Soviet agriculture is the most expensive in the world", the author claims. Indeed, if the official dollar exchange rate (in the late 1960s one ruble cost about 1.27 dollars at official rates) is used, Soviet agriculture was even more heavily subsidized than American (Table 8.2.).

In the new agricultural policy of the USSR, major emphasis was given to fertilizer application. It is worth mentioning that it was Khrushchev who initiated the wide application of chemical fertilizers in the USSR. At the Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU in December 1963, following the wave of crop failures that year, Khrushchev proposed a grandiose program for the production of mineral fertilizers, herbicides, and other chemicals needed to increase agricultural production.

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