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A Comprehensive
Agricultural Program
For Puerto Rico

By Nathan Koenig

Upited States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D. C.

In Cooperation With

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

1953
U. S. Government Printing Office : 1953

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C. - Price $1,75 (paper)
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Introduction
This is a study of problems of people and their duce more, on a sustained basis, for the greater
land in an area where both people and land satisfaction and well-being of those who live on
long have been underemployed and also under- the island, obviously there is need for systematic
nourished. and positive action on a broad front. Agriculture
The place is Puerto Rico, where more than 2,- in Puerto Rico must move forward. It must be
000,000 people must live on less than 3,500 square encouraged to develop and improve along with
miles of mostly mountainous island. With this other parts of the economy to provide the neces-
population density of about 650 per square mile— sary balance and the fundamentally strong base
one of the highest in the world—it is not surpris- on which economic and social gains on the island
ing that much of the land of this Caribbean island must rest if they are to endure.
is in need of more care and attention and many of This study, then, deals with the problems of
its people are in need of more adequate diets. agriculture in Puerto Rico against the background
In recent years the people of Puerto Rico have of the people and their land. With a population
made real strides in improving their social and continuing its sharp increase beyond the 2,211,000
economic conditions. Extensive programs are shown by the 1950 census, this relatively small
under way to provide more adequate housing, im- island will remain one of the most densely popu-
prove education and health, and raise the general lated areas of the world. Since the days when
standard of living to a more satisfactory level. Puerto Rico was first settled by the Spanish col-
Emphasis is being placed on the expansion and onizers, the people have experienced a constant
development of business and industry to provide struggle which basically has centered around
more work opportunities for a steadily expanding getting enough to eat. The problems now under
population. All these measures are being pushed attack are thus deeply rooted in the events and
with vigor, and the results are becoming apparent actions of the past.
among the people and in the communities in which In an analysis of the Puerto Rican population
they live. structure, the study concludes that the present
Basically, however, Puerto Rico is an agricul- situation of the people is a measure of the adjust-
tural island and agriculture undoubtedly will con- ments still needed to achieve the goal of a decent
tinue as the backbone of the economy for a long standard of living. The problem must be attacked
time to come. Hence, it is on the farms that the where it is most acute—in the rural areas where
island's basic economic problems must be met and the general level of income and conditions of liv-
dealt with. ing are lowest, where essential facilities for edu-
Following generations of exploitative farm- cation and other social needs are sorely lacking,
ing—with production mainly for export—and the and where the birth rate is among the highest in
growing pressure of a rapidly increasing popula- the world. Emphasizing the need for narrowing
tion, the very limited natural resources have been the wide gap in economic and social well-being
drained further and further to the detriment of that now exists between the rural and urban areas
both the people and the land. The evidence of of the island, the study points out that this must
what has happened is reflected in the prevalence of be achieved, not by doing less in the towns and
eroded soils, denuded forest areas, sedimented cities but by doing more of consequence for and
rivers and reservoirs, reduced soil fertility, low in the country places.
crop yields, and an inadequately fed people. Reviewing the economic development of Puerto
If this condition is to be changed so that the Rico over a period of more than four centuries,
land resources can be improved and made to pro- the study shows widespread underemployment of

III
IV A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

both human and land resources. The fundamental The study shows that Puerto Rico has around
weakness of the economy is revealed in the fact 600,000 acres of land which, because of excessive
that both agricultural and industrial production slope, heavy rainfall, or shallow, infertile, or poor-
have had their focus primarily on the export ly drained soil, cannot be cultivated or pastured
market and continue to overlook the real possibili- continuously without soil deterioration or very
ties of the local market. This results in a heavy low yields, but which can produce trees as a perma-
reliance on imports of many kinds of farm and nent crop. More than one-half this acreage, how-
factory products which otherwise could be pro- ever, is bare of any protective tree cover while
duced economically in Puerto Rico. The study most of the land in tree crops such as timber, fuel
points out that if the economic base of the island wood, coffee, fruits, etc., is in such poor condition
is to be effectively broadened and strengthened, it that it contributes little to the economy. More
is essential that far more attention be given to than a century ago Puerto Rico reached a point
diversifying and increasing production for local where it was no longer self-sufficient in forest
needs to the full extent that it is economically products. As a result, at least 80 percent of the
feasible while at the same time maximizing eco- wood and wood products consumed locally are
nomic production for export. imported. The lack of forest cover has jeopardized
While agriculture, directly or indirectly, pro- agriculture in many parts of the island and con-
vides about 40 percent of Puerto Rico's total net tributed heavily to lowering soil permeability and
income, the mainstay of the economy is the grow- increasing surface runoff. The resulting erosion
ing of sugarcane and the production of sugar. has also speeded up the sedimentation of streams
More than two-fifths of the total cropland and and reservoirs needed for hydroelectric power, ir-
most of the best soils are planted to this single rigation, and for industrial and domestic water
crop from which is derived a little more than one- supply.
half the value of farm production. The study The study indicates that intensified efforts are
shows that the commercial uses of land in Puerto required to educate the general public, particu-
Rico have long been governed and influenced by larly landowners, to the need for proper use and
various factors, the most important of these being management of local forest land resources. The
(1) the availability of capital and credit, (2) the importance of improving the growing of coffee
existence of protected markets, (3) the availa- and the need for additional research on specific
bility of factories or processing plants, and (4) the cultural and management problems are empha-
existence of transportation and marketing facili- sized. Also suggested is a system of Government
ties. Throughout the history of the island nearly incentives to private landowners to encourage pro-
all these factors, at one time or another, favored tective and productive forestry on at least 175,000
the production of certain export crops such as to- acres of forest land. The study points out that
bacco or coffee, but always favored sugar. Government should acquire, improve, and manage
The study reveals that much land in Puerto as public forests those large blocks of critical for-
Rico is not being utilized to the best advantage. est lands the protection of which is of greater
There has been considerable misuse, neglect, and concern to the public as a whole than to individual
waste of the soil and water resources on which the landowners. It is proposed that not less than
economy must so heavily depend. Nearly one-half 101,000 acres of forest land included in 14 con-
the land area already has 75 percent or more of its centrations should be publicly acquired during the
topsoil removed by erosion. Besides the land it- next 10 years. After acquisition, this land could
self, water is the most valuable of the very scant provide permanent subsistence farms for about
natural resources on the island. The study points 1,250 families without hindrance to the objectives
out that the conservation of Puerto Rico's soil and of public forest multiple-use management.
water resources, for sustained productive use, is an One of the great and most promising potentials
undertaking of vital concern to the local people for increased agricultural production in Puerto
in all walks of life. A number of measures are Rico is revealed by the study to be in the improve-
suggested to encourage the improvement of farm- ment of grasslands to produce pasture and other
ing practices, halt erosion, raise soil fertility, and grass crops for livestock feeding. Altogether, the
protect watersheds. island has about 664,000 acres of land well suited
INTRODUCTION

for pasture and forage crops. The study shows The study shows that the proposed attainable
that the productivity of much of this grassland production pattern would yield enough food to
could be doubled and even tripled simply by the meet the requirements of a low-cost adequate diet
use of such pasture improvement practices as for a population of 3,000,000 and permit some re-
liming, fertilizing, reseeding, and the adoption of duction from the high volume of food imports re-
better grazing systems and more efficient manage- ceived for the island's 2,211,000 population in
ment of the improved grasses and legumes. This 1950-51. In that year the people of Puerto Rico
would permit a considerable expansion in livestock had available from local production and imports
production, especially in dairying, and thus pro- only 939 pounds of food per capita as against an
duce a far greater economic return than is now annual requirement of 1,344 pounds for a low-
being obtained from the same land. It is pro- cost adequate diet. About 45 percent of the food
posed that vigorous steps be undertaken to focus that was available in 1950-51 came from imports
the attention of farmers on the economic potential and the balance was locally produced. It is esti-
of their grasslands and to help them apply meas- mated that the proposed attainable production
ures to increase pasture and forage production pattern could be achieved with reasonable local ef-
and utilize effectively the total output for live- fort within a period of 10 to 15 years, provided
stock feeding. more adequate credit is available to farmers and
In a further analysis of Puerto Rico's agricul- necessary improvements are made in the system of
tural potentials, the study shows that with im- marketing and distributing agricultural products.
proved production techniques and some shifts in Once achieved, it would enable Puerto Rico to be-
land use the island could have a more diversified come much less dependent on food imports than
and highly productive agricultural industry. is now the case and at the same time would permit
Since the amount of land available for farming is export shipments of farm products, such as sugar,
definitely limited, the main hope for raising the pineapples, tobacco, and others, in the maximum
level of agricultural output lies in obtaining eco- amounts that could be absorbed by outside markets
nomically higher yields from each acre and from wath reasonable returns to Puerto Rican producers.
every unit of livestock. An attainable production In the field of agricultural credit, the study
pattern designed to make more effective use of shows that a long-standing lack of adequate financ-
farmland resources with no more than a reason- ing for almost any agricultural enterprise out-
able change in present farming methods is pro- side of sugarcane growing has kept farmers in
posed. The production of sugarcane, for exam- Puerto Rico from expanding existing farm opera-
ple, would be continued at the maximum permitted tions or engaging in new production. The annual
by the quota under the Sugar Act, but through need for production credit alone is estimated at
improvement of per-acre yields by means already between 90 to 100 million dollars. Of this, a total
at hand 25 percent less land would be so utilized. of around 44 million dollars is being supplied by
Under the production pattern as proposed, the established lending agencies such as private banks
farm value of agricultural output, computed on and governmental sources. While part of the 46-
the basis of 1950-51 prices, would be almost three- million-dollar difference is being handled by mer-
fourths greater than the farm value of the same chants and other such lenders, the study indicates
commodities actually produced in Puerto Rico that this total amount represents business that
in 1950-51. The farm value of livestock products, very well could be taken up by the regular credit
including milk, eggs, meat, and chickens, would agencies with profit to themselves and substantial
be raised by 145 percent while the value of crops savings to farmers. In addition to a reexamina-
exclusive of sugarcane would go up by 171 percent. tion of lending policies, the study suggests that
Such an attainable production pattern, it is indi- private banks in particular establish agricultural
cated, would enable Puerto Rico to cater to the credit departments staffed by personnel trained in
demand that exists or which could be developed agriculture and finance. The study also urges that
in the total market, both within and outside of serious consideration be given to organizing under
the island. It would provide more income for Federal law a second production credit associa-
more people and also more food for all the tion. It points out that the amount of sound agri-
population. cultural credit business already and potentially
VI A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

available on the island warrants better service ity recommended by an earlier study be con-
and more constructive competition in this lending structed in the San Juan area without delay since
field. To meet sound financing needs, especially existing facilities in this hub of marketing and
those of small farmers, the study stresses the im- distribution are wholly inadequate. Unless im-
portance of organizing credit cooperatives. An proved facilities are provided, there is little hope
amendment to the law governing the operations of for increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost
the Puerto Eico Bank for Cooperatives is sug- of food distribution on the island, or for attaining
gested in order to increase this agency's capital the market incentive that farmers need to produce
for the purpose of encouraging more agricultural more for local consumption. Private individuals
credit cooperatives under a system of adequate and groups should be stimulated to invest in im-
credit supervision for individual borrowers. Ex- provements or construction that will modernize
pansion in Puerto Rico's crop-insurance program and increase the efficiency of such enterprises as
with reinsurance under the Federal Crop In- retail food outlets, processing plants, slaughter-
surance Act is also urged as an important adjunct houses and packing plants, and provide other fa-
to necessary improvements in the island's agricul- cilities needed for properly utilizing agricultural
tural credit system. products and byproducts. Strengthening co-
Of paramount importance to the development operative organizations and developing new co-
of agriculture in Puerto Eico and increasing the operatives with able management to provide mar-
local food supply are the improvement of the keting and other services to farmers are listed as
marketing system and the establishment of ade- urgent needs. Among the necessary improve-
quate facilities for handling and utilizing farm ments in marketing practices and methods are es-
products. The study points out that, except in tablishing grading and packing standards for
the case of the island's sugar industry, the func- farm products, standardizing containers, extend-
tional aspects of marketing and the organization- ing market news, crop reporting and inspection
al structure needed to serve both producers and services, and improving communication and
consumers have received scant attention. A prop- transportation facilities. The study emphasizes
erly functioning marketing system should act like the importance of developing new and improved
a suction in drawing production off the farms into uses for Puerto Rican farm products and suggests
the various channels of use and consumption. By the establishment of an agricultural processing
giving full expression to the demand that exists pilot plant for such developmental work. In
for the various products in the different outlets, terms of specific commodities, a number of sug-
such a marketing system would provide the incen- gestions are made for improving the marketing of
tive for maximizing local production and afford milk, livestock and meat, sugarcane and sugar,
facilities for complete utilization and orderly dis- pineapples, and tobacco.
tribution of the total output. Instead, however, While industrial development in Puerto Eico is
the many shortcomings that prevail have had the being helped by various forms of tax incentives,
opposite effect. The limitations inherent in the the study points out that no such attention or
present marketing system have not only narrowed treatment has been accorded to agriculture. Tax
the opportunities for farmers but also deprived policy in Puerto Eico must recognize the island's
consumers of large quantities of food and other need for building up its agricultural plant and the
agricultural commodities which could be produced allied facilities and services required to process,
locally. The resulting lack of those incentives handle, and distribute the various products from
which a properly functioning marketing system the time they leave the farm until they reach the
could provide has prevented desirable diversifica- consumer. The tax policy in effect for so many
tion of agriculture in Puerto Eico and actually re- years has been of little help to the development
sulted in a level of production lower than that of a diversified agricultural industry on the island.
which is warranted by the available resources. The study suggests a number of changes in the
The study proposes a number of measures for present tax structure, including a system of in-
improving the marketing and utilization of farm come-tax credits, and tax exemptions to encourage
products and for increasing the efficiency of dis- investments in construction, improvements, or
tribution. It urges that the central market facil- installations for developing the production, proc-
INTRODUCTION VII

essing, or handling and distribution of agricul- stead of growing sugarcane alone. Otherwise, it
tural products. Also suggested is the removal or might be desirable to subdivide these farms for
modification of certain excise and other taxes disposal as family-type farms, On those propor-
which in one way or another have the effect of tional-profit farms which are profitable producers
restricting production, slowing down or limiting of sugarcane, the Land Authority should be able
distribution, or retarding consumption of Puerto to concentrate on further improving the produc-
Rican agricultural products. tion of this crop and at the same time move to
In an analysis of the pattern of land tenure in diversify their agricultural operations so as to
Puerto Rico, the study stresses the need for mov- lead the way for other large farm operators.
ing forward with a land policy that will improve Pointing out that there is no particular virtue in
both the distribution and utilization of the land. a governmental agency farming land if the same
Although congressional and local legislative en- results can be achieved through private initiative,
actments have prescribed a land policy for the the study indicates that the long-run objective
island, additional decisions are needed. The study should be for the Land Authority to get out of its
points out that the long-run approach to the land present role of being in control of substantial
problem should concern itself more with the need acreages of agricultural lands. One of the first
for expanding production on a broad front rather aims should be to give more impetus to the family-
than with attempting to cater primarily to any im- type farm. But this need not preclude the possi-
mediate employment situation. It suggests that bility of opening for farm families an oppor-
the family-type farm, of a size adequate for the tunity for land ownership and operation through
productive use to which it is to be put, deserves the medium of cooperative action. In fact, the
special consideration in the development of agri- desirability of such a course might well be deter-
culture in Puerto Kico. To the extent that family- mined by converting one of the proportional-
type farms are found to be desirable as a means of profit farms into a bona fide cooperative enter-
maximizing and diversifying production and im- prise that would be owned and controlled by the
proving rural living, they should be encouraged to members themselves who also would work on the
the fullest degree possible. farm. The study emphasizes that whatever is
Since a great deal of land in Puerto Rico is still done to improve land tenure, agricultural prog-
concentrated in the hands of a relatively few ress must depend primarily on the farm family
owners, the study urges that the program of and its sense of pride in farm ownership and
divesting corporations of land holdings that are accomplishment on the land.
in violation of the 500-acre limitation be carried The total of what is suggested by this study con-
to completion by the Land Authority. In addi- stitutes a comprehensive agricultural program
tion, other large holdings should be acquired that charts a course of action in the many prob-
whenever it is possible in order to improve the lem areas but leaves to those who would be re-
utilization and distribution of such land. All sponsible for its execution freedom for the ex-
such land should be made available to promote ercise of initiative and the flexibility needed for
more widespread individual ownership of eco- determining in detail how it shall be carried out.
nomic farming units. The study suggests the To achieve the desired aims will require full and
need for a thorough examination of the operations effective cooperation from all participants and
of all the Land Authority's proportional-profit proper coordination and integration of all the
farms which have operated at a loss producing measures and efforts to be employed. The success
sugarcane. The contribution of these farms to of such a program can only be measured, of
the economy of the island probably could be in- course, by what is actually accomplished on the
creased by emphasizing diversified production in- land and among the people themselves.
Acknowledgments
The work of many people went into this study. and Mechanic Arts, University of Puerto Rico;
Without their generous assistance and cooperation Frank H. Wadsworth, Forest Service, United
this publication would not have been possible. States Department of Agriculture; and Theodore
The development of a comprehensive agricul- C. Green and Joaquin F. Marrero, both of the Soil
tural program for Puerto Rico was advanced in Conservation Service, United States Department
July 1950 by Governor Luis Munoz Marin in a of Agriculture.
request to Secretary of Agriculture Charles F. Those who served as task force members de-
Brannan suggesting that it be undertaken jointly serve special thanks and appreciation for their
by agencies of the Government of Puerto Rico and services and contributions. They and the agen-
the United States Department of Agriculture. cies they represented at the time of their partici-
During the little more than 2 years required to pation are as follows:
complete this study, about 100 technicians living Department of Agriculture of Puerto Rico—
and working in Puerto Rico gave unstintingly of Dr. Martin Hernandez, Dr. Guillermo Serra, Hec-
their time and best thinking to this project while tor Berrios, Jorge Mejia Mattei, Luis A. Nazario,
performing their regular duties as employees of Luis Revera Santos, Bartolome Morell Mayol,
their respective agencies. Their work was carried Felix Inigo, and Clara L. cle Sebdra.
on through 14 task forces, each responsible for Land Authority—F. A. Arrillaga, Raul J. Tous,
dealing with a particular phase of Puerto Rican and F. Olano.
agriculture and rural living. The information Agricultural Experiment Station, University of
and recommendations developed by these task Puerto Rico—Dr. Bernardo G. Capo, Manuel Pi-
forces formed the basis for this publication. In ilero, Daniel Haddock, Dr. J. A. Bonnet, Miguel A.
all of this undertaking, great reliance has been Lugo Lopez, Hector Gandia, Arturo Riollano, Vic-
placed on the practical experience of men and tor Rodriquez Benitez, P. Vasquez Calcerrada,
women in Puerto Rico, including agricultural Felix Roman, P. Gonzalez Rios, Efrain Boneta,
leaders, businessmen, and others. Elias Hernandez, Dr. Rivera Anaya, William
Special recognition is due the Honorable Ra- Pennock, Luis Alvarez, Dr. Luis Martorell, Luis
mon Colon Torres, secretary of agriculture of Rivera Brenes, and Angel Rodriguez Cabrera.
Puerto Rico, for his stimulating leadership, co- School of Agriculture, College of Agriculture
operation, and helpfulness in planning and di- and Mechanic Arts, University of Puerto Rico—
recting the study. Recognition is also due the task Samuel Basherov, W. R. Morrison, Juan Colom
force chairmen for the guidance they provided Aviles, and Clery G. Salazar.
in dealing with the specific problems assigned to Agricultural Extension Service, University of
their respective groups. In addition to the Hon- Puerto Rico—Juan B. Gaztambide, Angel T. Ber-
orable Ramon Colon Torres, those who served as rios, Ovidio Gonzales, Oesar A. Calderon, Mrs.
task force chairmen were Luis A. Nazario, Hector Zulma Buxo de Roig, Dr. Esther Seijo de Zayas,
Zayas Chardon, Carlos M. Matos, Luis Revera Livio Lefebre, Ruben A. Bonilla, Carlos Gaztam-
Santos, and Guillermo Irisarry, all of the Puerto bide Arrillaga, Roberto Lefebre Munoz, Luis A.
Rican Department of Agriculture; Dr. Arturo Suarez, Joselina Jordan, and Adolfo Mayoral
Roque, Dr., J. A. Bonnet, and F. Sanchez Nieva, Reinat.
all of the Agricultural Experiment Station, Uni- Department of Education—Federico Rodriguez,
versity of Puerto Rico; Dr. Ovidio Garcia-Mo- Nicolas Mendez, and Rafael Muller, all of Voca-
linari and Jorge H. Rodriquez Arias, both of the tional Agricultural Education; and Gaspar A.
School of Agriculture, College of Agriculture Davila of the Division of Community Education.

