Agriculture in the Soviet Union
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Politics and government of
the Soviet Union
Agriculture in the Soviet Union was organized into a system of state and collective farms, known as sovkhozes and kolkhozes, respectively. Organized on a large scale and relatively highly mechanized, the Soviet Union was one of the world's leading producers of cereals, although bad harvests (as in 1972 and 1975) necessitated imports and slowed the economy. The 1976-1980 five-year plan shifted resources to agriculture, and 1978 saw a record harvest. Cotton, sugar beets, potatoes, and flax were also major crops.
However, despite immense land resources, extensive machinery and chemical industries, and a large rural work force, Soviet agriculture was relatively unproductive. Output was hampered in many areas by the climate (only 10% of the Soviet Union's land was arable) and poor worker productivity. Conditions were best in the temperate black earth belt stretching from Ukraine through southern Russia into the west, spanning the extreme southern portions of Siberia.
After a grain crisis during 1928, Joseph Stalin established the USSR's system of state and collective farms when he moved to replace the New Economic Policy (NEP) with collective farming, which grouped peasants into collective farms (kolkhozy) and state farms (sovkhozy).
Agricultural labour 
Stalin's campaign of forced collectivization was a major factor explaining the sector's poor performance. Collectivization relied on a system of internal passports to keep farmers tied to the land. This has been referred to as a form of "neo-serfdom", in which the Communist bureaucracy replaced the former landowners. In the new state and collective farms, outside directives failed to take local growing conditions into account, and peasants were often required to supply much of their produce for nominal payment.
Also, interference in the day-to-day affairs of peasant life often bred resentment and worker alienation across the countryside. The human toll was very large, with millions, perhaps as many as 5.3 million, dying from famine due largely to collectivisation, and much livestock was slaughtered by the peasants for their own consumption. In the collective and state farms, low labor productivity was a consequence for the entire Soviet period.
The sovkhozy tended to emphasize larger scale production than the kolkhozy and had the ability to specialize in certain crops. The government tended to supply them with better machinery and fertilizers. Labor productivity (and in turn incomes) tended to be greater on the sovkhozy. Workers in state farms received wages and social benefits, whereas those on the collective farms tended to receive a portion of the net income of their farm, based, in part, on the success of the harvest and their individual contribution.
Although accounting for a small share of cultivated area, private plots produced a substantial share of the country's meat, milk, eggs, and vegetables.Although never more than 4% of the arable land in the USSR, private plots consistently produced roughly a quarter to a third of agricultural produce. Private plots were among many attempts made to restructure Soviet farming. However, the weak worker incentives and managerial autonomy, which were the crux of the problem, were not addressed.
The private plots were also an important source of income for rural households. In 1977, families of kolkhoz members obtained 72% of their meat, 76% of their eggs and most of their potatoes and eggs from private holdings. Surplus products, as well as surplus livestock, were sold to kolkhozy and sovkhozy and also to state consumer cooperatives. Statistics may actually under-represent the total contribution of private plots to Soviet agriculture. The only time when private plots were completely banned was during collectivization, when famine took millions of lives.
Although the Soviet Union was the world's second leading agricultural producer and ranked first in the production of numerous commodities, agriculture was a net drain on the economy.
Inefficiency of collective farming 
Alexei Kosygin, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, wanted to reorganize Soviet agriculture instead of increasing investments. He claimed that the main reason for inefficiency in the sector could be blamed on the sector's infrastructure.
The theory behind collectivization was that it would replace the small-scale unmechanized and inefficient farms that were then commonplace in the Soviet Union with large-scale mechanized farms that would produce food far more efficiently. Lenin saw private farming as a source of capitalist mentalities and hoped to replace farms with either sovkhozy which would make the farmers "proletarian" workers or kolkhozy which would at least be collective in nature. However, most observers say that despite isolated successes, collective farms and sovkhozes were inefficient, the agricultural sector being weak throughout the history of the Soviet Union. 
Hedrick Smith wrote in The Russians (1976) that, according to Soviet statistics, one fourth of the value of agricultural production in 1973 was produced on the private plots peasants were allowed (2% of the whole arable land). In the 1980s, 3% of the land was in private plots which produced more than a quarter of the total agricultural output, i.e., over ten times more per area than the rest which was in common ownership. Soviet figures claimed that the productivity of a Soviet farmer was 20–25% of that of a U.S. farmer in the 1980s.
This was despite the fact that the Soviet Union had invested enormously to agriculture. Production costs were very high, the Soviet Union had to import food, and it had widespread food shortages even though the country had a big share of the best agricultural soil in the world and a high land/population ratio.
The claims of inefficiency have, however, been criticized by Economist Joseph E. Medley of the University of Southern Maine, US. Statistics based on value rather than volume of production may give one view of reality, as public-sector food was heavily subsidized and sold at much lower prices than private-sector produce. In addition, the 2–3% of arable land allotted as private plots does not include the large area allocated to the peasants as pasturage for their private livestock; combined with land used to produce grain for fodder, the pasturage and the private plots total almost 20% of all Soviet farmland. Private farming may also be relatively inefficient, taking roughly 40% of all agricultural labor to produce only 26% of all output by value. Another problem is these criticisms tend to discuss only a small number of consumer products and do not take into account the fact that the kolkhozy and sovkhozy produced mainly grain, cotton, flax, forage, seed, and other non-consumer goods with a relatively low value per unit area. This economist admits to some inefficiency in Soviet agriculture, but claims that the failure reported by most Western experts was a myth. He believes the above criticisms to be ideological in nature and emphasizes "[t]he possibility that socialized agriculture may be able to make valuable contributions to improving human welfare".
In popular culture 
See also 
- Fainsod, Merle (1970). How Russia is Ruled (revised ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. p. 570.
- Hubbard, Leonard E. (1939). The Economics of Soviet Agriculture. Macmillan and Co. pp. 117–18.
- Rutland, Peter (1985). The Myth of the Plan: Lessons of the Soviet Planning Experience. Essex: Open Court Publishing Co. p. 110.
- Nove, Alec (1966). The Soviet Economy: An Introduction. New York: Praeger. pp. 116–8.
- Gregory, Paul R.; Stuart, Robert C. (1990). Soviet Economic Structure and Performance. New York: Harper Collins. pp. 294–5 and 114.
- Zaslavskaya, Tatyana (August 1990). The Second Socialist Revolution (survey by a Soviet sociologist written in the late 1980s which advocated restructuring of the economy). Indiana University Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-253-20614-6.
- Zaslavskaya (1990), p. 22-23, 39, 54-56, 58-59, 68, 71-72, 87, 115, 166-168, 192.
- Smith, Hedrick (1976). The Russians. Crown. p. 201. ISBN 0-8129-0521-0.
- "Soviet Union - Policy and administration". Nations Encyclopedia (taustanaan USA:n kongressin kirjaston tutkimusaineisto). May 1989.
- Ellman, Michael (11 June 1988). "Soviet Agricultural Policy". Economic & Political Weekly (JSTOR).
- "Soviet Agriculture: A Critique of the Myths Constructed by Western Critics". Archived from the original on 14 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-22.