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Productivity in Soviet Agriculture

  • Elizabeth Clayton

The slowdown of growth in the Soviet economy has renewed interest in the agricultural productivity of the Soviet Union. The failure of agriculture to grow at the pace of industry has hampered overall expansion, and domestic crop failure has induced grain purchases abroad. The bottlenecks to Soviet agricultural growth and development are diverse. On the one hand, they may be inevitable, for the resource endowment of the Soviet Union, where the range of temperature is great and the level of precipitation is unpredictable, does not favor agriculture. On the other hand, they may be systemic, for Soviet agriculture has been criticized for weak labor incentives, stifling bureaucratic controls, and overly large farms.

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1. A lively review of these criticisms, along with a thoughtful analysis, is found in Frank A. Durgin, Jr., “The Inefficiency of Soviet Agriculture versus the Efficiency of U.S. Agriculture: Reality or an Idol of the Mind?,” ACES Bulletin, 20, no. 3-4 (Fall-Winter 1978): 1-36.

2. L. I., Brezhnev, “O neotlozhnykh merakh po dal'neishemu razvitiiu sel'skokhoziaistva SSSR,” Doklad na Plenume, TsK, KPSS, March 24, 1975, p. S.

3. The annual capital investment in agriculture grew from seven billion rubles in 1960 (forty-nine billion rubles in the Seventh Five-Year Plan, 1961-65) to thirty-one billion rubles in 1975 (one hundred thirty-two billion rubles in the Ninth Five-Year Plan, 1971-75) (see Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR v 1975 g. [Moscow, 1976], pp. 510-11; and Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR v 1970 g. [Moscow, 1971], p. 510).

4. For example, between 1965 and 1970, agricultural output increased by 23 percent, while automotive transport services for agriculture (measured in billions of ton-kilometers) increased by 65 percent (see Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR v 1975 g., p. 316, and Sel'skoe khoziaistvo SSSR, 1971 [Moscow, 1971], p. 221). Between 1965 and 1975, production of grain increased by 16 percent and government procurements by 38 percent, while grain shipments increased by 38 percent in rail shipments and 23 percent in water shipments, including riverboats, all measured in tons (see Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR v 1975 ?., pp. 373, 360, 316, 460, 464, 467).

5. Yujiro Hayami and Vernon Ruttan, “Agricultural Productivity Differences Among Countries,” American Economic Review, 60, no. 5 (December 1970): 895-911. A more complete work is Hayami, Yujiro and Ruttan, Vernon, Agricultural Development: An International Perspective (Baltimore, 1971).

6. Earl R. Swanson, “Productivity in U.S. Agriculture,” Centro Studi e Richerchi su problemi economico-sociali (CESES), Milan, 1975.

7. This sequence is shown in detail by Folke Dovring, “The Share of Agriculture in a Growing Population,” Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Economic Statistics of the FAO, August-September 1959, pp. 1-11.

8. Ruttan, Hayami and, Agricultural Development, p. 74 .

9. The major differences between the data sets are: (1) Soviet output is measured in 1965 ruble prices, while the output of other countries is measured in a geometric-average wheat-equivalent price index; (2) Soviet land is measured in thousands of hectares of sown area, while the land of other countries is measured in thousands of hectares of agricultural land; (3) Soviet labor includes both male and female labor, while the labor of other countries includes only male labor.

10. See Elizabeth, Clayton, “Regional Self-Sufficiency in the Soviet Union,” in Soviet Regional Development: Trends and Prospects (Newton Mass.: Oriental. Research. Partners, 1979, p. 81–92 .

11. Bruce F. Johnson and Peter Kilby, Agriculture and Structural Transformation: Economic Strategies in Late-developing Countries (New York, 1975), chapter 4.

12. Wadekin, Karl-Eugen, The Private Sector in Soviet Agriculture (Berkeley, 1973), pp. 209–32 .

13. Narodnoe khosiaistvo SSSR v 1975 g., pp. 320-23, calculations by the author.

14. Narodnoe khoziaistvo SSSR v 1975 g., p. 617.

15. Iakimov, V. N., Tekhnicheskii progress i vosproizvodstvo rabochei sily v kolkhosakh (Moscow, 1976), p. 90 .

16. Total labor force: data described in Appendix; specialists from Narodnoe kkoziaistvo SSSR v 1975 g., pp. 442-43. The number of specialists given in Narodnoe khoziaistvo is considerably higher than those shown in table 4, indicating that many specialists are employed not on farms but in other agricultural enterprises.

17. Zhores, Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lyscnko (New York, 1971).

18. Morozov, V. A., Trudoden', den'gi, i torgovlia na sele (Moscow, 1965).

19. The Cobb-Douglas production function with logarithmic variables is: Yr t = a0 + Σbi.Xi.rt, + ert i = 1 5 r = 1, … 15 t = l, … 4 where Yrt is the output of the rth region at time t; Xi r t is the ith input of the rth region at time t; ert is the error term. Further discussion of the strengths and limits of the Cobb-Douglas production function may be found in Pan A. Yotopoulos and Jeffrey B. Nugent, Economics of Development: Empirical Investigations (New York, 1976), chapters 46 .