239284—53———2 IX
X A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Department of Health—Gilberto Oliver Pa- of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home
dilla. Economics, United States Department of Agricul-
Department of Labor of Puerto Eico—Secre- ture ; Dr. Eafael Pico, chairman of the Puerto Eico
tary of Labor Fernando Sierra Berdecia and Planning Board; Teodoro Moscoso, Jr., adminis-
Eamon Casanova Cano. trator of the Economic Development Administra-
Water Eesources Authority—Eafael Nevares, tion; Jose E. Noguera, director of the Bureau of
Jr. the Budget; and Eafael Pol, agricultural leader
Public Eecreation and Park Commission— and president of the Cooperative League of Puerto
Hunter Eandolph. Eico. Becognition is also due the Bureau of Agri-
Aqueduct and Sewer Authority—Felipe Bosch. cultural Economics, United States Department of
Planning Board—Candido Oliveras, F. Medina Agriculture, for temporarily making available the
Mora, G. Kelnhof er, and Jaime W. Anglada. services of Dr. V. Webster Johnson who con-
Bureau of the Budget of Puerto Eico—Juan La- tributed materially to the early planning of the
badie Eurite. program development study.
Department of the Treasury—David Eodriguez Many persons rendered valuable service in the
of the Scientific Classification and Assessment preparation of the manuscript for this publication.
Project.
Special thanks is due Peter H. DeVries of the
Economic Development Administration—Dr.
Office of Information Services, Production and
Walter K. Joelson.
United States Department of Agriculture—S. Marketing Administration, who served as princi-
Eodriguez Estronza of the Farmers Home Ad- pal editorial adviser and editor. Acknowledg-
ministration; J. E. Martino of the Farm Credit ments are also due Eoy E. Miller, Mabel H. Doyle,
Administration agencies; W. T. Owrey of the Bu- Palmer Smith, and others of the editorial staff of
reau of Entomology and Plant Quarantine; Henry the Office of Information, United States Depart-
B. Bosworth, Jose Marrero, J. Eodriquez, Pinan, ment of Agriculture, for their helpful suggestions.
Miguel Hernandez Agosto, and Jose Gilormini All of the charts used in this publication were pre-
Cruz, all of the Forest Service; Garibaldi La- pared in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics
guardia, Sam Adams, Maximino E. Vazquez, and through the cooperation of Franklin Thackrey,
J. Capo Caballero, all of the Production and Mar- director of economic information. Maps relat-
keting Administration; Dr. Kenneth A. Bartlett, ing to reclamation and forest areas were prepared
Dr. Arnaud J. Loustalot, Harry E. Warmke, and in the Office of Foreign Agricultural Eelations
Thomas Theis, all of the Federal Experiment through the cooperation of Eeginald G. Hains-
Station; Theodore C. Green, Joaquin F. Marrero,
w^orth, head of the Economic Geography and
J. P. Cordova, and W. H. Gracia, all of the Soil
Graphics Section. Thanks is due to Antonio
Conservation Service; Dr. Eichard M. Smith, Car-
los Cernuda, Fernando Abruria, and Jose Vincente Atiles, of the Agricultural Extension Service of
Chandler, all of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Puerto Eico, and to William J. Forsythe, of the
Soils, and Agricultural Engineering—Soil Con- Department of Agriculture's Office of Infor-
servation Service Eesearch Project. mation, for their help in obtaining many of the
Thanks is due Efrain Diaz Cruz of the Puerto photographs.
Rican Department of Agriculture, and Eay The author is especially grateful for the oppor-
Hurley and Joel Williams, both of the Bureau of tunity given to participate in this study and direct
the Census, United States Department of Com- its progress. All errors of commission or omis-
merce, for their valuable assistance with statistics. sion are, of course, the author's sole responsibility.
Also appreciated is the interest and friendly
counsel of Jaime Benitez, chancellor of the Uni- NATHAN KOENIG,
versity of Puerto Eico, and of Milton Cobin, Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture,
special assistant to the chancellor. Eecognition United States Department of Agriculture.
for their helpful suggestions is due many indi- WASHINGTON, D. C.,
viduals including Dr. Hazel K. Stiebeling, chief January 12, 1953.
Contents
Page Page
CHAPTER I 3. Domestic and Industrial Water Supply. 83
THE PEOPLE AND THE L A N D _ _ _ _ _ _ 1 Ground Water Resources _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 87
Water Rights and Concessions_______ 89
CHAPTER II 4. Water Pollution. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 90
THESE ARE THE P E O P L E . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Action Taken to Control Pollution. __ 91
Problems and Needs to be Met _ _ _ _ _ _ 93
Age C o m p o s i t i o n . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 6
5. Flood C o n t r o l _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 94
Birth, Marriage, and Death Rates.. 7 6 . Drainage _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 95
The Course of Migration _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 9 7. Wildlife and Recreation... _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 97
Cultural C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 11 Count of Waterfowl and D o v e s _ _ _ _ _ _ 98
Education and L i t e r a c y _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 12 Hunting and Kill Data _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 98
The Labor S t r u c t u r e _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - 14 Feeding Grounds Need Development. 99
The Picture on I n c o m e _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 17
Commercial Marine F i s h e r i e s _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 100
Rural Living Conditions _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 19 Inland Fishery Resources. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 100
Level of N u t r i t i o n - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 22
The Score at P r e s e n t _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 24 CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER III LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS- _ _ _____ 103
THIS is T H E LAND__ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 27 The Forest Lands and Their Condition _ . _____ 103
Puerto Rico Under United States Sovereignty^ 29 Forest Resources Abuse and Its Results. _____ 105
Agriculture's Role in the Economy. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 31 Need for Education and Research _ _ _ _ _ _ _____ 107
Land Tenure and Usage— _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 32 Strong Public Leadership Required _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 111
Emphasis on Production for E x p o r t _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 36 Public Acquisition of Forest Land _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 112
The Depression S q u e e z e . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 36 Forestry Incentives for L a n d o w n e r s . . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 116
First Moves Toward R e c o v e r y . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 37 Recreation, Wildlife, Community F o r e s t r y _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 117
A New Era and World War ! ! _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 39
Postwar D e v e l o p m e n t s . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 41 CHAPTER VII
Lack of Economic Balance and Diversity_____ 42 UTILIZING GRASSLAND R E S O U R C E S . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 119
CHAPTER IV Land for Pasture and Forage. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 121
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL E R O S I O N . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Pasture Improvement With Legumes _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 123
45
Use of Pasture Supplements _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 127
Present Condition of the Soil_ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ 45
Soil Fertility and Fertilizers _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Grasslands M a n a g e m e n t . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 129
48
Soil Organic Matter _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 49 Grasslands Research and E d u c a t i o n . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 133
Cultivation of Sloping Land _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 50 CHAPTER VIII
Sugarcane Problem on Slopes _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 51
Sedimentation of Reservoirs _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 54 DEVELOPING NEW LAND BY R E C L A M A T I O N _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 137
Beach Erosion _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 58 Tiburones Drainage P r o j e c t _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 138
Soil Conservation Districts _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 58 Loiza-Rio Grande Drainage P r o j e c t _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 139
Conservation Education and Information. 61 Lajas Valley Development P r o j e c t . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 140
Research Basic to Conservation _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 63 La Regadera and Coamo Projects _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 146
CHAPTER V Other Areas for S t u d y _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - _ _ - - - - - _ - - - - - - - 148
USE AND CONTROL OF W A T E R _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 65 CHAPTER IX
1. I r r i g a t i o n - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 67 AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND F I N A N C E . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 151
South Coast Irrigation D i s t r i c t - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 68
Sources of Agricultural F i n a n c i n g . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 152
Isabela Irrigation Service _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 70
Interest Rates and Credit C o s t s > _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 158
Additional Areas for Irrigation _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 71
Overall Problems in Water Management_____ 73 Amount of Credit R e q u i r e d . . . . . . . . . . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 160
Focal Points for A c t i o n . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 76 Ways to Improve Credit Sources _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 164
2. Hydroelectric Power. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 78 Credit Education and Supervision _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 170
Rural Electrification _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 81 Legal Obstacles in Agricultural C r e d i t . . - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 172

XI
XII A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

CHAPTER X CHAPTER XII


POTENTIALS IN AGRICULTURAL P R O D U C T I O N - _ _ _ _ _ 175 LAND AND TAX P O L I C I E S - - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 247
Technology in F a r m i n g . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 176 The Shaping of a Land Policy___ 247
The Present Pattern in Agriculture _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 181 The Land Law of Puerto R i e o _ _ _ _ _ _ 250
The Existing Dependence on I m p o r t s _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 184 Operations of the Land Authority 252
Food Requirements and Actual S u p p l y _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 187 Land Policy and the Land Authority _ 257
Improving the Balance in Agriculture _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 190 Tax Policy and A g r i c u l t u r e . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 262
More From the Land, More For the People _ _ _ _ . . _ 214
CHAPTER XIII
CHAPTER XI PULLING TOGETHER FOR A STRONGER AGRICULTURE _ 271
MARKETING FARM P R O D U C T S _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 219 The Local Department of Agriculture. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 273
Strengthening Extension W o r k . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 274
Some Overall Marketing Needs_ _____________ 224 The Experiment Station's R o l e . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 277
Milk Marketing and D i s t r i b u t i o n . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 230 Formal Eduction i n Agriculture _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 279
Marketing Livestock and M e a t s . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 233 Overall Program Needs _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 284
Marketing S u g a r c a n e _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 235
Marketing P i n e a p p l e s . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 240 BlBLIOGRAPHY__________ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 287
Tobacco Marketing. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ' _ _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ _ _ _ _ . . _ . _ _ 243 INDEX, _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 291
Chapter I

The People and the Land


When Puerto Rico was first settled by Spanish continued to give up its fertility to support the
colonists shortly after its discovery by Columbus growing numbers of people.
in 1493, much of its land, despite the ruggedness Between 1765 and 1812, the population of
of the interior, was good land. But during most Puerto Rico increased from nearly 45,000 to about
of the more than four centuries since that time 183,000. By 1830 the island had nearly 324,000
people have not been good to it. people, and this figure was more than doubled by
Only in recent years has there been a real awak- 1867. A year after Puerto Rico was separated
ening to this fact. And even today, after the from Spanish rule and came under the sovereignty
many reforms that have taken place in the island's of the United States, the census of 1899 showed a
economy, the land—exploited more than farmed— total population slightly in excess of 953,000.
affords only a bare subsistence for a great part of By the time the United States obtained sov-
the population. ereignty over Puerto Rico, absentee landowner-
Mining of the island's natural resources began ship had a firm hold on the economy. The fertile
with the early colonists' search for gold but soon lands along the coastal plain and the more pro-
shifted to the soil itself. This turn in the search ductive lands of the mountain areas were tied up
for treasure came within 20 years after the influx in large blocks. From these holdings came the
of the Spanish colonizers, when the glitter of gold great bulk of the sugar, coffee, and tobacco which
virtually faded from the island's mountainsides. had developed into the main export crops. The
It marked the start of an agriculture based on the economic pattern was such that the island was
exploitation of land and people. heavily dependent on imports for much of its food
The kind of agrarian economy that developed, and for virtually all manufactured and processed
and that prevails nowT, concentrated on production goods. The land showed marked effects of the
for export. The soil yielded generously of its constant draining away of the soil's fertility by
fertility but there was little or no replacement the system of exploitative farming that had be-
of wrhat was taken out by continuous cropping. come so solidly established. Vast forest areas had
Absentee ownership of large blocks of the best land been destroyed and the removal of the protective
got off to an early start. For a long time the cover from the steep slopes had bared the topsoil
agriculture of the island depended on slave and to the pounding forces of the heavy tropical rains.
cheap labor. The slaves were liberated in 1873 but Both soil erosion and human erosion were well
low-paid labor has persisted. Only the poorer under way.
soils in the mountainous areas became available Under the American flag, Puerto Rico received
for tilling by individual small farmers. the advantages of the United States market, and
As the population of the island increased, agri- investment capital flowed from the States along
cultural production expanded. People came with certain technical know-how. The pace of a
mostly from Spain but also from other countries; hoe-and-machete economy was quickened, and
they settled down and multiplied. And the soil there was plenty of labor to keep these two hand
A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Symbols in an economy: The hoe and the machete.

tools swinging. Agriculture on the island ex- a dynamic and enlightened political leadership
panded, but still for the export market. Public on the island brought tremendous changes to this
health measures were introduced and improve- stricken area. The war put new life in the demand
ments made in various facilities. Life expectancy for Puerto Rico's export crops, especially sugar.
increased and so did the population total. Agriculture on the island responded to meet the
Over a period of about 30 years the economy of needs of the war and post-war years. At the same
Puerto Rico seemingly hummed with activity. time, the internal political leadership that had
Then the forces of nature and economics combined steadily developed gained popular support with
with devastating effect on the island. Two hurri- a positive program for the improvement of social
canes and the world-wide depression brought a and economic conditions.
virtual collapse. By this time the population of In 1948, as the result of legislation enacted by
Puerto Rico approximated 1,544,000, a gain of the United States Congress, Puerto Rico was able
over 590,000 since the first United States census to elect its own first governor. This marked the
on the island in 1899. An era of large-scale Fed- beginning of local government directly responsible
eral relief and rehabilitation activity set in to al- to the people of the island. Under this govern-
leviate the wholesale suffering and want that ment, bold action has been taken to develop the
stemmed from the collapse. However, some of the economy and improve living conditions. Much
things done were as effective as pushing on a rope, emphasis has been placed on the establishment of
for the fact remained that the available resources new industries and the development of tourism.
and the manner of their utilization had already Progress is reflected in increased business activity
been outstripped by the rapid rise in population. and a higher level of employment with improved
The race was on. Between 1930 and 1940, the buying power. The gains are striking indeed, con-
number of people in Puerto Rico increased another sidering the point from which the start was made.
21 percent to a total exceeding 1,869,000. But the picture is not as bright as it appears on
The outbreak of World War II and the rise of the surface. All of the efforts exerted to expand
THE PEOPLE AND THE LAND

industry and business are being diluted by the con- cupy the major portion of the island's surface.
tinuing high increase in population. The 1950 The highest ranges rise to around 3,000 feet, the
census showed that the population of Puerto Rico highest peak reaching 4,398 feet. These mountains
had risen to about 2,211,000, an increase of almost run mostly from east to west and are broken by
one-fifth in 10 years. Thus the pressure of popu- intervening deep, narrow valleys.
lation against resources in Puerto Rico has been The topography of the island causes great diver-
rapidly growing more and more intense. Too sity of beauty, soil fertility, and climate. Be-
many people on too little land—that is the crucial cause of the mountains, there is a difference of 173
problem this island is up against. inches in yearly rainfall between the northeast
Physically, Puerto Rico is about 1,600 air miles and the central south, a distance of only 69 miles.
southeast of New York City and 1,065 miles from The average rainfall is around 60 inches for the
Miami. The island is the most easterly of the northern coastal plain, 30 inches for the southern
Greater Antilles, situated between 17°55' and plain and 100 inches for the mountain region.
18°31' north latitude and 65°39' and 67°15' west Temperatures show far less variations. Being so
longitude. It is bound by the Atlantic Ocean on far out at sea, Puerto Rico receives in full measure
the north, the Caribbean Sea on the south, the Vir- the trade winds which blow almost constantly
gin Passage on the east and the Mona Passage on from the northeast. This continued flow of breeze
the west. The island stretches east and west to is the secret of the island's ideal climate, which
a maximum length of 113 miles, with an average varies from tropical to subtropical. The mean
width of 41 miles. The total area approximates January temperature for the island as a whole is
3,435 square miles. Around the coast is a narrow 73° F. and the mean July temperature is 79°, a
fertile plain which rises gradually toward the in- range of only 6°. The coolest areas, of course,
terior, in a series of mountainous ranges that oc- are in the mountain regions and the warmest in

ATLANTIC OCEAN

Puerto Rico's location with respect to the United States mainland, other islands in the Caribbean, and Central and South America
A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

the lowlands, but the differences average only of contrasts. Within its limited and crumpled
about 8° throughout the year. At no time has territory there are 115 soil series with 352 differ-
an official thermometer recorded a temperature ent types and phases of soil; there are 7 distinct
below 39° nor above 103° in any part of the island. areas of rainfall, ranging from more than 200
Temperature recordings over a period of more inches in the northeastern mountains to less than
than 30 years show a range from a minimum of 30 inches in the southwestern coastal plain.
44° to a maximum of 94° for the interior of the The physical portrait of Puerto Eico has long
island at Cayey, a minimum of 55° and a maxi- been beclouded by dramatic developments. These
mum of 96° for the southern coastal plains and have cast their shadow in the past with serious
foothills at Ponce, and a minimum of 62° and a consequences. They now shade the future—and
maximum of 94° for the northern coastal area at with an intensity that will not diminish until it
San Juan. has given rise to a human concern fully responsive
In spite of its small size, Puerto Eico is a land to the great needs of both the people and the land.
Chapter II

These Are the People


On a land area only about 3,420 square miles, minerals—and most of the industrial plants of
Puerto Rico has a population total that makes this the United States were by some magic removed,
island one of the most densely populated areas of then conditions respecting both population den-
the world. It is exceeded in this respect only by sity and resources would be roughly comparable
two of the highly industrialized countries of to those existing today in Puerto Rico.
Western Europe, namely, England and Belgium. The crux of the so-called Puerto Rican popu-
In this hemisphere, the most densely populated lation problem lies in the fact that Puerto Rico
independent country is Haiti, which has a popula- has a highly agricultural economy. Practically
tion density only half as great as Puerto Rico's. all the other countries of the world with a com-
There were approximately 645 persons per parable density of population are urban-indus-
square mile in Puerto Eico in 1950, according to trialized countries. Because of an almost complete
the census, which reported 2,210,703 inhabitants lack of mineral and fuel resources, because of its
on the island as of April 1 of that year (table 1). history and traditions, and because of its late entry
In the same year there were only 50 persons per on the industrial scene, Puerto Rico most likely
square mile on the mainland of the United States. will never become as highly industrialized as
The greatness of this contrast becomes apparent these other areas. So the island undoubtedly will
when it is realized that if the continental United continue to depend heavily on agriculture; and
States had the same density of population as its million-or-so acres of land that can be farmed
Puerto Rico, the population of the mainland would (less than 50 percent of the total land area is
have exceeded 1,900,000,000 in 1950, as against the tillable) will in some manner have to be stretched
actual total of around 151,000,000. And, if at the to accommodate the rapidly mounting population
same time all the natural resources—oil, coal, and burden.

Table 1.—Population of Puerto Rico and average annual rates of increase, 1899 to 7950 x

Average
Total Population increase over annual
Census date population preceding census rate of
increase

Number Number Percent Percent


1899 (Nov 1 0 ) _ - _ _ _ _ _ _ — _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 953, 243
1910 (Apr. 15) 1, 118, 012 164, 769 17. 3 1. 54
1920 (Jan. 1) 1, 299, 809 181, 797 16. 3 1. 56
1930 (Apr. 1) 1, 543, 913 244, 104 18. 8 1. 69
1940 (Apr. 1) 1, 869, 255 325, 342 21. 1 1. 93
1950 (Apr. 1) 2, 210, 703 341, 448 18. 3 1. 69

i Data from Bureau of the Census.


A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

and an average annual emigration of 6,300) indi-


GROWTH OF POPULATION cate approximately the same population for
Puerto Rico, 1899-50 and Projected 1970 1970—3.1 million. This figure represents a
M L. P E R S O N S doubling of the population in the 40-year span
from 1930-70.

I
3
Age Composition
2 Puerto Rico's population is relatively young

| and, unlike the population of the United States


1

0-
1899 1910 19201930

% 1940
I
1950 1970
(PROJECTED)
and other western countries, its median age is al-
most stable. In 1950, the median age (the age
above and below which one-half of the population
falls with respect to age) in Puerto Eico was about
18 years (table 2) ; the median age of the United
States population was about 30 years. In 1900
The population of Puerto Rico has been increasing steadily and the corresponding figures were 18 and 23 years.
at a high rate for a long time. Since the turn of the present The death rate (deaths per thousand popula-
century the number of people on the island has about doubled
within a 40-year span. Available projections Indicate a
tion) has been generally declining in the last half
continuance of this trend. century in Puerto Eico, and this trend has become
more pronounced during the last few decades. At
This problem promises to grow more serious present the death rate in Puerto Eico is about at
each successive year. Available population pro- the levels which characterize the more advanced
jections indicate not only that the population of countries. In 1900, the death rate stood at about
Puerto Eico will continue to grow but also that 27; in 1949, the rate was about 11 per thousand—
future growth may continue to be rapid. a decline of almost 60 percent and continuing
In 1945, a Puerto Eican demographer, Jose L. downward. The United States rate fell only 40
Janer, fitted a (logistic) curve to the available percent in the same period, from about 17 to 10
data for earlier years. The 1950 census popula- per thousand.
tion differs by only about 25,000 from the figure The most striking declines in mortality have oc-
which could have been predicted by this curve. curred among the older children (those 5 through
The correspondence of these 1950 figures with the 19) and among mothers, but even the aged groups
earlier projections tends to add weight to the have shared in the gains. As a result of these
possibility that this curve represents a reasonable pervasive declines in mortality, a constantly in-
description of the trend of population growth. creasing percentage of the population has reached
The figure for 1970 projected from this curve is 3.2 adulthood and middle age. The expectation of
million, implying an average annual rate of in- life at birth has increased substantially, from 38
crease between 1950 and 1970 of 1.9 percent. Other years in 1910 to 56 years in 1950. However, al-
projections based on conservative assumptions (an though continuing to rise, it is still considerably
average rate of natural increase of 2.1 percent below the United States level of about 68 in 1950.

