Publication Date


Pamphlet Number

Mimeograph Pamphlet No. 1

Document Type



Almost without exception county land-use planning committees have listed tenancy among the more important land-use problems in South Dakota. This concern is due to the increase in tenancy, to the growing obstacles in the way of those who wish to become land owners and to some extent to the existence of unsatisfactory relationships between landlord and tenant. Tenancy, however, is only one aspect of the much broader land tenure picture which includes all phases of the control and use of the land. To become a farm owner has long been considered a desirable and legitimate ambition of farm operators, or even of farm laborers. The family size, owner-operated farm has been regarded as the backbone of American agriculture. There can be little doubt that this tradition was a product, in part at least, of the Homestead era, when land was to be had at a low money cost, even if it did frequently require considerable human endurance and effort. At any rate, since the closing of the frontier, individual ownership of family farms has lost ground. The facts of the real world have more and more been at variance with what people have believed should be the situation in land ownership. Modern farming is a highly commercialized enterprise, requiring for success costly equipment, credit, and specialized marketing experience and techniques. The amount of capital required to operate a modern farm has increased to such an extent that it has become increasingly difficult for an individual to accumulate it. Furthermore, the highly commercialized nature of modern agriculture makes it dependent upon markets which may fluctuate widely. Falling farm prices, coupled with heavy debt payments contracted in the purchase of a farm may wipe out all of the farmer's equity in a few years. From a purely economic standpoint, therefore, it may be that the long accepted view that all farmers should own their farms needs to be amended; it is, in fact, being amended. The economic problem is concerned principally with effective use of resources. The problem is not how to make every farmer an owner, but how to promote a productive and stable agriculture. If it can be shown that in certain situations mortgaged ownership or tenancy offer better possibilities for coping with changing prices and markets, for having ready capital available to adopt new practices, then from the standpoint of full use of resources it may be best to have such tenure arrangements. A blanket statement that every farmer ought to own his own farm can no longer cover all cases. [Introduction pp 1-2]

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South Dakota State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts


Agricultural Economics | Rural Sociology