20. Elizabeth Clayton, “The Evaluation of Publicly Owned Agricultural Land,” working paper, Center for International Studies, University of Missouri, St. Louis.

21. Stephen, Rapawy, Estimates and Projections of the Labor Force and Civilian Employment in the U.S.S.R., 1950 to 1990 (Washington, D.C., 1976), p. 41.

22. A. K., Gozulov and G. C., Merzhanov, Statistika sel'skogo khoziaistva (Moscow, 1975), p. 206 .

23. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture in the United States and the Soviet Union (Washington, D.C., 1973), pp. 10-12.

24. The education variable is defined as the number of specialists in agriculture who had diplomas or certificates, without regard to employment obligations. The series is a biennial census; the between-year data set was extrapolated by a geometric average. In general, multicollinearity is a significant problem when the correlation coefficient exceeds 0.8; this standard was exceeded between education and all the other variables. A standard of 0.9 was exceeded when education was correlated with manufactured inputs.

25. Peter Timmer, “On Measuring Technical Efficiency,” Food Research Institute Studies, 9, no. 2 (1970): 99-171; Zvi Griliches, “The Sources of Measured Productivity Growth: U.S. Agriculture 1940-60,” Journal of Political Economy, 71, no. 3 (August 1963): 331-46; Hayami and Ruttan, “Agricultural Productivity Differences,” p. 901; Yotopoulos and Nugent, Economics of Development, pp. 79-80. This effect is sometimes termed “management bias.”

26. This variable estimates the capacity of capital equipment, rather than its actual usage. It assumes that the usage is a constant share of capacity across both regions and time periods.

27. D. Gale Johnson, “Agricultural Production,” in A. Bergson and S. Kuznets, eds., Economic Trends in the Soviet Union (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), cited in Eberhard Schinke, “Soviet Agricultural Statistics,” in V. Treml and J. Hardt, eds., Soviet Economic Statistics (Durham, N.C., 1972), p. 249.

28. When an index of Soviet gross output is compared to those calculated by David Carey, the differences are (1965 = 100): 1960 1965 1970 1975 Soviet Carey (gross output) Carey (net output) 89 84 86 100 100 100 123 124 124 126 124 121 (see David W. Carey, “Soviet Agriculture: Recent Performance and Future Plans,” in John, Hardt, ed., Soviet Economy in a New Perspective [Washington, D.C., 1976], pp. 575— 99). The Soviet index uses 1965 prices while the Carey indexes use 1970 prices.

29. See note 19.

30. Yotopoulos and Nugent, Economics of Development, pp. 48-50; Hayami and Ruttan, “Agricultural Productivity Differences,” pp. 908-10.

31. Hayami and Ruttan have defined a relationship known as a metaproduction function, which encompasses the full range of technological alternatives (see Ruttan, Hayami and, Agricultural Development, pp. 82–85). This relation allows a large degree of substitutability between factors over a long period of time and is the envelope of shorter-term production functions that permit less substitution.

32. For example, the coefficients indicate that a 4 percent increase in livestock inventories would have the same effect on total value of output as a 1 percent increase in sown land. A full economic analysis would consider both the costs of alternative investments in land and livestock and the increment to value of output. I am indebted to a referee for this valuable caveat.

33. David Schoonover, “Soviet Agricultural Trade and the Feed-Livestock Economy,” in Hardt, , Soviet Economy in a New Perspective, pp. 813–21.

34. Stepanov, N, “Selu—spetsializirovannye kadry,” Ekonomika sel'skogo khoziaistva, 1977, no. 4, p. 64 ; Kuprienko, L. P., Vliianie urovnia shisni na raspredelenie trudovykh resursov (Moscow, 1976), p. 63 . Stuart and Gregory express doubt about the statistical verifiability of these findings (see Robert, C. Stuart and Paul, R. Gregory, “A Model of Soviet Rural-Urban Migration,” Economic Development and Cultural Change, 20, no. 1 [October 1979]: 92).

35. Michael Bradley and M. Gardner Clark, “Supervision and Efficiency in Socialized Agriculture,” Soviet Studies, 23, no. 3 (January 1972): 46573 .

36. Durgin, “Inefficiency of Soviet Agriculture,” pp. 25-28.

37. See Timmer, “On Measuring Technical Efficiency,” pp. 99-171; Griliches, “The Sources of Measured Productivity Growth,” pp. 331-46; Hayami and Ruttan, “Agricultural Productivity Differences,” p. 901; Yotopoulos and Nugent, Economics of Development, pp. 79-80.

38. Stuart, Robert C., The Collective Farm in Soviet Agriculture (Lexington, Ky., 1972), pp. 17786 .

The research for this article was done under a grant from the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies of The Wilson Center. David Granick, Vernon Ruttan, and two referees (Robert C. Stuart and Kenneth Gray) improved an earlier draft and have my gratitude. Leslie Sternberg assisted capably with the calculations. Any remaining errors are, of course, mine.

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Slavic Review
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