Table 2.—Percent distribution of population by age for Puerto Rico, 1899 to 1950l

Age 1899 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950

Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent


100. 0 100. 0 100. 0 100. 0 100. 0 100. 0
Under 15 years _ _ - 43. 9 43. 0 43. 3 42. 1 40. 6 43.2
9. 8 10. 2 9. 7 12. 1 11. 0 10. 0
20 to 44 years ___.._ 34.4 34. 8 34. 0 33.0 34. 4 31. 9
9. 7 9. 7 10. 6 10. 4 10. 4 10. 9
6 5 years a n d over _ _ _ _ _ _ ____ 2. 1 2. 3 2. 4 2. 5 3.4 3.9
18. 1 18. 5 18. 4 18. 3 19. 2 18.4

1
Data from Bureau of the Census.
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE

population increase is in the rural areas. Census


LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH figures for 1950 indicate that the average married
In Puerto Rico, 1910-50* rural woman 45 years of age and over had given
YEARS' birth to about 7 children during her childbearing
period, compared with about 5 children for women
45 in urban areas. Also significant is the fact that
29 percent of the rural women had given birth to
30
10 or more children, compared with 16 percent
for urban women. Births of from 4 to 7 children
per mother during the childbearing period show
15
little variation between rural and urban women.
But, about 29 percent of the urban women gave
birth to 1, 2, or 3 children during the childbearing
1910 1920 1930 1940 1950
period, as compared with 16 percent of the rural
w^omen. And while only about 6 percent of the
The expectation of life at birth has risen considerably in Puerto rural women had no children born during their
Rico, from 38 years in T910 to 56 years in 1950. The most
substantial increase took place in rather recent years largely childbearing period, approximately 11 percent of
because of an expanding public health program which is the urban women were in this category.
continuing to whittle down the death rates among all age
groups. An important factor in the maintenance of the
high level of the birth rate during the decade
Indications are that, as long as an expanding between 1940 and 1950 has been the high marriage
public health program is in operation, the benefits rate during this period. The high marriage rate
of which are made generally available, death rates is reflected in the fact that the number and per-
at each age will continue to decrease and the ex- centage of married persons on the island were at
pectation of life at birth will continue to increase. their highest in 1950. Of the population 14 years
These trends may be reversed, however, if levels old and over, 56 percent were married, compared
of living should become extremely depressed as a with 52 percent in 1940 and only 45 percent in
result of a considerable increase in population 1900. Also, the percentage married, especially
density and the failure to make more effective use for females, tends to be higher in the rural areas
of all available resources on a sustained basis. than in the urban areas.
The rapidly declining mortality, coupled with
Birth, Marriage, and Death Rates the almost stationary high birth rate, has made
In 1899-1910 there were about 40 births per the population of Puerto Rico one of the fastest
thousand population; the corresponding number growing populations in the world at present. The
in 1949 was 38. The latter figure may be compared rate of natural increase (the difference between
with 24 for the United States. In Puerto Rico, births and deaths per thousand population) is a
birth rates are considerably higher than in the measure of the current net addition or loss to a
United States for each and every age of mother; population through births and deaths. This fig-
childbearing begins at a younger age and persists ure for Puerto Rico in 1899-1910 equalled 15 per
to a considerably older age than in the United thousand population and by 1950 it had almost
States and other western countries. It would seem doubled (26 per thousand population). In the
that a sizeable number of women continue to bear United States the 1950 rate of natural increase was
children right up to the time when they are no approximately 14—about the same as it was in
longer capable of conceiving them. The tabula- 1900 and roughly the figure for Puerto Rico in
tions of the 1950 census of Puerto Rico indicated 1900. In the States, both the birth rate and the
that the average woman 45 years of age and over death rate have shown a net decline since the early
who was ever married had given birth to 6 children part of the present century.
during the course of her childbearing period. The Potentially, the population of Puerto Rico could
corresponding figure for the United States wras increase at a far higher rate than is now the case.
probably only about one-half of that. The extent is indicated by the gross reproduction
Moreover, the biggest source of Puerto Rico's rate which is a measure of the potentialities for
8 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

BIRTH AND DEATH RATES


In Puerto Rico, 1910-49
RATE PER 1,000 POPULATION
Birth rate

^EXCESS OF BIRTHS OVER DEATHS^


PER 1,000 POPULATION'^

Death rate

1910 1920 1930 1940 1950


Mortality has been declining rapidly in Puerto Rico while the birth rate has remained at a high level. This has resulted in a rising
rate of natural increase in the island's population.

population growth if current birth rates remain had a net reproduction rate unsurpassed by any
unchanged indefinitely and no allowance is made Occidental country.
for mortality; a rate of 1.00 means that the popu- Since communicable diseases (diarrhea and
lation will just about replace itself in a generation. enteritis, tuberculosis, and pneumonia and influ-
The gross reproduction rate, like the crude birth enza) still constitute the more important causes
rate, remained unchanged in Puerto Rico from of death in Puerto Rico (more than 40 percent of
1900 to 1950, at a level approximating 2.50; this all deaths), mortality at each age can be further
means that at current birth rates the population reduced and the low levels already prevailing in
of Puerto Rico could, potentially, more than the more advanced countries may well be reached
double in a generation. before long. However, if fertility remains practi-
The net reproduction rate, which, unlike the cally stationary at the present high level, the
gross reproduction rate, allows for mortality up immediate result of such a reduction in mortality
through the childbearing period (on the assump- will be an acceleration of the rate of population
tion that prevailing death rates remain unchanged growth.
indefinitely), showed a steady and rapid increase From the standpoint of population distribution,
in the last 50 years, from 1.43 in the period 1899- Puerto Rico is still a predominantly rural area
1910 to 1.80 in 1947. The increase in the net (table 3). In 1950 about 60 percent of the popu-
reproduction rate reflects the effect of improve- lation lived outside of places having 2,500 or more
ment in mortality. Thus, in 1947, Puerto Rico inhabitants. In the United States in 1950 about
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 9
opportunities in gold mining. During the 18th
URBAN AND RURAL POPULATION and 19th centuries, however, the movement of peo-
In Puerto Rico, Selected Periods ple away from the island was very small. It in-
MIL.PERSONS
creased in the 20th century and the rate has
accelerated in recent years.
Within Puerto Rico itself there has been a con-
1.0
siderable shifting of population over the years.
For some time before the 20th century migration
within the island tended to be from the coast
toward the mountainous interior. This trend
changed and in recent years the movement within
Puerto Rico has been away from the rural areas
1899 1920 1950
and into the towns and cities of the island.
Much of the migration from the rural to the
urban areas of Puerto Rico has been due to the
Most of Ihe people in Puerto Rico still live in rural sections steadily increasing pressure of population on land
despite the fact that in recent years the population has been
shifting rather markedly to urban centers of 2,500 or more
resources that were being drained of their produc-
inhabitants. tivity and wasted by neglect or unwise use. Most
of the migrants carne from the mountain areas
40 percent of the population lived outside of places whence they were forced by the competition for
of 2,500 or more. A rapid urbanization of the survival in a pattern of farming that had persisted
island has been going on, however, since about 85 for generations without change. While soil was
percent of the population was rural in 1900 and being eroded and washed down the rivers, people
78 percent in 1920. were being washed down from the slopes to settle
in urban slums.
Table 3.—Population of Puerto Rico, by urban and
As a result of this out-movement, the number
rural, and percent rural: 1899 to 7950 l
of persons employed in agriculture in Puerto Rico
has been more or less static since 1910. Since work
Urban Rural Percent-
Year Total age rural opportunities for the increasing rural population
had become limited, many of these people had to
1899_____ 953, 243 138, 703 814, 540 85. 4 find a means of making a living elsewhere. Some
1 9 2 0 _ _ _ _ _ 1, 299, 809 283, 934 1, 015, 875 78. 2 moved into the surrounding towns, but a large
1 9 5 0 _ _ _ _ _ 2, 210, 703 894, 813 1, 315, 890 59. 5
percentage found their way into the larger cities
1
Data from Bureau of the Census. of Puerto Rico where some industries were being
established. The number of new jobs in these
The prevalence of a high birth rate in the rural cities, however, was in most instances smaller than
areas greatly intensifies Puerto Rico's problem of the number of migrants plus the increase in the
too many people on too little land. In an agricul- number of wage earners within each city itself.
tural economy strongly dominated by outmoded This situation caused many migrants to find them-
techniques and tradition the only practical solu- selves in desperate circumstances and many of
tion lies in a calculated parting with the past on them settled in slum areas.
many fronts. The increase of available labor in the rural sec-
tions and in the cities of Puerto Rico also had the
The Course of Migration effect of keeping wages and working conditions at
Population increases in Puerto Rico would have very low levels. Because of this situation, the
been even greater were it not for the generally more ambitious laborers started migrating to the
continuous stream of migration away from the Dominican Republic, Hawaii, and in larger num-
island. The migration of Puerto Ricans started bers to the mainland. In the last two decades,
early. By the 17th century the population of migration to the Dominican Republic and Hawaii
Puerto Rico had been greatly reduced by the mi- has stopped but that to the mainland has increased
gration of settlers and natives to Peru because of considerably, especially in recent years.
10 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

The growing of clean-cultivated crops on steeply sloping lands not only tequires a great deal of hand labor but
it also accelerates soil erosion and depletion.

During the 30-year period from 1910 to 1940 the better than the average of the community that was
net movement of people away from Puerto Rico left behind. Thus, migration is having the effect
(table 4) was of modest proportions—about 58,000 of distorting the age distribution of the popula-
individuals (net). In the following 10 years, the tion and of reducing the number of able and am-
out-movement was considerably accelerated and bitious workers.
nearly 190,000 persons (net) left the island. The
Table 4.—Net migration from Puerto Rico, 1910
number leaving is apparently continuing to in-
to 7957
crease rather sharply. The total for 1951 indi- Net out-
cates a net out-movement of about 53,000, which Calendar year: migration
1910-40_________________.______ 58, 000
for this year alone approximates the total for the 1941___________________.______ 600
whole 1910-1940 period. Whether the recent high 1942___________________________ 1, 700
rate of out-migration will continue in the years 1943___________________________ 3, 200
1944__________________________ 11, 200
ahead and serve to ease the population pressure 1945___________________.______ 13, 600
against the limited physical resources of Puerto 1946__________________________ 39, 900
Rico remains to be seen. 1947_____________________._______ 24, 600
A large percentage of the migrants who are 1948____________________________ 32, 800
1949___________________.______ 25, 700
leaving the island are between 20 and 47 years old. 1950___________________.______ 34, 700
The educational level of the migrant is usually 1951______________________________ 52, 900
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 11

In addition to the migration of those who settle Some orientation work with migrants is being
permanently outside the island, there has been in done by the Puerto Kican Department of Labor
recent years a temporary migration of Puerto and the United States Employment Service. This,
Eican laborers to the States. This movement is however, is proving inadequate in view of the in-
seasonal and takes place mainly during the sum- creased load of work and the island's need for
mer and fall months. The migrant laborers work still greater migration. The orientation activi-
in the production and harvesting of fruits, vege- ties need to be broadened and the educational work
tables, and other crops, primarily in the Eastern intensified so as to be more helpful to prospective
and North Central States. migrants throughout the island. Providing an
The number of agricultural workers going to adequate and competent staff to handle such a
the States from Puerto Kico for seasonal employ- program would be a worthwhile investment from
ment on farms and in some food-processing every standpoint.
plants has consistently increased in recent years, The fact that Puerto Eico is now losing through
from about 2,000 in 1948 to about 12,000 in 1951. migration some of the more skilled workers on the
This type of temporary migration, occurring as island should focus attention on the need for voca-
it does during the time of the year when employ- tional training to reach far greater numbers of
ment in agriculture in Puerto Kico experiences a people so that the island's needs for skilled work-
seasonal decline, is very beneficial both to the ers may also be met. With the already great and
worker and to the island's economy. At the same increasing density of population in Puerto Eico,
time, it helps meet a real need for additional labor there should be no stinting on training workers,
among farmers in the States during their season provided proper consideration is given to the em-
of peak operating activity. ployment opportunities that afterwards will be
Most farmers and others in the States who have open to these people either in the States or in
employed Puerto Bicans have found them to be Puerto Eico.
good workers. One great difficulty has been the While migration away from Puerto Kico is
inability of a very high percentage of these work- beneficial, in the ordinary course of events it will
ers to speak or even understand any English. not solve the problem of the rapid growth of pop-
Also, those who come to the States for the first ulation. During a depression it might even boom-
time encounter difficulties in readily adapting erang, since Puerto Eicans out of work in the
themselves to the entirely different working States would tend to move back to Puerto Eico.
and living conditions which they must face so Nevertheless, migration from Puerto Eico, if
suddenly. Of course, in time most of these properly guided, can be a helpful tool in pro-
people become more or less adjusted to their new viding an outlet for some part of the increased
environment. work force which cannot be taken care of by the
expansion of production on the island.
But, much of the inconvenience and hardship
for all concerned could be avoided if the migrants, Cultural Characteristics
before leaving Puerto Eico, received proper orien-
By far the majority of Puerto Eicans are of
tation that would prepare them for coming to the
Spanish descent, but a sizable proportion of the
States with a clearer understanding of what ad-
population (about one-fifth) is Negro, or has
justments they will have to make. Through such a some Negro blood. There is also an insignificant
program the prospective migrant would have the amount of Indian blood diluted among both white
opportunity of learning in advance what he or and Negro inhabitants. The early Spaniards en-
she would be up against in the States, and per- slaved the Indians and in a few generations ab-
haps get a chance to pick up some basic English sorbed the small Indian population of the island.
or at least understand the meaning of a few basic Early in the 16th century, Negroes were imported
English words. Such an orientation program as slaves to work in the sugarcane fields and the
would not only instill greater confidence in the trade continued until early in the 19th century.
individual, but it would also provide the person Both the Indian and African cultures had some
with a better basis for making a decision on influence in the cultural patterns of Puerto
whether or not to migrate. Eico.
12 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Socially, the people of Puerto Rico may be A continuing campaign for universal education
grouped into three major strata: (1) the upper, has been waged by Puerto Rican authorities. But,
(2) the middle, and (3) the lower. The upper the big limiting factor has been the inability of
class in the rural areas includes large landholders the Government to provide the teaching personnel
and owners of estates and sugarcane mills, and the and educational facilities required even though an
top employees of the sugar plants. In the urban exceptionally large part of the total budget is being
areas the upper class is composed of bankers, rich spent for educational purposes. This is because
merchants, some manufacturers, rich farmers liv- the deficiency in education has been so great that,
ing in town, and the best paid professionals. The with a steadily increasing population, the Govern-
middle class in the rural areas consists mostly of ment simply does not have enough funds available
employees of sugar mills, managers or mayordo-
to satisfy the need for teachers and schools and
?nos, a small number of government employees
at the same time provide adequately for other
living in rural communities, and medium-size
farmers. In the urban areas, the middle class is essential functions and services.
larger and includes all types of white-collar em- Despite the many handicaps, there has been
ployees and small business men. The lower class substantial progress in education in Puerto Rico.
consists mainly of laborers in the urban areas In 1900, only 8 percent of the population between
while in the rural areas both farm laborers and the ages of 5 and 17 were enrolled in the schools
very small farmers are included. A small per- of the island; in 1950, there were 52 percent en-
centage of the skilled laborers, however, is begin- rolled (table 5). Conversely, however, the fact
ning to be considered as part of the middle class. that 48 percent of the population of school age
Thus, one of the most important factors in de- were not in school in 1950 points up the scope of
termining the social standing of a person is eco- the educational problem that still remains to be
nomic status, that is, income, occupation, size and overcome.
value of landholdings, size and volume of business,
etc. Caste is rather unimportant in the formation Table 5.—Percent of persons 5 to 17 years old
of the overall social classification. However, in enrolled in school, 1899 to 1950 '
the upper class, caste lines are more rigidly estab-
Percent Percent
lished. The importance of caste decreases in Census year enrolled in Census year enrolled in
groups of lower income. Among the working school school

people it is common to see marriages of white and


1899____^___ 8. 0 1930— _ _ _ _ _ 39. 3
colored persons and the sharing of social activities 1910________ 35. 2 1940________ 47. 7
between them. In the last 50 years the tendency 1920— _ - _ _ _ 45.3 1950___-____ 52. 1
has been for caste lines to diminish in importance. rom Bureau of the Census.

Education and Literacy Availability of school facilities is so limited


American culture has exerted quite a strong in- that, in most areas, schools are operating on double
fluence in Puerto Rico during the last 50 years shifts with resulting detriment to the education
even though Spanish traditions persist. This is of the youth.
significantly apparent especially in the upper and It is in the rural areas of Puerto Rico that the
middle classes of the island's population. The educational problem is most acute. Many sec-
average Puerto Rican is an unselfish individual tions have no schools available for the children
with a deep sense of justice and respect for legal to attend. In places where there are schools, a
authority. However, many people still lack educa- number are no more than single-room shacks with
tion, and this has sharply limited opportunities very meager equipment. And yet the rural areas
and retarded advancement for a vast segment of have the most children of school age. The 1950
the population. census shows that the rural areas of Puerto Rico
There has been a constant increase in school had about 64 percent of the population between
enrollment and literacy during the last 50 years the ages of 5 and 17 which for the island as a
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 13

Although much progress is being made to improve living conditions in Puerto Rico, there still remains a great deal to be done. This is
especially true in the mountainous interior, where many rural people must live handicapped by poor roads, a lack of electricity,
inadequate housing, and numerous other deficiencies.

whole totaled 718,000. Of the school-age popu- the higher age groups since they have not had the
lation, 53 percent in the rural areas and 39 per- educational opportunities now available on the
cent in the urban areas were not enrolled in island. As younger Puerto Ricans supplant the
school. From the standpoint of numbers, the older generations, the literacy of the island should
school-age population in the rural areas that was tend to rise.
not enrolled in schools totaled 243,000 in 1950, Spanish, of course, is the dominating language,
or almost 2,y2 times the total for urban areas. but the use of English has been increasing. Be-
Because of the limited opportunities for attend- fore Puerto Rico came under the sovereignty of
ing school, the rural areas have a lower percentage the United States an insignificant proportion of
of literacy, about TO percent of the rural people the population could speak English, and by 1910,
being able to read and write, against 82 percent only 3.6 percent of the population 10 years old
in the urban areas. For the island as a whole, 3 and over were able to speak English. Thirty
out of every 4 persons 10 years old and over in years later 27.8 percent were able to speak this
1950 were able to read and write. In 1900, only language (table 6). During the last decade, how-
about 20 percent of the population 10 years old ever, there apparently was a decline in this pro-
and over could read and write. In the United portion, since the 1950 census shows that only 26
States in 1950, nearly 9 out of 10 children between percent of the population 10 years old and over
ages of 5 and 17 were attending school, and less could speak English. In the rural areas, the pro-
than 2 percent of the population 10 years old and portion able to speak English was extremely low,
over could neither read nor write. Literacy in only 18 percent, compared with 37 percent in the
Puerto Rico is, of course, lowest among people in urban areas.
14 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Table 6.—Population of Puerto Rico 10 years old of education in Puerto Eico, both for the pupils
and over, by ability to speak English, 7899— and the school authorities. Spanish is the native
7950 1 tongue and for people who speak nothing but
Spanish it is extremely difficult to change over
Distribution of suddenly to a complete usage of English as was
Persons Able to speak persons able to
English speak English
necessary when English was the language of in-
Census 10 years
year old and struction in the schools. Besides the difficulty of
over learning experienced by the pupils, there was the
(number) Urban
Number Percent (percent) Rural
(percent) difficulty of the instructors who did the teaching.
Practically all teachers in Puerto Rico are native
1899.. _ 659, 294 to the island and they do not have the command
1910___ 781, 600 28, 262 3.6 of English required for adequate instruction in
1920___ 904, 423 89, 427 9. 9
1930___ 1, 093, 423 212, 231 19. 4 that language. Even in the teaching of English
1940___ 1, 337, 163 371, 132 27. 8 42.2 20. 8 alone, most of the teachers are tremendously
1950___ 1, 526, 154 398, 293 26. 1 36. 5 18. 3
handicapped because of inadequate training in the
i Data from Bureau of the Census. language and a heavy Spanish accent. Also, it is
very difficult to attract to Puerto Rico any number
The census classification as to ability to speak of teachers from the States, largely because of the
English is based on the replies to the question very low salaries paid.
"Does this person know how to speak English?" Nevertheless, as the population of Puerto Rico
Since no specific test is required, affirmative expands, it becomes more and more important for
answers were doubtless reported for persons who the people of the island that an increasing propor-
can speak English only slightly. Although some tion of them be able to speak English. Puerto
bias is present—probably a differential bias from Rico is a part of the United States, and the people
census to census as knowledge of English becomes of this island as American citizens have a right
a prestige factor—there nevertheless has been an to opportunities available to every other citizen.
increase from decade to decade in the overall Just as a saw is used by a carpenter in his work,
proportion of the Puerto Rican population re- so English is one of the necessary tools universally
ported able to speak this language. However, the employed in the States. And unless one has the
slippage that took place in the last decade should ability to speak English, opportunities in the
be cause for concern among the Puerto Ricans
States are definitely limited, since it is the com-
themselves in view of the great need for broaden-
mon working language, just as Spanish is in
ing the field of opportunity for a steadily increas-
Puerto Rico. Also, English has grown in im-
ing population. Experience in Puerto Rico has
demonstrated that persons able to speak English portance as an international language. Thus,
are thus equipped with an additional and import- from many standpoints, the people of Puerto Rico
ant key to improved employment opportunities on have much to gain from a more widespread
the island and especially in the States. knowledge of English.
Although Spanish has always been the language The easiest time to learn any language is dur-
of instruction in the elementary schools (grades 1 ing the early years of life. With many Puerto
through 6), English, which had hitherto been the Ricans leaving school even before completing the
language of instruction in the intermediate and elementary grades, it is important that more em-
liigh schools, was supplanted by Spanish late in phasis on English be given from the very start of
the 1940-50 decade. The schools now have spe- attendance in school.
cific periods for teaching English just as they
do for any of the other classroom subjects. Thus, The Labor Structure
the present policy is to use Spanish as the working More opportunities for more people is a prime
language and teach English as a second language need in Puerto Rico. Underemployment and un-
beginning in the elementary schools. employment weigh heavily on the economy of the
Without question the reversion to Spanish as the island. Even though in recent years a great deal
language of instruction has simplified the problem of economic expansion has taken place, the popu-
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 15
lation has also increased at a fast rate. The total expansion on the island. Commerce is also an
number of persons gainfully employed in Puerto important segment, employing nearly 16 percent
Rico has a little more than doubled in the past of the total number of persons gainfully employed.
half century, rising from 316,000 in 1899 to about Personal, professional, and business services em-
662,000 in 1950-51. During the same time, how- ploy about 15 percent of the total work force.
ever, the population total made a proportionately Unemployment and underemployment are more
greater increase, climbing from a little over extensive in agriculture than in any other eco-
953,000 to over 2,200,000 people. nomic activity in Puerto Rico. Recent statistics
With a labor force totaling 783,000 in 1950-51, indicate that, in general, only two-thirds of the
only 84.5 percent of these workers were, on the employed persons in agriculture work 30 hours
average, gainfully employed during that year. or more per week, compared with three-fourths
The remaining 15.5 percent, or an average of of the employed workers in nonagricultural
121,000 out of the total labor force, were un- industries.
employed on the island. This is quite a high pro- So far, the work opportunities in agriculture
portion of unemployment, especially since 1950-51 have been rather static. This accounts for the fact
was a relatively prosperous year. The fact is that that although the population of Puerto Rico has
unemployment in Puerto Rico is chronic and doubled since 1910, the number of persons em-
swings rather widely from one time of the year ployed in agriculture has remained at a relatively
to another. The degree of instability in gainful constant level. The percentage of the total labor
employment is indicated by the fact that during force employed in agriculture during this period
1950-51 unemployment fluctuated from a low of has been reduced considerably, from slightly over
12 percent in May to a high of over 20 percent in 60 percent in 1910 to only 34 percent in 1951.
January. Agricultural employment is highly seasonal and
The pattern in which the labor force is dis- varies from a peak of around 240,000 from March
tributed among the various economic sectors to June, to a low of around 200,000 in December
(table 7) shows that agriculture is still the main and January. From July to January, there is a
single source of employment on the island, al- considerable drop in agricultural employment,
though the number of people working in agricul- mainly because of the seasonal work slack in the
ture has leveled off and there is a general tendency sugarcane fields.
for the number to decline. During the 1946-51 period the fluctuations in
Manufacturing has more or less maintained its employment in sugarcane increased considerably
relative position, it employs around 18 percent of from one time of the year to another. For exam-
the gainfully employed, and in recent years the ple, the number of persons employed on sugarcane
trend has been upward as a result of industrial farms in 1946 fluctuated from 55,000 to 129,000.

