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transportation, agricultural techonologies, farm production, farmland


The rural transportation system consists of a combination of modern, heavy farm machinery, trucks, and personal vehicles driven over earth, gravel and bituminous roads. These roads were often originally designed for use by horse and wagon. The evolution of transportation and agricultural technologies has changed the demands upon the road system and caused this mismatch between original road design and modern vehicles and equipment. Increased farm production and decreased farm numbers are reflected in fewer rural residents who make more trips and carry heavier loads. While the decline in the number of rural residents implies that fewer miles of rural roads might be needed, it remains true that the same amount of land is being used for agricultural production and the productivity of the land has increased. Therefore, it remains necessary that the rural road system continues to be extensive enough to provide access to all agricultural areas. Transportation remains a vital link for agriculture and changes in the local farm to market road network can significantly affect farm costs. The income of South Dakota farmers is generally a residual after all costs, including transportation costs, have been deducted from prices received. These prices are determined in national and international markets and do not respond to regional differences in costs of agricultural transportation. Therefore, South Dakota farm income is directly affected by transportation and the costs and benefits of the local rural road network. To remain competitive in agricultural markets, South Dakota agriculture must be as efficient as possible. This requires that the rural transportation system be efficient. The characteristics and financing of this network are described in this paper as an introduction to studies of the required extent of the network in the late 20th century. A subsequent report describes studies of some local rural road systems, methods of evaluating the efficient extent of those systems, and outlines of their net costs.


Economics Research Report No. 91-10