Table 7.—Distribution of total labor force for Puerto Rico, 7950-57

Persons Percentage Percentage Percentage


Economic activity gainfully of total Persons un- of total un- Total labor of total
employed gainfully employed employed force labor force
employed

Thousands Thousands Thousands


Agriculture-forestry and fishing____ 224 33. 8 37 30. 6 261 33.3
Manufacturing and handicraft- _ _ _ 121 18.3 30 24. 8 151 19. 3
Construction 30 4.3 13 10. 7 43 5.5
Mining _ 1 .2 1 . 1
Commerce 103 15. 5 10 8. 3 113 14. 4
Transportation and communica-
tions, _ _ 30 4.5 5 4. 1 35 4. 5
Services _ 97 14. 7 13 10. 7 110 14. 0
Government 56 8.5 4 3. 3 60 7. 7
Unclassified _ _ 9 7. 4 9 1. 1
Total____________. ______ 662 100 121 100 783 100
16 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

FARM EMPLOYMENT IN PUERTO RICO


Seasonal Variation, Monthly Averages, 1946-51
——— THOUS. WORKERS

200

Total agriculture Sugarcane

150

100

Tobacco

JAN. A P R . JULY OCT. JAN. A P R . JULY OCT.


DATA FROM BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR OF PUERTO RICO

While agriculture ranks first as a single source of employment in Puerto Rico, the amount of work available on farms varies widely
from one time of the year to another. The peak of total farm employment occurs during the spring months when the harvest-
ing of sugarcane is at its height.

This seasonal swing has become more abrupt each sharp increase in cane acreage over the last few
year. In 1950, for instance, the employment on years. This is due mainly to changes that have
sugarcane farms fluctuated from a low of 26,000 taken place in the growing of cane. Although the
in December to a high of 161,000 in June. entire sugarcane crop of Puerto Rico is cut manu-
The biggest need for labor on sugarcane farms is ally and requires large numbers of workers, there
during the cane cutting season which mostly starts has been some reduction in the amount of labor
around January and continues into July. The needed for growing the cane. Tractors and other
peak of the harvest season is during the months of mechanized equipment are being used more exten-
March, April, and May. Although growers pre- sively. Also, many farms have adopted the use
fer to cut their cane during these months when of chemical weed killers, and thus have reduced the
sucrose contents are highest, cutting has to be necessity for so much hand hoeing and weeding.
spread out over the January-July period. This The various changes, however, are strongly re-
provides for orderly delivery to the centrals where sisted by the workers even though the improved
the cane is ground, and helps insure efficient proc- techniques result in higher efficiency and increased
essing operations by these mills. productivity with potentially greater benefits for
Although rising numbars of workers have been the island's economy as a whole.
employed in recent years to harvest the cane, the An individual employer in Puerto Rico, espe-
trend in the number of workers required has not cially a grower of sugarcane, is apt to employ a
been the same for cane production, despite the large number of agricultural workers. This has
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 17
of a factor than in the States, there still is a great
W O R K E R S EMPLOYED ON SUGARCANE need for developing among workers and their
FARMS IN PUERTO RICO
THOUS. W O R K E R S leaders a basic understanding of the fundamental
economic and social problems of the island and
labor's relation to them.
150
To a considerable extent labor productivity in
Puerto Eico is governed by attitude. Through
100 systematic education laborers and labor leaders
should be able to bring about a change in attitude
and broaden their outlook, thus increasing labor's
effectiveness and productivity for the benefit of
workers and the economy as a whole. Of course,
1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951
employers also need education. As yet, however,
'A FROM BURCAU Of L i* STATISTICS. OEFMTMCNT OF LABO* OF fUEHTO AICO the surface has hardly been scratched in this im-
portant field of labor and employer education in
The seasonal fluctuation in employment on Puerto Rican sugarcane Puerto Eico.
farms has widened in recent years. Although the acreage of
sugarcane was increased, the number of workers required to
grow the crop has been decreasing as the result of improve- The Picture on Income
ments in production techniques. More workers have been
required during the harvesting season, however, since on the The extent to which people are employed and
island sugarcane is still cut by hand.
their productiveness as workers are, of course, re-
been conducive to the organization of labor unions. flected in the general level of income. In Puerto
These unions have been a factor in raising the Eico the income level is low. Although per capita
wage level for sugarcane workers and they have net income has been increasing steadily since 1939,
been able to bring about some improvements in by 1946 it was only $271, compared with $1,211 for
working conditions through collective bargaining. the United States and $587 for Mississippi, the
In general, however, the most important changes State with the lowest income. The 1950 census
in wages and working conditions have come about shows that in Puerto Eico 43.4 percent of all per-
through legislation, both Puerto Eican and Fed- sons 14 years old and over with any income what-
eral, and the decrees of wage and labor relations ever had made less than $300 in 1949, compared
regulatory bodies. Of course, some of the legis- with only 3.2 percent who had incomes of $3,000
lation affecting labor has been influenced by the or more.
The general level of income among those earn-
labor organizations.
Agricultural labor unions in Puerto Rico are ing money is much higher in urban areas than in
loosely organized and there is a large turnover in the rural sections of the island. The median in-
dues-paying members. No single labor organiza- come of all persons 14 years old and over who
tion holds a dominant position since there exists earned any money during 1949 was $378. In the
a relatively large number of so-called syndicates urban areas the median was $617, but only $275 in
and independent unions. In the last few years the rural areas. About half of the total popula-
the strongest labor organization in agriculture has tion 14 years old and over earned no income, with
divided itself into several groups, mostly as a re- 57 percent of this segment in the rural areas.
sult of personal differences among leaders. The Among those having a money income, the distri-
existence of so many different labor groups greatly bution is better in the urban areas than in the
intensifies competition for membership support rural parts of the island. Only 29.6 percent of
and opens the way for these groups to out-bid each the urban people with any income whatever in
other in their demands without regard for other 1949 earned less than $300, as compared with 54.9
considerations affecting the welfare either of percent for those in rural sections. An additional
workers or of the economy. Such a situation is 14.2 percent in the urban areas and 19.3 percent
made to order for irresponsible leadership. Al- in the rural areas earned between $300 and less
though the agricultural labor movement in Puerto than $500. Thus, about 44 percent of the urban
Eico was begun and reached an organized state people with income and 74 percent of those in
much earlier than on the mainland and is more rural areas earned less than $500 in 1949. The
18 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

higher income bracket ranging between earnings exercise of more initiative and resourcefulness in
of $500 and under $1,500 covered 38.1 percent of the use of both human and natural resources.
the urban people with income and only 21.3 per- The generally low level of productivity that re-
cent of those in rural areas. In the group of peo- sults from the present use of labor and land re-
ple who earned $1,500 and over, the urban areas sources makes it virtually impossible for many
had about 3% for every such earner in the rural thousands of workers to earn anything like a de-
sections. cent living. The highest paid laborers in the agri-
The pattern of very low and poorly distributed cultural field are the sugarcaiie workers (around
income hangs like a pall over the rural areas of $2.90 to $3.40 per day in 1951-52) but they are em-
Puerto Rico. The income statistics become mere ployed on the average only less than half of the
symbols of the widespread privation and suffering year. With large families to support, it is ob-
existing among the many country people who lack vious that this low income earned during the rela-
enough buying power for basic necessities. The tively short work period does not permit the sugar-
imprint of unemployment and underemployment cane worker to save anything for the time when he
in the island's agriculture stands out in bold re- has no employment. As a matter of fact, during
lief when viewed against the potentialities that the dead season (tiempo muerto] many sugarcane
could be realized through the adoption of im- workers and their families often end the day hun-
proved methods, greater diversification, and the gry. Those workers who own small tracts of land

URBAN AND RURAL MONEY INCOME


In Puerto Rico, by Income Groups, 194-9
THOUS. PERSONS ——————————————————————————

120

Underl : 3 to 5 : 7tolO : 1 5 t o 2 0 : 30 to 40 :
1 to 3 5to7 10tol5 20to30 40&over
TOTAL INCOME IN HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS
D A T A F R O M THE B U R E A U OF THE C E N S U S FOR P E R S O N S }4 Y E A R S OLD AND O V E R V V / T H MONEY INCOME
* M E D / A N INCOME $617 ° MEDIAN INCOME $275

Although the general level of income is low in Puerto Rico, the amount of money received per capita is much lower in rural than in
urban areas. The distribution of income also is much better in the urban centers than in the rural sections.
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 19
(usually less than 3 acres) receive a small income
from their lands, besides what they make in wages,
but this does not average more than $40 or $50 per
year.
The lot of workers employed in tobacco, coffee,
and other agricultural enterprises is even worse.
Most of the farmers who produce these other crops
are small operators and very few of them have
broken away from traditional production and
marketing methods. Since the income of these
farmers is generally low, the wage paid to labor
is also low. In fact, it is much lower than in sugar-
cane. Even though these other crops provide work
for a greater number of days during the year, the
annual cash income of the worker is usually still
lower than that of the sugarcane laborer.

Rural Living Conditions


During the last few years there has been a sig-
nificant improvement in housing in Puerto Rico.
The rural sections, however, have lagged consider-
ably behind the urban areas in this advance. For
the island as a whole, there was an addition of 92,-
000 dwelling units during the decade since 1940.
Although the population increased by 18 percent,
No running water in her house, so she carries it from the nearest
the number of dwelling units increased by 25 per- source of supply.
cent. Most of the gain in housing was through
new construction, and building activity is still Since Puerto Rico is subject to hurricanes, struc-
continuing at a lively pace under both public and tures must be able to resist the force of terrific
private sponsorship. winds. A large number of the houses on the island
One striking development is the fact that thou- will not stand up in a severe hurricane. More than
sands of families who had lived under pitiful con- three-fourths of the dwelling units both in urban
ditions in urban slums now occupy decent living and rural areas are still built of wood, although
quarters for the first time in their lives. Also, in this is a decrease from 1940, when about 90 percent
the rural areas, thousands of landless squatters were made from this material.
and farm laborers living in makeshift shacks have Most inadequate, however, are the houses made
been resettled in rural communities organized to of straw, palm wood, galvanized iron and wood,
accommodate from 100 to 500 families. Each fam- or similar materials. These offer little protec-
ily is provided with a plot of land on which to tion from either rain or wind. And yet, many
build a simple, low-cost house and also produce dwellings on the island are of such poor construc-
some subsistence crops. tion and most of them are in the rural areas. These
But far more remains to be done to improve liv- flimsy houses are occupied by very low-income
ing conditions in both urban and rural sections. families. For example, in the rural areas, they
In 1950, about 26 percent of the urban dwelling provide a "home" for over 40 percent of the fam-
units and 37 percent of the rural ones were dilapi- ilies earning less than $500 a year. Of course, this
dated. Of those reported as not dilapidated, 94 percentage drops very quickly as income increases.
percent of all rural and 60 percent of all urban Only 5 percent of the rural houses are made of
dwelling units were not equipped with private concrete, compared with about 22 percent in the
bath and flush toilet facilities. Moreover, 84 per- urban areas. The use of concrete has increased in
cent of the rural homes had no inside running the last decade with the development of a rather
water, compared with 42 percent in urban areas. substantial cement industry on the island. About
20 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

13 percent of all dwelling units are now of con- bring newspapers to rural communities and de-
crete, compared with only 6 percent in 1940. Cost liver various packages and supplies.
of concrete construction, however, is a limiting Two newspapers have island-wide circulation,
factor for most of the population. but most of this is in the metropolitan areas of
The average dwelling unit in Puerto Eico has San Juan and in other cities and towns. Many
about 3 rooms. Over-crowding prevails in most of the people in the rural areas rely heavily on
homes, since the average family, especially in the radio for their news, information, and enter-
the rural areas, is large. Over 70 percent of the tainment. However, relatively few rural families
rural people live in houses of 3 rooms or less and, have radios. The island has a large number of
for the most part, occupancy of these dwellings is radio stations, but most of the competition is in
by families with incomes of less than $500 per broadcasting advertising rather than in provid-
year. This compares with 44 percent in the urban ing programs that will meet the needs of listeners.
areas. In regard to water facilities, more than half of
Since most of the homes are small and families the Puerto Rican families obtain water from an
are big, the number of persons sleeping in a single aqueduct, about one-fifth from springs, deep wells,
room is large. In fact, in about three-fourths of and rain, and nearly one-fourth from rivers, sur-
the rural families there are three or more persons face wells, and other sources open to contamina-
to one sleeping room and close to two-fifths of the tion. The source differs markedly in rural and
population sleep in rooms with four or more per- urban districts. In the urban zone over 97 per-
sons. In the low-income bracket almost one- cent of all families have access to an aqueduct
half of the rural families sleep with five or more supply, and only the small remainder get it from
persons per room. This crowded condition is other sources. In contrast, less than one-fifth of
made worse by the fact that the rooms are very rural families obtain water from an aqueduct and
small. In many places hammocks and cots are a little over one-third from springs, deep wells
used instead of beds. More than three-fourths and rain, while over 40 percent drink water from
of the rural people live in meagerly equipped streams, ditches, and surface wells.
dwellings of 360 square feet or. less. How much of the water used in rural areas is
The extension of electric service to rural areas safe or unsafe to drink is problematical. The
has lagged far behind. Only about 14 percent of water from the aqueduct is supposed to be safe,
the rural homes have electricity available, com- also that of springs and rain if properly stored.
pared with 70 percent in the urban areas. But the water from the streams, ditches and canals,
Also sorely lacking in the rural areas are ade- or surface wells is definitely unsafe, since all of
quate means of communication. Telephone service these sources are exposed to pollution. Such water
is unavailable in most sections and when a call may be a carrier of any number of waterborne dis-
has to be placed it is made in the nearest town, ease organisms and thus be a constant menace to
usually at the telephone company's local head- the health of those who drink it.
quarters. The equipment operated by the tele- Many diseases common in Puerto Rico may be
phone system is antiquated and highly inefficient. transmitted through human excreta. Chief
Service is poor at its best. among these are the diarrheas and dysenteries,
uncinariasis or hookworm, and other bacterial and
Mail service is far short of requirements. Only
parasitic diseases which are responsible for much
a very few rural free delivery mail routes have
of the illness and physical impairment of the peo-
been established. Eural dwellers distant from
ple. Sanitary disposal of human waste is thus
town have to get their mail direct from the post almost a first essential of health. In the rural
office, or else have it addressed in care of their zone only about 5 percent of the families have a
local country store to be picked up by the store- flush toilet. More than one-fourth of the rural
keeper when he goes to the post office for his families lack any kind of toilet facilities. They
mail. Often, where mail service is unavailable, use the yard, field, beach, or streams. That is why
bus drivers are used to carry messages for those most of the rivers are contaminated.
who want to communicate with others in com- It is estimated that in the rural sections over
munities along their route. The bus drivers also two-thirds of the families have unsanitary latrines
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 21

Water running in Puerto Rico's rivers and streams is used for many household purposes despite pollution and other dangers. The people
who do so usually do not have access to an alternate water supply that is safe.

or none at all. This means that much of the land Friday procession. Once in a while dances are
area of rural districts and the water that drains held at country houses.
from this land are polluted from human excreta. There are very few community-interest organi-
This situation constitutes a grave menace to the zations, although during recent years a number
health of the island. Infection with disease or- of consumers' cooperatives have been organized
ganisms is easily spread through drinking water, in about 50 rural communities. Cooperatives
through food coming in contact with the soil or, present very good opportunities for improving
as in the case of hookworm, through direct ex- the way of rural living in Puerto Rico and their
posure of the feet or other bodily part to the pol- organization should be fostered even more inten-
luted soil. sively than it has been so far.
Rural families enjoy few amenities. They are All in all, conditions under which most rural
very seldom able to go to a movie in town and inhabitants of Puerto Rico live are most unsatis-
there are practically no social organizations among factory. The situation is, of course, made worse
them. There exist a few religious societies, Cath- by the large size of the average rural family and
olic and Protestant. The main social events are the high percentage of the population represent-
the fiestas during Christmas time which extend ing children of nonworking age. Since most of
from Christmas Eve to the middle of January, the rural breadwinners make barely enough to
and the trip to the nearby town to see the Good take care of the many mouths they must feed, the
239284—53———3
22 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

families have to depend almost exclusively on this amount was more than matched by funds from
Government help in obtaining medical attention, the Puerto Rican Government.
hospitalization, and other essential services. The child-feeding programs are playing an im-
Meeting these vital needs imposes a heavy burden portant role in the physical and mental develop-
on the Government of Puerto Eico. Expendi- ment of growing children in Puerto Rico. Many
ture of a large part of the budget is required to of the youngsters are able to get their only glass
provide free medical care and hospitalization, of milk through the milk stations, or their only
build rural aqueducts, and supply other necessary balanced meal through the school lunches. The
services free to the many who cannot afford to effect of these feeding activities becomes readily
pay. The Government, however, just does not apparent in a comparison between those children
now have all the money that should be spent for who have these programs available to them and
these purposes in order to meet the bare minimum those who do not. Where the feeding programs
needs of the population. And this again goes are in effect, the youngsters are much healthier,
back to the low level of income that prevails show greater gains in weight, and are more alert
among the people. in their studies.
The unfortunate part is that the feeding pro-
Level of Nutrition grams do not reach more children throughout the
A large proportion of the population of Puerto island, especially in the rural areas. This would
Rico is poorly nourished. Only a relatively small be possible if the same formula for allocating
number of the families enjoy a diet entirely ade- funds to the States under the National School
quate in the protective foods. Approximately Lunch Act were used in calculating Puerto Rico's
three-fourths of the families subsist on diets that share. Instead, a formula is now employed which
are inadequate in dietary essentials. limits the funds allocated to Puerto Rico consid-
The typical diet of most families consists largely erably below what they otherwise would total.
of rice, beans, and mandas (starchy vegetables) Congress would have to amend the act to afford
to which are added small amounts of codfish and the children in Puerto Rico the same opportunity
certain flavoring foods when money is available to that the children in the States have to participate
purchase them. The diets in general are notably in the school lunch program. Such an amend-
short, as compared with present diet recommen- ment would help the children of Puerto Rico
dations, in good quality protein, calcium, ribo- grow into healthy, useful citizens who will be able
flavin, and vitamin A, and probably have less than to make their full contribution to the welfare of
desirable amounts of many other nutritional the island and the United States.
elements. The lowest dietary levels prevail in the rural
In recent years the nutrition problem has been areas of Puerto Rico where there are the most
tackled in part, at least, through various child- people with low incomes. Compared with the
feeding programs such as school lunches, milk situation in the urban areas, only a negligible seg-
stations, and others. These are supported by Fed- ment of the rural population actually has an ade-
eral and Puerto Rican funds. During 1950-51 an quate diet.
average of nearly 224,000 youngsters benefited In the last 10 years there has been a substantial
from the operation of these feeding programs. increase in the amount of milk consumed on the
The biggest contribution to improve nutrition is island. A sizable part of this increase has been
being made by the school lunch program with fi- brought about by the serving of milk at the feed-
nancial assistance provided under the National ing centers. Improved economic conditions over
School Lunch Act, which is administered by the the years and the continuous educational cam-
United States Department of Agriculture. An paigns have also contributed to this increase in
average of nearly 193,000 school children partici- consumption. At present, however, the amount of
pated in this program during 1950-51. An addi- milk and milk products available per capita on the
tional 30,400 children were served at milk stations. island totals much less than 10 ounces per day.
The Federal contribution to the operation of the The lowest consumption of milk is in the rural
child-feeding programs was slightly over 3 million areas, where many families have no milk available
dollars, in terms of cash and donated foods, and to them. A large proportion of the milk used on
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 23
money provide a far greater number of calories,
the families in the rural areas with very low in-
comes frequently sell, rather than consume, the few
eggs they may produce.
The most commonly used protein food is im-
ported dried codfish. This is used mostly by the
middle-income people. The lower-income families
must limit their consumption of codfish because
its price has so increased as to make this food
almost prohibitive for them. The more well-to-do
consume only small amounts because they can af-
ford the more expensive proteins, such as meat,
eggs, and milk.
Meat is consumed only when it can be afforded
and, therefore, its use is largely limited to the
higher-income groups. One-third of the Puerto
Rican families rarely have any meat. Fowl is con-
sidered a luxury food, yet it is consumed more by
the rural families than by the urban since rural
dwellers have more of an opportunity to keep a
few chickens around, although in the last few years
there has been quite an increase in commercial
broiler production to supply urban areas.
Starchy vegetables (viandas) constitute the bulk
of the food of low-income families. As these
starchy vegetables are eaten in large amounts, they
supply not only daily calories but also other
nutrients. Recently some efforts have been made
through educational campaigns and other means
The school lunch program makes a valuable contribution to the to stimulate the preference for the yellow varieties,
diets of many children in Puerto Rico. especially in the case of pumpkins or squash and
sweetpotatoes. These varieties produced in Puerto
the island is imported from the States in the form
Rico are very rich in carotene and provide a fine
of dried or canned milk, and practically all of the
source of vitamin A for the local diet.
butter and most of the cheese comes from outside.
Green and leafy vegetables, however, are utilized
The use of dried skim milk has increased in recent
only by a very small percentage of the population
years, and a rather large volume of this product
in both urban and rural areas, even though there
is used both for the child-feeding programs and
has been an increase in recent years.
for commercial sales in small packages for home
The consumption of fruits on the island has been
use.
rather low although it has been improved through
Egg consumption in Puerto Rico, as in the educational efforts of such agencies as the Exten-
States, is largely determined by the income of fam- sion Service. Among the people with higher in-
ilies. Over 30 percent of those Puerto Rican comes there has been some tendency to substitute
families with an income of $500 or less use no eggs the more costly imported fruits having a lower
at all. The annual consumption of eggs in rural nutritive value for the inexpensive and more nutri-
areas probably averages 65 per capita, compared tious fruits produced locally. Much could be
with less than 100 per capita in urban sections. accomplished toward improving nutrition if con-
For the island as a whole, egg consumption per sumption of native fruits could be increased
person is only about a fifth of what it is on the further.
mainland. In order to get money to buy a Rice and beans have long been the principal
more filling food, such as rice, which will for the food items in the majority of Puerto Rican homes.
24 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Somewhat less rice is used in the rural areas than cally restricts the amount and kinds of food con-
in the urban, the average weekly consumption per sumed by most of the population, especially the
person being about 44 ounces in the rural areas people with low incomes.
and 47 ounces in the urban. Puerto Rican families Puerto Rico can and should produce more of its
prefer to use polished white rice which, from the own food. The island has the necessary resources
point of view of nutritionists, lacks elements essen- for stepping up food production considerably
tial to the local diet. In view of this preference, without hampering any other agricultural enter-
the Puerto Rican Legislature in 1950 enacted a prise. An expansion in local food production on
law requiring that all rice sold on the island must farms and in gardens would not only be profitable
be enriched so as to add nutritional values which and add to income as well as employment, but it
otherwise wrould be deficient in polished rice. The would also help bring about a material improve-
combination of rice and beans is a popular dish. ment in the nutrition of the people.
Many Puerto Rican families prefer to use the red Unless the people of Puerto Rico move forward
kidney beans, which are mainly imported. But vigorously on a program to increase food produc-
these are not as nutritious as the locally produced tion both for home use and local sale, they must
gandules (pigeonpeas) or the imported chick- be prepared to face even more deprivation than
peas, both of which are used by about two-thirds now exists. With population increasing at a rate
of the families. much greater than the rise in income from ex-
The overall food supply situation in Puerto Rico ports, the difficulty of paying for more imported
is not good and for many people this presents a food becomes obvious. An alternative fully with-
serious problem. Food production on the island in the control of the people of Puerto Rico is to
has not kept pace with the rapidly increasing produce more food on the island and thus help
population with the result that more and more themselves to better living.
reliance has had to be placed on imported foods.
The annual value of food imports now exceeds The Score at Present
100 million dollars. The heavy dependence on The biggest resource that Puerto Rico has is the
food imports imposes a great burden on the econ- human resource. But this prime asset has been
omy of the island and also increases the cost of utilized most poorly of all. The people have not
food to the consumer. The combination of factors been employed anywhere near their productive
affecting the food supply and its cost automati- capabilities. They have lacked the opportunities
which greater initiative, enterprise, drive, and
more effective organization could provide.
The many shortcomings that have prevailed
still are most acute in the rural areas where the
pressure of a rapidly increasing population against
limited natural resources exerts its greatest im-
pact. While the rural sections have not been
neglected in efforts to bring about improvements,
conditions in the urban areas are more tolerable.
Private enterprise has helped in the earnest, but
still inadequate, Government action to encourage
industry, increase incomes, improve housing, and
expand facilities and services for education, health,
and other social needs. To the extent that the
Puerto Rican Government has been able to follow
through with its program, the measures employed
have had a great influence on the pattern of living
of people in the towns and cities. This is reflected
not only in the well-being of these urban dwellers
on many farms in Puerto Rico it is customary to supplement the but also in the fact that there is a more enlightened
wages of workers with produce from the farm and in this way
add to the diets of the laborers and their families. attitude toward family responsibilities and the
THESE ARE THE PEOPLE 25
birth rate is lower than the very high rate in the
In Recent Years
rural sections.
The present situation of the people of Puerto POPULATION DENSITY OF
Rico is a measure of the adjustments still needed SELECTED COUNTRIES
COUNTRY YEAR PERSONS PER SQUARE MILE
to achieve the goal of a decent standard of living. 200 400 600 800
It is an open challenge to everyone who has a stake ENGLAND 6- WALES
in Puerto Rico's future. The task is a formidable BELGIUM— — — — -
one. However, the extent to which improvement PUERTO RICO

is attained depends largely on how great the desire NETHERLANDS


PUERTO RICO
for an adequate standard of living really is among
JAPAN ..........
the people. ITALY—— ——
There certainly is no room for complacency in HA | T |............

the condition that still prevails for a great part DENMARK——


of the population, even with the advances brought FRANCE — — —

about on the island in recent years. And, yet, EL SALVADOR


S P A I N — — ————
there is a complacent attitude among far too
CUBA—-.............
many Puerto Ricans who, in one manner or an- DOMINICAN REP.
other, have adjusted their living so as to make the UNITED STATES —
best out of a bad situation. This is nothing new, COSTARICA —
since for generations the people of the island MEXICO .............

have had to accommodate themselves to economic ARGENTINA--


B R A Z I L ..............
and social forces which they did not know how to
V E N E Z U E L A .......
control. But this accommodation is no longer
CANADA — ———
necessary, as the gains already made in Puerto
Rico demonstrate. The hope for the future lies in
this fact. Puerto Rico ranks as one of the most densely populated areas of
To accomplish anything near the goal of a de- the world. Between 1940 and 1950 alone the population
density of the island rose from 546 persons per square mile
cent standard of living calls for full mobilization to 646, an increase of 100 persons per square mile in a
of human energies in an attack centered on funda- period of only 10 years.

mental problems. While the Government has a


big role to play in laying out the groundwork for totalization, greater literacy and a higher level of
action, the people have an even greater contribu- educational attainment on the island, a set of
tion to make by what they do to help themselves. values will be adopted which will place increased
The latent resourcefulness of each person must be emphasis on the well-being of the individual
turned into an effectively functioning resource rather than on high fertility and large families.
that will add to the total effort. Efforts to date to impart family limitation prac-
There is no doubt that the condition of the is- tices have not been too effective, probably because
land is dependent on its rate of population growth. these efforts have been expended before cultural
No matter what progress is made in the further attitudes and values, which would encourage their
development of agriculture and no matter what acceptance, have been adopted. Also, the church
level of industrialization is achieved, the efforts lias stood opposed to the general dissemination of
will be more or less neutralized by a continuing information on birth control. Nevertheless, the
rapid growth of population. This is clearly indi- practice of birth control and family planning
cated by what actually has been happening. has been gradually creeping into the consciousness
Under these circumstances, it seems reasonable to of the population, especially among the higher
regard Puerto Rico's economic future as being de- income and educated groups who are able to ob-
pendent on the rapidity with which population tain help privately. Public assistance is available
growth is stabilized. in maternal and child-welfare clinics where ster-
There is reason to hope that with a rising stand- ilization and birth-control measures may legally
ard of living, increasing urbanization and indus- be employed in extreme cases dealing with the life
26 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

and health of the mother. This governmental and where the birth rate is among the highest
service, however, has not received all the finan- in the world.
cial support and backing it actually needs to cope The time has come when far greater weight
with the problem among the people who really and consideration must be given to the serious
should be helped. handicaps under which the people in the rural
If the human resource of Puerto Rico is to be sections of Puerto Rico must live. For the good of
employed more nearly in keeping with its pro- all, the wide gap in economic and social well-
ductive capabilities, then it is essential to attack being that now exists between the rural and urban
the problem where it is most acute. And that is in areas of the island must be narrowed, not by doing
the rural areas of the island where the general less in the towns and cities but by doing more of
level of income and conditions of living are de- consequence for and in the country places where
plorably low, where essential facilities for edu- the so-called population problem has its deepest
cation and other social needs are sorely lacking, root.
Chapter

This is the Land


When the Spaniards first came to Puerto Rico the result of a lack of production credit and a
in their search for gold at the beginning of the curtailment in the labor force occasioned by mi-
16th century, they found on the island a small gration to Peru. Cattle hides then took the place
Indian population. These Indians lived from of sugar as the principal export product.
farming, hunting, and fishing. They grew only Tobacco began to be planted commercially for
a few crops, such as cotton, cassava, and tobacco, export in the first half of the 17th century, after
and had no domestic animals. The soil was very the Spanish King had repealed a prohibition on
fertile and the land abounded with trees and the sale of this product. During the same time,
wildlife. the cattle industry increased considerably in re-
For about two decades after the colonization, sponse to the export demand for hides. Ginger
the Spaniards paid scant attention to the possi- also had become an important export crop.
bilities of tilling the soil. But when it developed The growing of coffee was started in the high-
that there actually was little gold on the island lands of Puerto Rico during the early part of the
and a serious economic crisis arose, the colonizers 18th century and its production was stimulated
were forced to search for a new source of income. by the great demand for this product in Spain
They took their cue from the Indians and turned and other European countries.
to agriculture. The Spaniards then began to in- By the middle of the 18th century, livestock
troduce tropical crops of all kinds and all types of numbers had increased to a point where there was
farm animals. By the end of the 16th century, almost a cow and a hog per capita for the island's
sugarcane, plantains, bananas, coconuts, as well total population of around 50,000. Cotton had
as most of the domestic animals had been intro- developed into an important commercial crop, and
duced on the island from different countries. corn constituted one of the principal sources of
Production for export was the main objective, locally produced food for the people.
and sugar received early emphasis. In 1533, Up to 1815 Puerto Rico could trade legally only
Puerto Rico made its first export of sugar—a total with Spain, but a relatively large contraband trade
of 932 arrobas, equivalent to 23,635 pounds. Three had developed with the Dutch and English and
years later the King of Spain granted a loan of later with the Americans. It is believed that for
4,000 pesos for the production of sugarcane on the many years the volume of trade involved in smug-
island. By 1582 sugarcane growing was the main gling was greater than the legal flow of goods.
source of income on the island, and there were 11 A royal decree in 1815 liberated commerce from
ingenios (small sugar mills), two of which were its exclusive ties with Spain and allowed legal
operated by hydraulic power. Those were the trade with other countries. It also exempted from
days when, because of lack of bullion, sugarcane excise taxes agricultural implements and machin-
and hides were used as money. ery, as well as slaves, and permitted foreigners to
Sugar, however, lost ground in the last years of enter the island.
the 16th century. Output was considerably re- The decree opened the way for the development
duced by the start of the 17th century, mainly as and exploitation that was to follow in Puerto
27
28 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Rico. Encouraged by this turn in events, people since the population had been increasing at a rate
began to flock into the island to take advantage so great that it was doubling about every 30 years,
of the opportunities that were in prospect. Many the growing pressure against land resources was
were brought in to add to the labor force, and rapidly being reflected on both the economy and
these included slaves. Land clearing became more the people who, by this time, were well dispersed
extensive and more and more soil was made to throughout the island.
lose its fertility as additional acres were brought In the first two centuries after the colonization
into production. Agriculture expanded and ex- of Puerto Rico, only the coastal areas were de-
ports increased (table 8). The population total voted to agriculture and only a very small portion
climbed higher and higher. of the land was cultivated. By and large, most
of the land in the coastal plains was in pastures
Table 8.—Exports of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, used for grazing livestock. As sugar production
by 5-year periods for Puerto Rico, 1828-62 expanded through the years, more and more of
this rich land went into the growing of cane.
^Average exports It was during the 18th century, with the intro-
duction of coffee, that the highlands of Puerto
Sugar Coffee Tobacco Rico began to be cultivated and part of the popu-
lation shifted from the coastal sections to the in-
100 pounds 100 pounds 100 pounds terior. As the coffee industry expanded, an in-
1828-32___.___ 291, 892 125, 176 33, 634
1833-37___.___ 415, 144 97, 802 43, 646 creasing number of people came to live in the
1838-42_______ 793, 283 104, 687 46, 070 mountainous interior to take up land and to find
1843-47_______ 874, 046 101, 188 55, 071
1848-52_______ 1, 052, 437 106, 990 40, 210 work.
1853-57_______ 1, 046, 446 116, 381 35, 268 The interior highland area came to be recog-
1858-62_______ 1, 075, 680 129, 801 50, 656
nized as Puerto Rico's frontier since the very
fertile coastal lands had already been taken over
Most of the agricultural expansion was in grow- in large blocks by a relatively few owners. As
ing sugarcane and the production of sugar along the island's population increased the interior be-
the most fertile coastal plains. This was further came more densely populated, not only in the
stimulated by the liberation of slaves in Puerto western central part where coffee was grown, but
Rico in 1873. Exports of sugar from the island also in the eastern portion. It was easier for the
rose from 6 million pesos in 1870 to 16 million landless who wanted to acquire land to move into
pesos in 1877. Then came a disaster which the interior, where land was owned by the Govern-
brought on a sharp drop in sugar exports. Dis- ment or could be obtained at relatively low prices,
eases struck which almost wiped out the main than to get even a very small plot to farm in the
sugarcane varieties that had been growing on the coastal plain sections. In the highland areas not
island, and large numbers of people who had de- planted to coffee, cultivation of food crops for
pended on sugar for a living faced a desperate subsistence was the type of farming that prevailed.
situation. But ready access to land suitable for farming
Many people left for the highlands where coffee in the highland areas did not last long. The tempo
growing continued to be expanded until it be- of acquisition and settlement had been stepped up
came a major crop. By 1897 production of coffee greatly during the 1880's and the 1890's when the
had increased to 51 million pounds with a value coastal regions were engaged in what appeared to
of 12 million pesos. The growing of coffee had be a losing struggle against the diseases of sugar-
been extended so that it occupied 41 percent of all cane. It soon became apparent that already there
the tilled land on the island while sugarcane grow- were too many people for the amount of good land
ing had declined so much that it took up only 15 available. Also, a considerable volume of land in
percent of the cropland. The expansion in coffee, the interior already had been acquired in large in-
however, did not make up economically for the dividual holdings, and this further added to
decline in sugarcane production, especially in the the difficulties of the many who had to remain
amount of employment that was provided. And landless.
THIS IS THE LAND 29

ATLANTIC OCEAN

Puerto Rico with its main towns and cities and network of roads winding around the coastal plains and through the mountainous interior.

Puerto Rico Under U. S. Sovereignty Sugar lands were consolidated into large-scale
Such was the situation that prevailed in Puerto holdings and there also was a significant expan-
Kico when Spain's sovereignty over the island sion in processing and handicraft activities. The
was transferred to the United States in 1898. In big investments made possible the construction of
the first year of Puerto Eico's new status, a dis- sugar mills, as well as transportation facilities
aster struck which almost crippled the entire such as railroads and roads. Fertilizers and im-
economy. On August 8, 1899, the full force and proved cultural practices were brought into use,
fury of a raging hurricane hit the island. Many with resultant increased per-acre yields of sugar-
persons were killed, and there was great devasta- cane. Labor was plentiful and cheap.
tion of homes, farms, sugar mills, roads and Once again the production of sugar for export
bridges, and crops. The island's sizable coffee was on the upgrade in Puerto Rico, and the crop
industry was nearly wiped out by the storm's tre- spread out over more land. The climb in output
mendous damage to the coffee trees and the shade was dramatic from the start. By 1912 it reached
trees under which they grew. almost 400,000 tons, an increase of 10 times the low
A period of reconstruction followed. With the point to which sugar production had previously
change in sovereignty, Puerto Rico received the declined in 1898-99. The general trend continued
advantages of United States tariff protection. sharply upward until World War I, but during
American capital and know-how became interested the war and postwar years the rate of increase was
in the possibilities of the island and large amounts only moderate even though prices of sugar had
of both were soon invested by United States indi- risen considerably.
viduals and corporations. This later brought In 1923, disease hit again and the amount of
about a tremendous increase in commercial crops sugar produced quickly dropped back to the same
which could enjoy an advantage in the United level as in 1912, and again the industry faced
States market because they would be admitted destruction. But this time there was no waiting
from Puerto Rico free of duty. for a solution. Research workers and plant scien-
239284—53——1
COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO
30
tists of the Federal and Puerto Rican Govern- later anyhow because of the increasing competi-
ments went to work on the two diseases that had tion from other producing areas.
greatly reduced yields and shortly came up with Along with the restoration of sugar as Puerto
some answers. Varieties of sugarcane resistant Rico's dominant crop came an expansion of tobacco
to the mosaic and gummosis diseases were intro- production for the United States market. Before
duced, and these two plagues that threatened the change in sovereignty, the outlet for Puerto
Puerto Rico's principal industry were brought Rican tobacco was confined to the island itself
under control. Besides, the new varieties proved plus Spain, with limited exports going to other
more productive, and per-acre yields of sugar in- European countries such as France and Germany.
creased considerably. Only small export shipments were made to the
Growers were quick to plant the new varieties, United States and these encountered the usual im-
and the amount of land put to sugarcane was port duties. With such rather limited markets, the
further expanded. Total production of sugar in production of tobacco in Puerto Rico had been
Puerto Rico increased at a phenomenal rate. In more or less stabilized, and during the last three
1933-34 it reached 1,114,000 tons. The value of decades under Spanish rule the output averaged
this output, however, was reduced by the very low a little over 5 million pounds a year. But when
prices and the world-wide depression that had set Puerto Rico came under United States jurisdiction
in. To meet this situation, the United States Con- and received the advantages of the tariff which
gress in 1934 enacted the Sugar Act, which im- previously had limited the entry of its products
posed controls over the production and marketing to the American market, the way was opened for
of sugar as a means of aiding growers and stabiliz- tobacco to become a more important crop.
ing the industry. While Puerto Rican and other The expansion in tobacco growing that got
American sugar producers were helped by this under way was gradual for several years, but be-
action, it imposed restrictions on the sharp exten- came marked in the second decade when it rose to
sion of sugarcane growing in Puerto Rico and, around 25 million pounds. The American market
for a long time afterward, production on the was taking increasing quantities of Puerto Rican
island seldom exceeded a million tons. It is likely, tobacco for the manufacture of cigars, and exports
however, that this would have happened sooner or to other markets were rapidly dropping off. The

Typicol of much of the interior of Puerto Rico is the Caguas area, where tobacco is a leading crop.
THIS IS THE LAND 31
peak of production was reached in 1927, with a the years between 1912 and 1915 were relatively
record crop of 50 million pounds grown on 81,900 prosperous ones for the island's growers. Then
acres. The big increases in tobacco were stimu- came World War I and Puerto Rico lost its Euro-
lated by the very favorable conditions growing out pean outlets. During the years that followed,
of World War I and the good demand that pre- exports declined sharply.
vailed for cigars. But when smoking tastes shifted
to cigarettes and cigar consumption declined, Agriculture's Role in the Economy
Puerto Rico was among the first to feel the effects. Puerto Rico's economy is, and probably will con-
The boom in tobacco growing in Puerto Rico tinue to be, largely agricultural. Most of the eco-
came to an end with the harvest of the big 1927 nomic activity on the island centers around the
crop. Prices to growers fell sharply and produc- cultivation, processing, transportation, and dis-
tion was cut back to earlier levels. The industry, tribution of agricultural products. Agricultural
which consists primarily of large numbers of very production in 1951 accounted for about one-fifth
small growers located in the upland areas, went of the total net income of Puerto Rico. The total
into a decline from which it has never recovered value of agricultural production was in the neigh-
although tobacco remained the island's second borhood of 200 million dollars in each of the 5
ranking export crop. years through 1951, and about half that amount
Also stimulated by American investments dur- came from sugarcane. The net return from farm
ing the first three decades of United States sover- production increased considerably since the pre-
eignty in Puerto Rico was the production of fruits war years, from less than 40 million dollars in
which had acquired relative importance in the ag- 1939 to around 80 million dollars annually in the
riculture of the island. In 1929-30 exports of 1947-51 period. The supplementary income from
fruits to the United States totaled about 7 million the transportation and marketing of agricultural
dollars, with grapefruit and pineapple the main products and the processing of sugar and other
export items. Since that time, however, the level crops, contributes about 15 percent to the total
of such exports has declined. net income of the island. Thus agriculture, di-
The coffee industry, which had grown so impor- rectly or indirectly, provides about 40 percent of
tant to the Puerto Rican economy under Spanish Puerto Rico's total net income.
rule but which had been badly hurt by the hurri- Even though a big effort is being made toward
cane of 1899, was not singled out for expansion industrialization, agriculture will continue to be
with the change in sovereignty since coffee was not the backbone of the island's economy. The reason
a tariff-protected commodity in the United States for this lies in the fact that practically all of
market. And without the protection of an import Puerto Rico's natural resources, as well as most
duty on other coffees in the United States, Puerto of the island's economic advantages, are closely
Rican coffee could not compete successfully in that related to agricultural activity.
market, since coffee from other producing areas Puerto Rico's location in the Tropics and in the
was preferred by American consumers. way of trade winds provides a mild climate
Puerto Rican coffee growers had always looked throughout the year which is very favorable to
to Europe for their export outlet. But the Euro- the production of many tropical as well as sub-
pean markets were lost largely due to the fact that tropical crops and a variety of animal products.
the Spanish tariff, which had previously protected The island's topography, characterized by a
Puerto Rican coffee for shipment through Spain mountainous interior surrounded by coastal
to Europe, immediately became a barrier when plains, makes possible a good distribution of rain-
Puerto Rico was no longer under Spanish control. fall in the north of the range of mountains and
This market loss and the damage that had been permits the impounding of an ample supply of
done by the 1899 hurricane disheartened the grow- water for irrigation in the south where rainfall
ers and, lacking any specific incentive, they let is not so high. At the same time, this type of
coffee production follow a process of slow recovery topography provides a diversity of soil conditions
without any special stimulus. After about a and slight differences in climate which permit a
decade, coffee production had gained sufficiently great diversification of agriculture. To this must
to provide a substantial amount for export, and be added the high fertility of most of the alluvial
32 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

soils in the coastal plains and the relatively high moved by erosion. Much cropland is being used
productive capacity of some of the highland soils. intensively and the plant nutrients are not being
On the other hand, the island's natural resources replaced as fast as they are taken from the soil.
are very scarce. Land, of course, is limited. The This virtual mining of fertility results in serious
only natural source of fuel is hydroelectric power, soil depletion and a lowered productive capacity.
which is being utilized quite effectively but meets The use of improper cultural practices has
only part of the present power needs of the econ- greatly reduced the ability of most of the high-
omy. Except for quartz, manganese, and limited land soils to absorb and retain water. This has
deposits of iron ore, practically no minerals have added to the impairment of soil fertility. Fur-
so far been found which could be rendered com- thermore, the lack of adequate protective cover
mercially exploitable by present techniques. For- permits a rapid runoff of rainfall with large
est resources are very small. amounts of topsoil being washed down the streams
Since Puerto Rico is so lacking in natural re- and deposited either in the sea or as silt in back
sources, other than those relating to agriculture, of dams. The rapid runoff also results in an un-
farm products provide the main source of local even flow of water into reservoirs and a consequent
raw materials for industries. But, as yet, little shortage of water for power or irrigation uses
has been done to take full advantage of agriculture during the dry season.
as a source of raw materials in the development Aside from the losses arising from unwise use
and expansion of industry. A closer integration of the land and water resources, the development
of agriculture and industry is basic in terms of of agriculture on the island has been affected by
Puerto Rico's needs and the most effective use of various other factors. Historically, Puerto Rico's
available resources. Such an integration would agriculture has been lacking in balance. Despite
greatly accelerate growth and diversification in the fact that the island is capable of producing a
both fields of activity and, thereby, broaden the wide variety of agricultural products, a little over
economic base, improve the economy's balance, and one-half of the value of farm production in 1950-51
make the island more self-supporting. was derived from a single crop—sugarcane. More
Puerto Rico is only about 2,185,000 acres in than two-fifths of the total cropland and most of
size and this area must support a population which the best soils are planted to this one crop.
in 1950 approximated 2,211,000 and is rapidly ap-
proaching the 2!/2 million mark. Since the life Land Tenure and Usage
of these people depends so largely on agricultural As is the case in all areas where the production
production, it is imperative that the land avail- of sugar largely dominates the economy, Puerto
able be used most efficiently and that conservation Rico has a high seasonal unemployment, a small
farming methods be employed so as to safeguard number of owners controlling the best lands, and
the productive resources. Actually, however, land a large number of landless people. Of the farms
in Puerto Rico is not being used to the best ad- on the island, almost 94 percent are operated by
vantage and soil and water are not being properly their owners. Where landholdings are concen-
conserved by the farming methods now employed. trated in large blocks, the organization of the
In fact, there is a great deal of misuse, neglect, and
farming operation tends to be highly specialized
waste of the soil and water resources on which the
and frequently does not provide the management
economy must so heavily depend.
Measured by generally accepted soil conserva- best suited to make the most fruitful use of all the
tion standards, less than one-third of Puerto Rico's farm land under its control. In the case of sugar
land area is actually suited for cultivation. But production, the large size of the holdings hinders
the pressure of population has been so severe that the proper utilization of such land as is not adapt-
it has forced the cultivation of much land with ed or not being used for growing cane. This land
very steep slopes where erosion is acute. Alto- could be efficiently used in smaller holdings for
gether, about 1,900,000 cuerdas (a cuerda equals the intensive production of other crops and prod-
0.9712 acre) are in farm lands of one sort or ucts that require day-to-day decisions and the exer-
another. Of this total, there are over a million cise of personal ingenuity in order to become suc-
acres with 75 percent or more of the topsoil re- cessful enterprises.
THIS IS THE LAND 33
and a little land on which to produce some food.
CHANGES IN FARM TENURE The 1950 census shows that the parcelas averaged
In Puerto Rico 1.04 cuerdas.
THOUS. FARMS NUMBER O F FARMS The pattern of land tenure in Puerto Rico shows
Tenant--
operated that 58 percent of the total land in farms is con-
tained in less than 6 percent of the total number
of farms. On the other extreme, 71 percent of the
farms contain only about 15 percent of the total
farm land. These figures do not include the
parcelas which contain only about 53,000 cuerdas.
ALL LAND IN FARMS
Land use in Puerto Rico has been very greatly
influenced by the fortunes of the sugar industry.
Whenever the production of sugar failed to pro-
vide needed employment, people were forced to
engage in other means of making a living. Many
HUND.CUERDAS
who wanted to continue in agriculture moved into
AV. SIZE OF FARM the interior highland areas to work in growing
S
Manager-
operated
coffee, tobacco, and other crops. When sugar
Owner Tenant-
production expanded in the coastal areas, other
"-
operatedV
~ ._.«,.
r . __ ;:; £j' operated
~r«s..
crops had to give way. This was especially pro-

IL1 _L JB
1

1910
PI

1920 1930 1935 1940 1950


nounced following the change in sovereignty
when, early in the 20th century, the way was being
paved for a sharp increase in sugarcane produc-
tion by the concentration of lands into the hands
The number of farms operated by their owners has been increas- of large, mostly absentee, owners. Production of
ing in Puerto Rico and in 1950 reached almost 94 percent of
the total. This has been accompanied by a reduction in food and other crops tended to move toward the
farm tenancy. The amount of land included in the owner- highlands as more and more of the fertile low-
operated farms has also been increasing, but the average size
of these farms continues relatively small. A significant trend lands were devoted to cane.
had been the reduction in the number of manager-operated The size of holdings in the various agricultural
farms and the amount of land included in such enterprises.
The average size of these farms, however, has increased sharply. sections of Puerto Rico has varied with the differ-
ent major crops. In the tobacco area holdings
At the same time, because of the great pressure have been very small since tobacco required much
of population on the land, there are thousands of
farmholdings too small to permit efficient opera- Table 9.—Distribution and size of landholdings
tion. Altogether, a total of 104,672 holdings— in Puerto Rico, 7950 1
53,515 farms and 51,157 parcelas—were reported
by the 1950 census. Many of these obviously could Total land in
Holdings in — holdings
not provide enough income to enable the farmer Size of holding
and his family to depend exclusively on the land (cuerdas 2)
(table 9). That is the situation existing for a Parcelas Farms Parcelas Farms
large number of the 53,515 farms. The 1950 cen-
sus classified as a farm any holding with three or Number Number Cuerdas Cuerdas
51, 157 53, 112
more cuerdas on which any agricultural operation, 3 to 9 - _ - - - - - _ - - - 27, 985 143, 008
including the keeping of 15 or more chickens or 10 to 1 9 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 10, 538 144, 449
2 0 t o 29_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 4, 562 108, 645
other poultry, was conducted. It is definitely the 3 0 t o 49_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 4, 125 155, 075
situation against which most of the 51,157 50 to 99_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 3, 166 216, 148
100 to 199_ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1,483 194, 155
parcelas are up against. A parcela is a place of at 1, 656 883, 406
least one-fourth of a cuerda but less than 3 cuerdas 53, 112 1, 844, 886
TotaL___ 51, 157 53, 515
on which any crops were harvested or livestock
kept. It is intended to provide a site for the home 1
From U. S. Census of Agriculture.
2
A cuerda equals 0.9712 acre.
34 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

care and personal supervision from the grower.


Landholdings in the coffee area, while smaller
than in the cane-producing coastal plains, have
been bigger on the average than those in the to-
bacco area. This relationship in the size of hold-
ings in the tobacco, coffee, and cane-producing
sections has persisted up to the present.
In general, the concentration of the best low-
lands in the hands of a few owners had the effect
of reducing efficiency in the use of those lands
which were not devoted to sugarcane on the large
estates. Sugarcane production was such a good
enterprise and so well adapted to corporation
farming, that other farm activities were neglected
by the large plantation operators. Practically
all land not in cane was devoted to pasture for the
use of oxen needed in growing and hauling the
cane. But very often the amount of land in pas-
ture far exceeded that needed to keep the animals.
As mechanization reduced the number of oxen
required, more land was planted to sugarcane, or
else it was left idle or in unproductive pastures.
Early in the century the establishment of gov- Narrow roads with many sharp curves and steep grades wind
ernment irrigation systems for the southern coast through the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico. Such roads
increase farm-to-market transportation costs.
of Puerto Rico added large amounts of land for
the cultivation of cane. This has had a profound the exception of bananas and oranges, were pro-
effect on land use in that area. duced in excess of the needs of the farmers and
The rapidity of population growth in Puerto farm workers. In the tobacco area where the main
Rico has naturally been a continuing factor in in- crop utilizes the soil for less than half the year and
fluencing land use. As the number of people in- permits a rotation system, food crops were planted
creased, the demand for land became greater and in the tobacco fields after harvest. Thus, the to-
a larger proportion of the population was forced bacco area came to be the main source of local
to cultivate higher and steeper lands in the in- food products for Puerto Rico's growing urban
terior. This pressure of an expanding population population. Cereals and some vegetables, besides
steadily depleted vast forest areas as more and cattle and milk, were produced in the dry sections
more woodland was stripped of its protective cover of the coastal plains which did not have irrigation.
for the planting of crops. Since the end of World War I there has been a
The commercial uses of land in the coastal and tendency for sugarcane growing to be extended
highland areas have long been governed by various into the hilly lands. First the foothill areas
factors, the most important being (1) the availa- close to the coastal plains were planted. Later, as
bility of capital and credit, (2) the existence of roads and transportation facilities improved, the
protected markets, (3) the availability of fac- production of sugarcane pressed forward to the
tories or processing plants, and (4) the existence inner valleys and plateaus. Now the growing of
of transportation and marketing facilities. Vir- sugarcane has been so extended that in many parts
tually all of these factors at one time or another of the island it is being cultivated even on very
favored the production of certain export crops steep slopes which previously had been devoted to
such as tobacco and coffee, but always sugar. coffee.
The nonexpert crops have long been produced in With the increase in demand for milk and the
a limited way. In the upland section, where cof- decrease in pasture lands, cattle raising has become
fee requires 5 to 6 years to come into normal pro- more intensive. Dairying has developed consid-
duction, only small amounts of food crops with erably while the growing of cattle mostly for draft
THIS IS THE LAND 35
power and beef has been sharply reduced. In fact, Table 11.—Net cropland area used for crops in
during the present century, dairying has been the Puerto Rico, 7949 *
only large enterprise able to hold its own and
steadily increase in the coastal plains in compe-
Crop Net cropland Percent of total
net area used
tition with sugarcane. area used for crops
As a result of the various factors that have in-
fluenced land use, the present pattern is quite dif- Cuerdas 2
ferent from what it was over 50 years ago. Only Sugarcane 366, 441 47. 7
Coffee_______ 176, 386 22.9
in the coffee areas has land use remained fairly Bananas 44, 241 5. 7
Sweetpotatoes_ 23, 818 3. 1
stable. The amount of land devoted to growing Corn 39, 497 5. 1
sugarcane has tripled and in the last few years su- Tobacco 26, 834 3. 5
Plantains 15, 125 2.0
garcane growing has made inroads in certain coffee Taniers (Youtias) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 14, 693 2. 0
sections. In the overall land use pattern since Coconuts 12, 551 1. 6
Yams 6, 125 .8
1940, the most drastic change has been the in- Rice__________________ 5,342 .7
Pineapples 4,840 .5
crease of over 100,000 cuerdas in sugarcane acreage, Cotton 2,736 .4
which took place largely after the end of World Other crops 30, 248 4.0
War II and was accompanied by a decrease in Total____________ 768, 886 100. 0
other crops. Also, there was a substantial rise in 1
Data based on 1950 U. S. Census of Agriculture.
the amount of cropland used for pasture. 2
A cuerda equals 0.9712 acre.
The pattern of land use, as indicated by the and to some extent in the mountain areas. The
1950 census, is about as follows: Out of a total of number of small sugarcane growers increased con-
1,844,886 cuerdas in farms in 1950, a little less than siderably in recent years as cane production ex-
one-half was used for crops (table 10). The main tended beyond the coastal regions.
crops, sugarcane, coffee, and tobacco, occupied Tobacco utilizes about 3.5 percent of the crop-
about two-thirds of the total land used for crops land. This crop is produced primarily in the east-
and the rest was devoted to forage crops and food ern central part of the island, very often close to
crops, mostly starchy vegetables, legumes, cereals, sugarcane fields. The food crops utilize about one-
and fruits. Approximately 794,000 cuerdas of third of the cropland used for crops. They are
land were devoted to pastures most of which were grown mainly in the upland areas and the dry non-
natural unimproved pastures of low productivity. irrigated or improperly irrigated coastal sections.
Of the 768,886 cuerdas of land used for crops, as The production of coffee takes up about one-fifth
shown by the 1950 census, sugar occupied slightly of the cropped land and is concentrated in the
less than half (table 11). More than 80 percent highlands of the west central region of the island.
of the land used for crops in the coastal plains Some of the food crops requiring a short growing
is devoted to sugarcane. The rest of the land period are produced by double cropping, espec-
which produces sugar is in the interior valleys ially in the tobacco area. There is also intercrop-
and central plateaus, as well as in the foothills ping of some other food crops such as bananas,

Table 10.—Use of farm land in Puerto Rico, 1950 and 1940 :

1950 1940
Land use
2 2
Cuerdas Percent Cuerdas Percent

Total area in farms 3 1, 844, 886 100. 0 1, 885, 874 100. 0


Land used for crops 768, 886 41. 7 823, 248 43. 7
Land used for pasture, including permanent pasture and
wooded pasture 3 794, 864 43. 1 848, 937 45.0
Wasteland, and land in roads, buildings, forests, swamps, etc. 3 __ 281, 161 15. 2 213, 689 11. 3

1 1
Based on U. S. Census of Agriculture. A cuerda equals 0.9712 acre. Census data covers the previous year.
36 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

plantains, and oranges, especially in the coffee really got started, the rate of increase in output
area. became more rapid than the considerable growth
The best pastures are in the coastal plains. in population. When this happened, standards of
Brush pastures predominate in the coffee area, living improved somewhat although they still were
while unimproved natural pastures predominate in tragically low for most of the population.
the tobacco section as well as in the dry unirri- From about 1928 to 1940, however, there was a
gated coastal plains and foothills. Pastures have sharp drop in the general standard of living in
been improved only to a limited extent in the dry Puerto Rico due to a combination of factors. It
areas and to a lesser degree in the tobacco and was during this period that the island suffered
coffee sections. Even in the rainy coastal plains greatly from the effects of declining export prices
there are still large areas of unimproved pastures. and internal depression, as well as the two hurri-
Of the total area in farms, it has been found canes that struck in 1928 and 1932. This period
that there are more than 200,000 acres of usable coincided with the worldwide depression, and in
land from which no crop except natural pasture Puerto Rico as in the States it wras characterized
is being harvested, This virtually idle land, to- by bankruptcies, large-scale unemployment, and
gether with the considerable amount of land that Federal relief and rehabilitation programs.
is being only partially utilized, mostly in poor The decline in prices went to ruinously low
pasture, represents a waste which, in terms of po- levels for all producers, but especially pressed
tential productivity, Puerto Rico can ill afford. were those who produced for the export market.
Puerto Rico's sugar industry was hit hard by
Emphasis on Production for Export the price drop although it struggled until 1934 to
For Puerto Rico as a whole, the period covered keep production up. Thousands of small growers
by the first three decades under the American flag who produced tobacco could not stand what for
was mostly one of expansion and development of them was a violent break in prices, and after
production for export, primarily to the United achieving a record crop they were forced to re-
States market. Landholdings became more con- duce their output drastically.
centrated in the hands of large owners and the The coffee industry, which had made some prog-
number of landless people increased greatly as the ress in recovering from the hurricane disaster of
population total climbed higher and higher each 1899, suffered severely from the hurricane of 1928.
year. The growing pressure of population con- The 1928 storm which was followed by one of less
tinued to strip the land of its fertility and its intensity in 1932, hurt production so badly that for
protective cover without any regard of the great a long time the island was not even able to grow
damage that was being done. Under the circum- enough coffee to meet its own consumption re-
stances that prevailed, there was a growing surplus qtiirements. With world markets depressed, the
of human beings, not only in relation to the amount price of coffee was extremely low and Puerto Rican
of land available but also in relation to the number coffee growers were threatened with bankruptcy.
of jobs that were provided. Although conditions The citrus industry also suffered hurricane
had improved over what they were in the past, losses and the very low prices prevailing for fruit,
wages were still too low, per capita income was along with the competition from technically ad-
meager, and the general level of living, in terms of vanced producing areas on the mainland, eventu-
any reasonable standards, continued deplorable. ally forced the abandonment of groves.
With the great stress on production for export,
very little emphasis was given to producing more The Depression Squeeze
for local consumption. Thus, reliance on imported Altogether, the economy of Puerto Rico found
foodstuffs and other goods continued to grow as itself in a tightened squeeze. This situation
requirements of the island's population increased. started to develop shortly after World War I
Exports were needed to pay for the imports. when export commodity prices, especially sugar
The general level of production in Puerto Rico prices, began tumbling from their warborn peaks
increased up to 1927 and so did exports, even and reached the depression low in 1932. On the
though export prices began to head downward other hand, prices of goods which Puerto Rico had
shortly after World War I. Once production to import rose steadily during the so-called years
THIS IS THE LAND 37
of prosperity in the 1920's. By around 1928 they States. Extensive activity followed the awaken-
were above the general price level that prevailed ing that took place on both the island and the
for Puerto Rican exports and continued to main- mainland. With self-help that the Puerto Rican
tain that position until the onset of the depression Government could muster and assistance that the
forced their decline. Federal Government made available, measures
As long as Puerto Eican commodities could be were put into effect to lift the island's economy out
exported at a price level that was relatively higher of the mire into which it had fallen.
than the level of prices for imports, the island The Puerto Rican Government employed vari-
was in a favorable trade position. At least it was ous devices to encourage industry, improve work-
able to keep on importing the large volume of ing conditions and wages for labor, assist agri-
foodstuffs and other essential goods required to culture, develop tourism, and expand certain
meet little more than the bare needs of its rapidly services essential to the economy. The Federal
increasing population. But when this advantage Government at first confined its efforts to provid-
as an exporter was lost, imports had to be curtailed ing some hurricane relief grants and loans. Then,
at the same time that the market decline was hav- during the latter part of 1933, it put into operation
ing serious repercussions in the island's produc- an extensive relief and rehabilitation program to
ing areas. As a result, the people of Puerto Rico provide emergency aid and to promote the devel-
had less available for consumption since from the opment of the economy.
beginning the production of more for local use Although the activities of the Federal and
had not been stressed while production for export Puerto Rican Governments were very helpful in
was being emphasized. The turn of events brought mitigating hunger and need, they accomplished
into sharp focus the lack of economic balance in relatively little that would effectively broaden the
production that had been permitted to develop. economic base, give lasting strength to the founda-
The absence of such a cushion of production for tion of the island's economy, or solve any of the
the local market which could have absorbed some basic economic problems in wliich excessive unem-
of the shock of a deteriorated external trade situa- ployment and underemployment were so deeply
tion, greatly intensified the depression in Puerto imbedded.
Rico. The Federal programs, in the main, turned out
The widespread unemployment, poverty, hun- to be relief and social welfare measures, for the
ger, and general decline in living conditions that distress was great, and the growing population
engulfed Puerto Rico imposed a terrific strain on already had far outstripped the available resources
its limited resources. The depression had virtu- as measured in terms of their customary utiliza-
ally stagnated economic activity, and a large part tion. The relief aspects were important, consid-
of the population was faced with a desperate ering the dire situation that prevailed. To the
struggle to survive. In their efforts to eke out extent that other phases of the Federal programs
enough to keep alive, those who had access to any added to productive capacity and facilities, they
land drained all they could out of it while others did contribute to strengthening the economic base
threw themselves onto the mercies of mankind. with more or less lasting effect. But the accom-
But as difficult as the depression period was, it plishments were limited by circumstances.
nevertheless marked the beginning of some very The Puerto Rican Government had its own
important changes that were to have a great bear- difficulties in the attempt to deal with the problems
ing on the future welfare of the island and its of the economy. It was weak and divided. It
people. did not have the money and other resources needed
to do a full-scale job. Also lacking was the
First Moves Toward Recovery experience as well as the imagination and know-
Within Puerto Rico there developed a definite how necessary for developing and executing the
realization that its economic base would have to kind of programs that were required. The vari-
be broadened. New concepts and plans began ous shortcomings were reflected in programs that
taking shape. Most significant, however, was the not only were narrow in scope but also lacked
growing awareness of Puerto Rico's problems and appeal. The weaknesses were especially evident
needs that was becoming evident in the United in the measures employed to encourage industrial
38 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

expansion. But despite the deficiencies that be- Puerto Rico's income from exports to the United
came apparent in the whole Puerto Rican effort, States markets was on the upgrade once again.
a certain amount of good was accomplished for The principal commodity involved was, of course,
the economy by all of the programs. In addition, sugar. Under the Sugar Act enacted by the
these activities provided some valuable experience United States Congress in 1934, efforts were being
as well as some important lessons which later made to deal with the problems of this industry
proved extremely helpful. through production and marketing limitations.
Puerto Rico's climb out of the depression was The incomes of Puerto Rican and other American
slowr and tortuous. Between about 1931 and 1935, sugar growers were being increased for, in addi-
prices for export commodities were extremely low. tion to the prices received in the market, the law
Prices paid for goods imported were even lowrer, provided for payments which helped raise total
but the people did not have enough buying power returns to producers. Labor engaged in growing
even with the vast expenditure for relief and re- sugar also began receiving benefits because the
habilitation that was then starting on the island. legislation established certain conditions which
The economic situation in Puerto Rico began growers had to meet in order to qualify for the
to show signs of limited improvement beginning payments. These included the elimination, of
in 1935. Government money for relief, grants, child labor and the payment of fair and reason-
loans, and other assistance increased to a heavy able wages to workers.
flow. By this time there also was definite im- The Sugar Act had special significance for
provement in the economic situation in the United Puerto Rico where independent growers were
States as a result of action taken by the Federal completely at the mercies of the sugar mills, as
Government to cope with the depression on the well as large-scale operators in the sugar business,
mainland, and this also helped the Puerto Rican and where labor was subject to exploitation and
economy. extremely low wages. With this new means for

The Hollands of Puerto Rico, mostly along the coastal regions, are devoted largely to the production of sugarcane. Occasionally a sugar
mill looms in the background to break the monotony of a vast expanse of growing cane.
THIS IS THE LAND 39
achieving greater stability in both markets and lowed, reaching from 6 to 8 percent of the value
incomes, Puerto Bican expectations began to rise of all Puerto Eican exports. The peak was
in the face of the marketing quota which imposed reached in 1943-44 when, as a result of the World
definite limits on the amount of sugar that could War II whiskey scarcity in the United States,
be sold in the American market. The income and Puerto Rican rum shipments suddenly jumped to
employment needs of Puerto Rico's large and 35 million dollars, or about 23 percent of the ex-
rapidly expanding production soon exerted great port total. This also brought to the insular treas-
pressures against the marketing controls as efforts ury a record income of more than 71 million dol-
were made to continue increasing sugar produc- lars from local and Federal tax collections on dis-
tion in keeping with the very pronounced trend tilled spirits. After the war, the abnormal de-
since 1923. mand for rum disappeared. Shipments from
Looking over the record since the first Sugar Puerto Rico dropped sharply while the large
Act went into effect in 1934, it is clear that despite stocks of rum already on the mainland were being
crop restrictions, production in Puerto Bico has reduced. The low point was reached in 1947-48
exceeded marketing quotas in most years during when the value of Puerto Eican rum exports went
which quotas have been in effect for the full year. below that for 1937. Exports have since increased,
From time to time this has created difficulties even and it is expected that the United States market
though since 1934 some changes enacted at differ- will eventually take more rum from Puerto Eico
ent times brought increases to Puerto Rico's sugar than it did in the years just before the war.
quota. Aside from needing a higher quota, this The rapid growth made by the rum industry
general situation merely highlights the continuing during the prewar years was, except for the ex-
need for developing additional enterprises and pansion in sugar refining capacity, in no way
acceptable alternatives for the use of the island's matched by the other segments of the Puerto
limited land and its mounting supply of labor. Eican economy during this period. While 1937
But despite the many problems which continued was a good year from a recovery standpoint, it
unsolved, general recovery from the depression was followed by a considerable recession in 1938
was well underway in Puerto Eico in 1937. Trade which continued in varying degrees until the situ-
was very active and exports had climbed from ation was changed by World War II. The United
their previous low to the highest point since States market had weakened by a downturn in
World War I. Sugar production was slightly economic conditions and this was reflected in a
under a million tons and, being considerably in reduced demand and lower prices. Eeturns from
excess of the quota, the surplus added to the heavy exports of Puerto Eican products dropped con-
carryover from the previous year when output siderably and remained at this lower level with-
also exceeded the quota. out much change over a period of four years, un-
Progress was being made in the industrial field til the beginning of World War II.
as a result of an improved credit situation and
increased lending activity in Puerto Eico on the A New Era and World War II
part of various Federal agencies. Federal ag- In the meantime, there were developments on
ricultural credit agencies also were playing a more other fronts. First, there was the rise of a new
significant role. Construction was increasing political alinement within Puerto Eico in 1938
along with production, and the Puerto Eican Gov- which grew out of the apparent lack of realism
ernment further expanded electric power produc- and effectiveness of established parties in dealing
tion and distribution facilities. with the critical domestic problems of the island.
One significant development was the rebirth of Out of this came a new political party which since
the rum industry which helped increase employ- the election of 1940 has been kept in power by
ment and provided an additional outlet for mo- widespread popular support for its broad-gage
lasses from the local sugar industry. Puerto Eico and positive economic and social program. Sec-
never had been a large exporter of rum, but in ondly, there was the Federal Government's change
1936 the value of shipments exceeded 1 million dol- in approach to the problems of Puerto Eico which,
lars and this was doubled in 1937. Bum exports beginning in 1941, gave greater recognition to the
made remarkable increases in the years that fol- underlying problems of the island and, by shift-
40 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

ing away from the emphasis previously given to re- tensity during the years 1945 through 1948.
lief aspects, concerned itself with building the Partial offsets to the conditions brought about by
foundations for a sounder economy and a more the combination of war and drought losses were:
potent and capable local government. (1) The deficiency payments made under the pro-
These two developments marked the beginning visions of the Sugar Act; and, (2) the sugar pur-
of a new era in the economic and social affairs of chase programs of the Commodity Credit Cor-
the island. They tied together. Since then there poration covering the crop years 1942-43 through
has evolved a program consistent in its objec- 1946-47.
tive of ending the planless drift which had been For the crop years 1943-44 through 1947-48,
so characteristic of the economy. From the very deficiency payments approximating $4,879,000
start, this program, directed at basic problems af- were made to 18,590 growers. The sugar output
fecting the welfare of the people, gave expression of the crop years 1942-43 through 1946-47, ex-
to new concepts for industrial and agricultural cept for such quantities of sugar needed to meet
development and the improvement of living condi- the island's requirements, was bought by the
tions for the people. Commodity Credit Corporation at prices ranging
The outbreak of World War II did not obscure from $3.46 to $5.83, per hundredweight, f. o. b.
the goal that was set in Puerto Rico. While doing Puerto Rican shipping port. Such purchase pro-
everything possible to contribute fully to the war grams included: (1) Interest-free financing of
effort, the Puerto Eican Government moved for- unshipped inventories, covering up to 95 percent
ward with its program for land reform, economic of the f. o. b. mill equivalent of the purchase
development, and social improvement. Of course, price; (2) an allowance of 4 cents per hundred-
adjustments had to be made to changing condi- weight during the years 1943 and 1944 to cover
tions. The defense program that preceded entry excess costs incurred during the height of sub-
of the United States in the war brought to Puerto marine warfare, when sugar shipments out of
Rico a great deal of economic activity and employ- Puerto Rico could be made from only a restricted
ment. Military expenditures on the island were number of ports; and, (3) additional price-
increasing at a fast rate. Federal relief and re- support payments made in varying proportions to
habilitation activities, which had their beginning mills and growers, over and above the contractual
in the great depression, came to an end. The war price, which totaled about $35,000,000 for the
stimulated the demand for sugar and the burden- years 1943 through 1947.
some surplus that had accumulated in Puerto Because Puerto Rico had depended so heavily
Rico proved to be a valuable reserve for the on imports for its food, the sharp curtailment in
United States. Beginning in 1942 and until the shipping made it essential that more food be pro-
end of 1947, quotas under the Sugar Act were sus- duced on the island. In order to help stimulate
pended by Presidential proclamation. Puerto food production, sugarcane growers were required
Rico's 1942 crop set a new record of 1,148,000 tons to plant food crops in order to qualify for benefit
of sugar. payments under the Sugar Act. This was the
During the wrar years Puerto Rico suffered first attempt to make the island more nearly self-
greatly as the result of acute shortages arising supporting in its food supply, and it met with
from the difficulties of bringing in necessary im- rather limited success because of the difficulties
ports. The submarine blockade and the lack of that were involved.
shipping virtually isolated Puerto Rico from the The problem of shortages began to ease in Puerto
mainland. The shortages of feed, fertilizer, Rico when the war took a more favorable turn.
equipment, and other essentials sharply reduced More fertilizer and other supplies became avail-
agricultural production. In 1944 output was able and production gradually began climbing-
affected not only by lack of fertilizer and other upward. The output of sugar in 1945 rose to
supplies, but also by the severest drought on record. 964,000 tons. The wartime shortages of tobacco
Sugar production that year went down to 724,000 once more stimulated the growing of this crop
tons, the smallest crop since 1927. in Puerto Rico, and exports of leaf tobacco and
To make matters worse, the record drought of manufactured cigars increased considerably in
1944 was followed by droughts of varying in- 1945. The pineapple industry also started in-
THIS IS THE LAND 41
creasing; with the greater availability of fertilizer that could be supplied. Between 1939-40 and the
and the improvement in the shipping situation. end of the war in 1945-46, net income from all
At the same time, however, local food production sources in Puerto Eico more than doubled, rising
fell off as imports became more readily available, from $227,789,000 to $565,028,000. This general
although it continued higher than in prewar years. trend continued into the postwar years even with
the material reduction in military expenditures
Postwar Developments
that followed termination of the war. By the
The end of World War II marked the beginning end of 1950-51, net income for that year reached
of a return to peacetime conditions, but this time a record of $747,000,000, or about 3i/2 times the
Puerto Rico was in a somewhat stronger position figure for 1939-40.
to make necessary adjustments. At least a defi- The general level of production began rising
nite course of action had been charted for strength- significantly after the end of the war. The fact
ening the economic foundation and progress was that fertilizer became more readily available was
becoming increasingly evident out of the start an important factor in boosting agricultural out-
that had been made. But this was nothing more put, especially of sugar for which there was a
than a start. Fortunately, the Puerto Eican good demand due to the world food shortage
Government has held to that view in its planning which continued into the immediate postwar
and program operations, especially since 1948 years. Puerto Eico's fertilizer imports doubled
when, as a result of congressional action, the from prewar levels.
people of Puerto Eico for the first time elected Sugar production on the island increased rap-
their own Governor out of the party in popular idly during the postwar years despite the rein-
favor since 1940. statement of marketing quotas under the Sugar
All during the war years income in Puerto Eico Act beginning with the 1948 crop. In 1949 and
had been increasing at a rapid rate due to heavy 1950 Puerto Eico's sugar output was at a record
military spending, increased employment, and high just short of 1,300,000 tons, or nearly 275,000
improved prices and markets for any commodities tons in excess of what the island could ship to the

Sugar mills are alive with activity during the grinding season. Most of the mills in Puerto Rico are quite modern and operate wilh a good
degree of efficiency.
42 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

mainland under its basic quota after meeting local and Puerto Rican Governments started in 1949,
consumption requirements. Had Puerto Rico not the coffee industry of Puerto Rico showed real
received reallocations of deficits from other United promise of being restored to a healthy position.
States producing areas, and also sold some sugar The pineapple industry, at a low ebb during
on the world market, substantial surpluses would World War II, began moving upward soon after
have been carried over into 1950 and 1951. The the war ended. The most important development
island was not so fortunate in disposing of its during the postwar years has been the shift in
rather large 1951 production which came close to the outlets for Puerto Rican pineapples. Before
1,228,000 tons. This was due to a weakening in the war, most of the pineapples from the island
the strong demand that developed in the previous were shipped out in fresh form and canning was
year when hostilities started in Korea, and to the incidental. Since the war, the canning of pine-
small deficits that could be reallocated. As a re- apple has developed so that shipments of the fresh
sult, Puerto Rico had a surplus of about 120,000 fruit could represent a relatively small proportion
tons of sugar which was carried over into 1952. of the total movement of the crop.
This threatened to add to the difficulties expected Another significant trend has been the increase
in marketing the 1952 crop which in itself was to in dairying with milk production in Puerto Rico
be of record proportions and greatly in excess of rising by about two-thirds within a decade.
the marketing quota and local consumption re- The general economic situation that took shape
quirements. At the beginning of the 1952 season, in Puerto Rico during the war and postwar years
there was available for harvest over 390,000 acres brought about some striking developments in the
of sugarcane, or about one-third more than the export-import trade. Exports and imports had
average acreage harvested during the 1939-46 pe- been reduced to nearly prewar levels during the
riod. It was soon apparent that, barring unfore- most critical phase of the war when the submarine
seen developments, a heavy surplus of sugar would menace and acute shortages of goods needed by
be carried into 1953. As a result, action was un- Puerto Rico were at their worst. But as condi-
derway early in 1952 to invoke restrictions under tions improved this trade began to increase
the Sugar Act that would cut back 1953 produc- markedly. Exports moved from a wartime low
tion in Puerto Rico so that output would begin of $92,196,000 in 1942-43 to $161,460,000 in
to be more nearly in line with the total amount 1945-46 when the war ended. Imports during this
of sugar which the quota limitations would permit same period jumped from a low of $83,792,000 to
the island to market. $242,040,000. Exports continued their general
The postwar years also saw material changes rise during the postwar years and reached a record
take place in other branches of Puerto Rican agri- level of $291,000,000 in 1950-51. In this same
culture. The market for tobacco from Puerto period, imports climbed to a peak of about
Rico began falling off soon after the war ended, $439,000,000. Thus, since about the middle of
and production dropped sharply from the high the war years Puerto Rico's trade balance has
point that was reached in 1945. become increasingly unfavorable with the 1950-51
The coffee industry, which had been making trade deficit of approximately $148,000,000 also
some progress toward recovery, was hit by a long setting a new record for the island.
period of dry weather, and the 1946 crop turned
out to be the smallest in a decade. As a means of Lack of Economic Balance and Diversity
helping growers, the Puerto Rican Legislature To some extent, the rise in imports over ex-
appropriated $400,000 for subsidies to the pro- ports reflects the Puerto Rican Government's in-
ducers. In addition, legislation was enacted es- creased activity in economic development and
tablishing hurricane insurance for the coffee plan- expansion. This is indicated by the increasing
tations, and this supplemented the coffee-crop in- amounts of construction materials, machinery and
surance which was provided in the previous year. equipment, fertilizers, and various raw materials
Moreover, legislation was also enacted to provide that were imported, especially in the postwar pe-
a program for the long-time rehabilitation of the riod. The rise in imports also reflects, in part
coffee industry. But it was not until 1951 that, at least, the general improvement in living condi-
as the result of the combined efforts of the Federal tions that has taken place in recent years due to
THIS IS THE LAND 43

more employment and increases in incomes. This years preceding 1952, and encouragement has also
is indicated by the great postwar climb in im- been given to existing industries as well as to the
ports of foods and other consumer goods. But af- investment of private local capital. As a result,
ter full allowance is made for all the gains, the manufacturing has become a more important fac-
striking fact remains that Puerto Rico's economy tor in the economy, and in 1951 it contributed
is still resting on a narrow base. The island con- $106,000,000, or 14.1 percent of the net income,
tinues sorely lacking in the kind of economic bal- as compared with $26,400,000, or 11.6 percent, in
ance and diversification that can be attained 1940. But, again, far more still remains to be done
through more effective use of its resources and to develop the industrial potential in keeping with
opportunities. the island's great needs.
During recent years Puerto Rico has made The same fundamental weakness that has his-
great strides in the expansion of business and in- torically characterized the development of agri-
dustrial activities. The Puerto Rican Govern- culture in Puerto Rico appears in the growth of
ment has taken bold and courageous action in pro- its industry. Both have their focus primarily on
viding facilities, credit, and tax incentives for new the export market and virtually overlook the real
enterprises. With the help that has been extended, possibilities of the local market. Of course there
the tourist trade, for example, has made remark- are some exceptions in industry as there are in
able growth, and the potentialities for rounded agriculture. But, in general, there exists a heavy
development have hardly been touched. On the reliance on imports of many kinds of manufac-
industrial side more than 150 new manufacturing tured goods which otherwise could be produced
enterprises were attracted to the island in the 5 economically in Puerto Rico. Obviously this im-

Industridl activity is expanding in Puerto Rico and brings with it a rising demand for raw materials and for more food to feed hungry
workers. Thus additional opportunities are being opened for the development of the island's agriculture.
44 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

poses a heavy drain on the economy and deprives island, full and effective use of every acre of land
the people of employment opportunities. A dol- is imperative. Also, because of the scarcity of
lar earned from exports and spent for imports land and other natural resources in relation to
disappears almost completely from the island total population, it is necessary that the produc-
when it is paid out. On the other hand, a dollar tive acreage be expanded through irrigation, drain-
earned from local production and spent for local age and other reclamation activities. Not enough
consumption or use remains on the island, and has stress can be given to the real opportunity for in-
a healthy cumulative effect on the economy as it creasing and maintaining the productivity of all
circulates from one hand to another. Thus, if the available land through the application of con-
economic base is to be effectively broadened and servation practices, adoption of improved produc-
strengthened, it is essential that far more atten- tion techniques, and use of improved varieties and
tion be given to increasing production for local strains of seeds and breeds of livestock. To the
needs to the full extent that it is economically fea- extent that yields can be increased from present
sible while at the same time maximizing economic levels by these means, it is almost the equivalent of
production for export. This applies equally to stretching the land area, and it is far less costly.
industry and agriculture in Puerto Rico. And if If all the land in Puerto Rico were put to its
followed through, it would supply the balance that best productive use with due regard to conserva-
is needed between both. tion needs, the island would have a well diver-
The industries recently developed in Puerto sified agricultural industry and a solid founda-
Rico have added to employment and buying power tion for industrial development. This would be of
with benefit to all the people. The drive for fur- far-reaching benefit to all the people. For besides
ther industrial expansion is being pushed vigor- directly increasing incomes and buying power of
ously. This is as it should be. In addition to farmers and farm workers, it would contribute
increasing employment for more people, greater greatly to improving the incomes of other seg-
industrialization enables the people living in ur- ments of the economy and, at the same time, boost
ban areas to become better customers, not only for the general level of living through an increased
local businesses but also for the farmers. It and more varied local supply of food and other
improves the economic balance between agricul- essentials. From a practical standpoint, however,
ture and industry while at the same time provid- certain handicaps now stand in the way.
ing greater opportunities in both rural and urban Wherever possible these handicaps either must be
areas. But while industrial development is mov- overcome or eliminated to permit a fuller use of
ing ahead, agricultural development and improve- all available resources for sustained maximum
ment cannot lag behind. Agriculture must at production, and thus improve the standard of
least keep pace with expanding industry in order living and serve the best interests of all the people
to provide the firm foundation needed to support in Puerto Rico. It is against the complex back-
industrial activity and to insure its permanency. ground of the present great need that action for
Under the circumstances that prevail on the the future must now be viewed.
Chapter IV

The Problem of Soil Erosion


If every acre of land in Puerto Rico were suit- Considering the needs of its rapidly growing
able for agricultural use it would now provide population, Puerto Rico has far too little land
only 0.9 acre for each inhabitant, and with the that can be safely relied upon for continuous culti-
continuing rapid increase in population the total vation. The work already done to determine the
area of the island would provide by 1970 less than extent of soil erosion, soil productivity, and land
0.7 acre per person. This amount of land is in- capability indicates the scope and nature of the
deed too small even for subsistence. Unfortu- land problem that must be tackled immediately as
nately, moreover, relatively little of Puerto Rico's a basic step toward establishing a healthy agri-
2 million or so acres of land is fit for continuous culture. Through the application of corrective
farming, and the great pressure exerted by the measures in soil management and use, the amount
ever-increasing population has forced into use far of more useful and more productive agricultural
more land than is adapted for agriculture. land can be increased considerably in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico's problem of too many people on
too little land is greatly aggravated by the nature Present Condition of the Soil
and the condition of the land that makes up the Unless hastened by man's lack of judgment
island. The rough and mountainous topography through unwise land use and management, soil
over much of the area definitely rules out the use erosion is in itself a process that proceeds gradu-
of many acres for the production of food and ally toward ultimate destruction of the land's use-
other agricultural products. There are also many fulness. According to the best estimates available
additional acres where slopes are favorable but there are only 322,500 acres of land in Puerto
where soil and climatic conditions further limit Rico that have not been affected by soil erosion to
the safe use of such lands for continuous and prof- some degree (table 12). Another 493,000 acres
itable farming. Besides, there is the large amount have been somewhat damaged by erosion, yet with
of land that has been seriously impaired by ero- the establishment and maintenance of proper soil
sion and depletion due to generations of human and water conservation practices these acres are
neglect and misuse. capable of continued safe use for agricultural
Thus there probably is no other place in the production. Together, these two groupings repre-
Western Hemisphere at least that has any greater sent about 37 percent of the total area.
and more immediate problem to solve than exists Of the remaining land, approximately 1,300,000
in Puerto Kico. With a population density of acres have been seriously damaged to the extent
about 650 persons per square mile and most of the that their continued use will require intensive ap-
people making barely enough to live on, the cor- plication of proper soil and water conservation
rect use and treatment of each acre of land on practices along with very restrictive management
the island becomes an absolute necessity demand- and wise selection of the kinds of crops to be* pro-
ing prompt and proper attention and concerted duced in order to safeguard these acres from fur-
action. ther damaging loss or depletion. This grouping
46 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Table 12.—Estimated erosion conditions in Puerto Rico 1

Erosion Class description Acres Percent


class

0 No apparent erosion 322, 530 14. 76


1 Slight: Less than 25 percent of the topsoil removed 286, 013 13.09
2 Moderate: 25-75 percent of the topsoil removed. 207, 273 9. 43
3 Severe: 75 percent or more of the topsoil and less than 25 percent of the subsoil
removed 1, 042, 602 47. 43
4 Very severe: All the topsoil and more than 25 percent of the subsoil removed- _ _ 8, 377 0. 38
X Condition in shallow and stony limestone soils used mainly for forest where degree
of erosion is difficult to determine 264, 062 12. 09
Undifferentiated erosion— urban areas, parks, lakes, etc 53, 092 2. 46
2
Total— _ _ _ - _ - - _ - _ _ - - _ - - - - - - - - _ - _ _ - - - _ - - - - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 2, 184, 591 100. 00

No appar ent erosion (class 0) _ _ _ _ 322, 530 14.8


Slight to moderate erosion (classes 1 and 2) 493, 286 22. 6
Severe to very severe erosion (classes 3 and 4) 1, 050, 979 48. 1
Shallow, stony areas with undetermined erosion _ _ 264, 062 12.0
Urban ar eas, parks, lakes, e t c _ _ _ _ _ _ 53, 734 2.5
2
Tc tal 2, 184, 591 100.0

1
2
Data from Soil Conservation Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Total land area as determined by a survey made by the Puerto Rico Planning Board.

of land represents about 60 percent of the total From the standpoint of productivity, the soils of
area of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico are deficient in certain elements, and
In general, the soils of Puerto Eico that have heavy fertilization is practiced in commercial pro-
not been severely leached are quite productive, but duction of the important crops such as sugar and
all of the soils can be made much more productive tobacco. Minerals which might be used for fer-
through improved management and use. The tilizer are not found locally, except for lime, which
degree of productivity, of course, varies with the is available from local sources in quantities fully
nature of the soil, its formations and associations. adequate to meet the needs of the island although
Climate also has a direct effect on soil productivity it is found only in certain sections. Where the
and the island does have marked differences in soils tend to be acid, this condition may be easily
rainfall as well as some variations in temperature. corrected by the application of lime.
Puerto Rico's soils have been classified into 115
soil series, including 352 soil types and phases, an Table 13.—Productivity of soils in Puerto Rico 1
unusually large number of soils for so small an
area. The climate of the island permits a further Productivity Produc- Percent of
status tivity Acreage total area
classification of the soils into 251 types in the ratings 2
northern humid areas and into 101 soil types in
the southern semihumid region. This variability Good_____________ 1-5 610, 564 28.2
is favorable to diversified agricultural production. Medium _ _ _ 6-8 1, 052, 248 48. 6
Poor__ _ __ _ 9-10 502, 308 23. 2
On the basis of the classification that has been
made of the soils in Puerto Kico, the island has 1
Data from Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Puerto Rico.
2
about 610,500 acres of land of general good pro- Ratings range from 1 as the best soil to 10 as the poorest.

ductivity (table 13). This represents around 28 As a result of severe weathering and parent
percent of the total. By far the biggest propor- material, about 53 percent of the soils of Puerto
tion of the land is of medium productivity, and Rico have a clayey texture, of which about 19 per-
this includes slightly over 1,052,000 acres, or cent are lateritic clays. These lateritic clays are
nearly 49 percent of the total area. The remainder, a residual product of rock decay, friable, generally
which exceeds 502,000 acres, or 23 percent of the red but also yellow or purple in color, and have a
total, is considered to have a poor productivity high content of the oxides of iron and hydroxide
status. of aluminum and a low proportion of silica.
47

Established land capability classes serve as a valuable guide to land use in Puerto Rico. There are eight classes of land. These include
four classes of land suitable for cultivation and four suitable only for pasture, woodland, or wildlife. Class I is land subject to no
more than very slight limitations in use; class II is land subject to moderate limitations in use for crop production; class III is land
subject to severe limitations in use for crop production; class IV is land subject to very severe limitations in use for crop production;
class V is land subject to only slight limitations in use for grazing, forestry, or wildlife; class VI is land subject to moderate limita-
tions in use for grazing, forestry, or wildlife; class VII is land subject to severe limitations in use for these same purposes; class VIII
is land suitable only for wildlife or recreational areas.

The characteristics of Puerto Rican soils as well casional cultivation (table 14). Land in these
as other factors such as erosion, slope, and climatic classes represents just under 32 percent of the total
conditions are reflected in the land capability area. In the next 3 classes are 1,412,000 acres, or
classification developed by the United States De- nearly 65 percent of the total, which, while not
partment of Agriculture. As a guide for conser- adapted to cultivation are generally suited for
vation farming it provides for the use of each agri- woodland, pasture, or tree crops such as coffee,
cultural acre within its capabilities and the treat- depending upon the conditions that prevail on the
ment of each acre of agricultural land in accord- particular acreage. Land in the eighth class is
ance with its needs for protection and suited only for wildlife, recreation, or other
improvement. similar purposes.
The land capability classification sets up eight Although the general distribution of land by
classes of land, the first four of which are desig- capability classes has been determined for Puerto
nated as being suited for cultivation and the re- Rico as a whole, the detailed classification of these
maining four as not being suited for cultivated soils in every part of the island has not yet been
crops although useful for other purposes. In the completed. Special efforts should be made to finish
first 4 classes, Puerto Rico has only a little over this land capability inventory as soon as possible.
695,000 acres suited for cultivation, of which The detailed information derived from this work
slightly more than 91,500 acres are suited for oc- is urgently needed in order that farmers of Puerto
48 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Table 14.—Distribution of land in Puerto Rico by lem. Some of the saline soils have been reclaimed
land capability classes 1 by drainage and by washing as irrigation water
became available, but there are still about 37,000
Approx- acres of saline soils in the arid area.
Land capability class 2 imate Percent
acreages The farmers of Puerto Rico rely heavily on im-
ported fertilizers, since there are no natural sources
I 56, 068 2. 57 of minerals on the island that would provide
!!______________________________ 181, 204 8. 29 nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, or sulfur. Their
III_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 366, 283 16. 26
IV 91, 683 4.20 expenditure for fertilizer exceeds 15 million dol-
V________ _______________________ 69, 293 3. 17 lars a year, more than triple the amount spent in
VI 460, 574 21.07
VII_______ __ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 882, 328 40. 37 1940. The greater part of the fertilizer supply
VIII. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 23, 424 1.07 is used in growing sugarcane. Relatively few
Lakes 5,092 . 23
Roads and urban areas 48, 642 2. 23 small farmers use fertilizer or manure to offset the
losses of plant food elements due to leaching and
Total______ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 2, 184, 591 100. 00
cropping. As a result plants grown on these soils
Land suited for cultivation (classes to provide food and feed lack those mineral nutri-
I , II, I I I ) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 603, 555 27. 62
Land suited for occasional cultiva- ents that are necessary for strong bones and teeth
tion (class IV) 91, 683 4. 20 as w^ell as for the general physical growth and
Land not suited for cultivation
(classes V, VI, and VII) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 1, 412, 195 64. 61 well-being of human and animal life.
Land suited for recreation or wild- The biggest item in Puerto Rico's fertilizer bill
life (class V I I I ) _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 23, 424 1. 07
Lakes, roads, urban areas 53, 734 2. 46 is nitrogen, and the amount used has been increas-
ing in recent years. About 100,000 tons of nitro-
Total- _ _ _______ 2, 184, 591 100. 00
gen-bearing materials were imported in 1949-50
1
Data from Soil Conservation Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. at a cost of 4 million dollars. That same year,
2
Class I land is subject to no more than very light limitations in use. It more than 30,000 tons of phosphatic fertilizer cost-
is very good land that can be cultivated safely with ordinary methods of
good farming. ing approximately $545,000, and nearly 38,000 tons
Class II land is subject to moderate limitations in use for crop production.
It is good land that can be cultivated safely with special practices of easy of potash fertilizers costing approximately $1,253,-
applications.
Class III land is subject to severe limitations in use for crop production. 000 were imported. Additional imports included
It is subject to serious damage from the standpoint of crop production, if
used without adequate protection or treatment. It is moderately good sulfur and gypsum as well as over $600,000 of
cultivable land which can be used regularly for crops where properly treated.
Class IV land is subject to very severe limitations in use for crop produc- mixed fertilizers. The value of all fertilizer ma-
tion. It is fairly good land, which can be maintained best by keeping in
perennial vegetation. It can be cultivated occasionally for plowed crops if terials imported in 1949-50 was about 7 million
handled with great care.
Class V land is not suited for cultivation, but is suited for grazing, forestry, dollars. This jumped to over 11 million dollars in
and wildlife. It has only slight limitations in use for these purposes.
Class VI land is subject to moderate limitations. (But within class VI 1950-51. Ocean freight rates on imported fertiliz-
land there may be temporary limitations in use owing to condition of
vegetation.) ers amounted to 46 cents per 100-pound bag and
Class VII land is subject to severe limitations. (But within class VII land
there may be temporary limitations in use owing to condition of vegetation.) $6.65 per ton in bulk.
Class VIII land has limitations that make it unsuitable for cultivation,
grazing, or forestry. It has use, however, for wildlife, recreation, or water- Ground limestone is the common material used
shed purposes.
in Puerto Rico to correct acidity and calcium de-
Rico may be provided with sound and practical ficiency of soils. This comes from locally abun-
recommendations for the safe and continued use dant limestone deposits. The ground limestone is
of every acre of agricultural land on the island. sold at $3 per ton at each of the five grinding plants
operated by the Puerto Rican Government. Trans-
Soil Fertility and Fertilizers portation of the lime to the farm costs a little more
The soils of Puerto Rico are deficient, in vary- than $1 per ton. In view of the need for lime on
ing degree, in nitrogen but they are well supplied many of the soils, facilities for grinding limestone
with available potash. About 1 million acres of should be expanded in order to provide an ade-
the acid soils of the humid area are low in avail- quate supply. Also, methods of grinding and dis-
able phosphorus. The soils of the humid area— tribution need to be improved so as to increase
and these comprise a large part of all the land— efficiency in use of the product and lower its cost,
are sufficiently acid to require from 1 to 5 tons of Within Puerto Rico there is a considerable
lime per acre to correct this deficiency. In part of opportunity to increase the effectiveness of ferti-
the arid area of the island there is a salinity prob- lizer and also to save on the cost of imported
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 49
materials. Studies made by the Agricultural Ex- the coffee area, must be corrected and protective
periment Station of Puerto Eico indicate, for measures employed in order to make the land
example, that a considerable reserve of phosphorus more productive. But, in addition, it appears that
has been built up in the sugarcane soils, as the Puerto Eico could benefit greatly by the use of
result of applications of fertilizer containing this much greater quantities of nitrogen than are now
material in excess of annual crop requirements. being applied in the growing of crops. The total
It is estimated that this waste through the unwise use of nitrogen for many crops, including sugar-
application of phosphatic fertilizer to sugarcane cane in some areas, could be more than doubled
amounts to $800,000 annually. Similarly, an from the present average rates of application and,
excess of $660,000 in potash fertilizers applied to with adequate phosphorus and potash, the in-
sugarcane does not result in beneficial increases creases in yields would far more than compensate
in either cane or sucrose production. Also, the for the extra cost involved in applying the addi-
waste of applied fertilizer and of soil fertility tional nitrogen. Proper land use and conserva-
that steadily takes place through erosion and tion practices would assure maximum benefits
leaching, especially on sloping cultivated lands, from the improved use of fertilizers.
could be greatly reduced through various control If it were economically feasible for nitrogen
measures that would slow down the rate of runoff. to be produced in Puerto Eico, there would be a
Relatively few farmers in Puerto Eico know considerable saving to the island. In addition, the
the fertilizer requirements of the particular land manufacture of nitrogen would provide the basis
they operate. Many farmers use far too little for a chemical industry which would be helpful
fertilizer for effective results on production. to the entire economy. The possibility of estab-
Many other farmers use mixtures which are un- lishing a nitrogen plant in Puerto Eico should
balanced for their individual soil needs, with the be kept under constant review in the light of any
result that some elements are applied in excessive developments, such as in atomic energy, which
amounts while not enough of the materials really may permit economic production of this element
needed are being supplied. The loss and waste on the island.
entailed in this situation could be greatly reduced Much can be done to improve both the fertility
by the establishment of a soil-testing and foliar- and the condition of many of the soils in Puerto
analysis service that would make the necessary Eico by growing soil-building legumes and
diagnosis and provide farmers with recommenda- grasses. In addition to furnishing a protective
tions as to the fertilizer requirements of their own cover for the soil against erosion and leaching,
soil for the crops to be grown. Such a service legumes and grasses provide valuable balanced
could be provided by private or cooperative action. livestock feed. Very little use is now being made
Also, it could be set up by the Puerto Eican Gov- of legumes and grasses for soil building purposes
ernment and, if so, should operate on a self- despite the established fact that these plants can
supporting basis with fees charged to cover the make a substantial contribution to the improve-
cost of the necessary sampling and testing done ment of agriculture on the island. Where acid
for the farmers. Besides resulting in direct sav- soils exist, liming is necessary to help nitrogen
ings to farmers and contributing to increased pro- fixation by legumes and to increase the rate of
duction, such a service in Puerto Eico would be nitrification.
helpful in general soil research and diagnostic
work. Soil Organic Matter
Various studies indicate that, on an overall In general, soil fertility is associated with a con-
basis, Puerto Eico can effectively use considerably tinuous supply of organic matter maintained in
more fertilizer than is now being employed in the soil. This vital substance is, under natural
the production of crops and pastures. Through conditions, replenished from the plant material
the years there has been a great loss of various that is grown both above and below the surface of
fertility elements on most cultivated lands, espe- the soil.
cially those in the humid sections where leaching Most tillage practices tend to reduce the supply
is most severe. The deficiencies that exist, such of soil organic matter as the soil microorganisms
as the phosphorus deficiency in the red soils of feed on organic matter and cause its rapid decom-
50 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Much of the interior of Puerto Rico is deforested. In the northern foothills near Ciales, for example, slopes which 20 years ago bore
coffee plantations beneath protective tree shade are now bare.

position into its simplest elements. In this form used as a mulch or else incorporated into the soil
it is either consumed by the growing vegetation or for future use by the vegetation growing upon the
is lost through leaching. As most cropping re- land.
moves the vegetation that is produced, a situation
is thus created where the supply of soil organic Cultivation of Sloping Land
matter is maintained at only a low level, with con- Except for the coastal plains, most of the land
sequent decreases in the quantity and quality of in Puerto Rico is hilly or mountainous. Some of
the crop that is produced. the land consists of gentle, rolling slopes, but much
Large accumulations of soil organic matter by of it is steep. In some parts of the island these
either natural or other processes do not occur in steep slopes form very narrow V-shaped valleys
Puerto Kico. This situation arises largely from separated by razor-back ridges. This is the kind of
the climate but it is also the result of some of the land, hilly in the main, that makes up the greater
practices employed on farms. One damaging part of the island's interior, with elevations
practice is the burning of trash, such as sugarcane running from a little above sea level to more than
tops, in some fields. This practice not only de- 4,000 feet, with climate ranging from arid to
stroys valuable organic matter which otherwise humid. The soil characteristics vary widely from
might be returned to the soil, but it also sears the rich to poor, from alkaline to acid, from old to
surface of the land and results in the destruction young, from deep to shallow, and from heavy
of organic material and microorganisms that may clays to coarse sands.
be mixed with the soil particles. In addition, it The steadily increasing population and the re-
promotes erosion. The practice of clearing land sulting pressure for more and more lands to culti-
by burning should be prohibited by law. No vate have forced people to use steeper and steeper
organic matter, no matter how small the quantity, land. This has resulted in the clearing, the use for
should ever be destroyed by burning. It should be cultivation for a limited time, and the final aban-
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 51
donment of strongly sloping lands that never were pensive farming practices, using rather simple
suitable for tillage. Throughout the island this mechanical methods, and growing vegetation.
cycle repeats itself as the pressure of population Under the conditions that exist on the rolling
increases. This pressure forces abandoned land and hilly lands of Puerto Rico there is a great
back into use for cultivation—and it will only be need, for example, to conserve water for plant
abandoned again as soon as it once more becomes growth and at the same time to reduce runoff to
exhausted. prevent erosion while also assuring adequate
Almost everywhere in Puerto Rico there is a drainage. The use of terraces, the practice of
lack of consciousness as to what constitutes proper contour farming, stripcropping, and the use of
land management and good land use. Clean- grasses and legumes all have their place in dealing
cultivated crops are grown without regard to the with these problems but their possibilities are
steepness of the slopes or the care that is needed being overlooked by most farmers. Along with
to safeguard the land against erosion. As a result, other good farming practices, these tested meth-
there is a great loss of surface soil, which after ods of soil conservation need to be brought into
each heavy rain is washed down the streams and widespread use in Puerto Rico so that the farmers
rivers in tremendous volume. This unwise han- who utilize them and the people as a whole may
dling of the land has damaged more than one-half benefit from the gains that can be made in holding
of the land surface of Puerto Rico. Even though the soil in place and increasing its productiveness.
many of the soils are very heavy clays, the intense
rainfall over much of the island has each year Sugarcane Problem on Slopes
caused great losses, in organic matter, in fertility, Most alarming in recent years has been the
and in soil itself. The effects of these losses are marked tendency for the growing of sugarcane
reflected in crop production and the standards to spread into the hilly sections of the island,
of living and health for the many people who are bringing into cultivation sharply sloping lands
and have been dependent upon the soil for their which are subject to dangerous erosion and deple-
very existence. tion. Thousands of acres have been stripped of
The deplorable waste of soil resources that has their former protective cover for the planting
taken place for so long a time need not continue. of cane on soils which should not be tilled but
In fact, it cannot be allowed to continue if any which could be maintained permanently produc-
significant improvement is to be made in the agri- tive and profitable by their proper use for perma-
culture of Puerto Rico and the living standards nent cover crops. To make way for the temporary
of the people. With the correct conservation gain expected to result from the growing of sugar-
treatment and management that is necessary to cane on these lands, farmers have cut over, plowed
prevent damage or deterioration, the soils of up, and destroyed woodlands, coffee plantings, and
Puerto Rico can be made more productive and pastures with reckless disregard of the ultimate
more lastingly useful. But first there must be a consequences on their own future well-being and
great awakening to the present danger and the the soil on which people must depend.
urgent need that exists for overcoming this waste. What has been happening represents a major
The relatively few farmers in Puerto Rico who change in land use. It endangers permanent
operate their land with all of the care that is sources of income and wipes out more stable
necessary to safeguard its future usefulness and plantings which provide indispensable protection
against the destructive forces of erosion and deple-
increase its productivity are located mostly along
tion. Altogether, approximately 50,000 acres of
the coastal areas and in the wider valleys, where
land have, in 1950 and 1951 alone, been shifted
the surface is mostly flat and the problems are over from woodland, coffee, and pasture produc-
primarily those of drainage. The soil problems tion to the cultivation of sugarcane. Far more
on the rolling and steeper slopes are more numer- than half of these acres represent land on which
ous and more complex, yet the attention paid to permanent cover should be maintained in order to
them is pitifully little. This situation prevails prevent serious damage and loss through erosion
despite the fact that much of the protection needed and depletion. This same situation prevails on
by the land can be supplied by employing inex- many more acres growing sugarcane.
52 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

The production of sugcuccme has crept up from the coastal plains into the hilly sections. In the years immediately following World War
II, with a good market for sugar and readily available credit for its production, much cane was planted on steeply sloping land at
the expense of other crops.

A land use study made in 1951 by the Puerto away by the rains. In view of what constitutes
Rican Department of Agriculture has brought to wise land use, the growing of a tilled crop like
light some startling facts regarding the extent to sugarcane on such sharply sloping soils represents
which sugarcane was being grown on sloping land nothing more than a shortsighted abuse of re-
and the steepness of the slopes employed. This sources that is wasteful to the economy and detri-
study covered 35 municipalities with a total of mental to the best interests of the farmer himself
206,000 acres of sugarcane, or about half of the as well as to Puerto Rico as a whole.
cane acreage of the island. The study revealed Much of the sloping land that has been turned
that 30 percent of this acreage represented plant- into the growing of sugarcane does not produce
ings of cane on lands sloping 16 percent or more. a large tonnage of cane. In most instances the
This included about 33,000 acres of cane planted number of tons per acre will fall below the island
on slopes of from 16 percent to 35 percent, 17,000 average. Also, the cost of producing cane on the
acres on slopes of from 36 percent to 59 percent, slopes is higher, since more labor is involved and
and nearly 12,000 acres on slopes in excess of 60 the soil usually is not so fertile as in areas better
percent. suited to sugar production. Nevertheless, sugar-
From a land capability standpoint, lands with cane has moved up into the hills and displaced
more than 40 percent slope are regarded as being crops that are more desirable from the standpoint
unsuited for clean cultivation because they gen- of good land use and conservation.
erally erode easily and severely. They are lands The reason for this may be found in the fact
that demand careful management, and are suitable that (1) sugarcane is a relatively easy crop to
only for growing crops that do not require tillage grow, (2) since the beginning of World War II
but which protect the soil against being washed and u n t i l 1951 there has been a ready market avail-
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 53
able to growers, and (3) in addition to the price The Sugar Act payment in Puerto Eico, based
that growers obtain from the sale of their sugar on yields of sugar produced and rates of payment
in the market, they receive payments under the per TOO pounds, raw value, averages about $47 per
Sugar Act which add to their income from sugar- acre. On the 1950-51 crop these payments totaled
cane growing. more than 17 million dollars. This is ready, cold
The system of Federal payments under the cash added to the market return from the sale of
Sugar Act helps minimize the income risk, and sugar produced. Even though it may be argued
for many smaller farmers this has been among the that the Sugar Act payment should in reality be
several compelling forces encouraging them to considered as being part of the price received from
strip the steep hillsides of their protective cover in the sale of sugar, the fact remains that the pay-
recent years to plant cane. This has taken place ment is separate from price and is made as fixed
despite the reinstatement of sugar marketing regardless of what happens to the market price
quotas beginning in 1948. Actually, the area of of sugar. Since the fixed payment on sugar pro-
steep land put into sugar production in Puerto duced minimizes the gamble of producing sugar-
Eico never has been greater than during the 5 years cane, this crop has been planted on hilly soils that
from 1946, and the sharpest increases were in each never should be cultivated.
of the last 3 years of that period. In the circumstances prevailing up to now, the
The base rate of payment to each grower under returns from sugarcane, together with other fac-
the Sugar Act is 80 cents per 100 pounds of sugar, tors such as the availability of financing, have
rawT value. This is the rate paid when sugar pro- presented formidable obstacles in any effort that
duction on an individual farm is up to 350 tons. might be made to induce farmers not to grow
The rate is scaled down to 75 cents on production sugarcane on lands that should otherwise be em-
from 350 to 700 tons, drops to 70 cents per 100 ployed and protected. The Federal and Puerto
pounds on production from 700 to 1,000 tons, and Eican Governments are making efforts and spend-
then declines at specified intervals until the pay- ing many dollars to promote conservation and
ment reaches a minimum of 30 cents per 100 encourage wise use of the island's limited re-
pounds on production of more than 30,000 tons. sources. Since the proper use of land is not a
Also authorized under the Act are payments for specified condition for payment under the Sugar
bona fide abandonment of planted acreage and Act, the Federal Government has been forced into
crop deficiencies of harvested acreage, resulting an untenable position insofar as the situation in
from drought, flood, storm, disease, or insects, Puerto Eico is concerned. In this particular in-
which cause damage to all or a substantial part stance, the left hand is destroying what the right
of the cane crop. To qualify for any of the pay- hand seeks to accomplish on the sloping lands
ments, growers must meet certain conditions, but where the erosion problem is most acute. This
these relate primarily to compliance with farm calls for a reconsideration of policies with respect
marketing allotments, child labor, and minimum to conservation efforts and conditions for payment
wage requirements. under the Sugar Act.
For the smaller growers the rate of payment Since Sugar Act payments are made separately,
affords quite an incentive for the production of this provides a device which could be employed
sugar in preference to other crops. The fact is effectively for the proper use of land resources.
that it has been extremely difficult to induce these The establishment of a general policy under which
henceforth no payment would be made to any
farmers to improve their coffee plantations or
grower whose sugarcane was produced on land
engage in other desirable land vise enterprises as
which, on the basis of steepness of slope and soil
long as they had any prospect of being able to
composition, is subject to an undue amount of
convert their land to the growing of sugarcane. erosion under cultivation would contribute
This situation has prevailed even though in the greatly to proper land use and the conservation
long run, with the right kind of management, the of scarce resources in Puerto Eico and help
coffee and other production activities could be strengthen not only the agriculture of the island
made to return more than sugar would on the same but the entire economy. In the case of hilly land
land. already growing sugarcane, the farmer, in order
239284—53———5
54 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

to qualify for the sugar payment, should be re- sonal distribution of rainfall. Thus, in order to
quired to employ such land-use practices and have ample supplies of water available at all times,
treatments as may be prescribed by the soil con- it is necessary to provide reservoirs which collect
servation technicians and also agree to restore a and conserve runoff during the wet season so that
suitable protective cover to that land right after the requirements for water during the dry season
the present planted cane becomes exhausted. This, may be met.
of course, would require an amendment to the The sites available for reservoirs are definitely
current Sugar Act. limited in Puerto Rico. Once a reservoir is built,
Puerto Eico has an adequate amount of really it immediately assumes the importance of an irre-
good land that is suitable for the production of placeable facility. Its value to the economy de-
sugarcane without having to tear up the steep pends on how long it will maintain enough storage
sloping hills to grow this crop. Those good lands capacity to impound water for power, irrigation,
should be used more intensely for sugarcane for and other public needs. In this connection, the
they are capable of producing with greater effi- amount of sedimentation that takes place as the
ciency far more than the record output that has streams and rivers empty their waters into the
been achieved for the entire island up to now. reservoir becomes immediately and especially
The hilly lands have other valuable uses and they significant.
have their own contribution to make. Detailed information on reservoir sedimentation
in Puerto Rico is rather meager. Nevertheless, it
Sedimentation of Reservoirs is clear that the rate of sedimentation ranges from
A number of the streams and rivers of Puerto an almost negligible amount for the reservoirs
Rico have been harnessed for the production of high in the mountains to very severe silting for
electric power and to supply water for irrigation reservoirs in the lower regions. Geological con-
and other purposes. The water from these streams ditions on the island are such as to be favorable to
and rivers is stored in reservoirs for use as needed. a rapid rate of erosion. But the balance between
The island so far has 17 hydroelectric plants with natural forces has largely been overcome by the
a total capacity of 96,575 kv.-a. (kilovolt-amperes) destruction of forests and the cultivation of steep
and 4 steam-electric plants with a total capacity of slopes with the result that the rate of erosion has
123,087 kv.-a. The power developed from the been greatly increased. Where this has taken
streams in Puerto Rico totals some 230 million place, the streams and rivers are usually loaded
kilowatt-hours per year out of a potential esti- with soil that is carried from the land by the run-
mated at about 700 million. Projects already un- off after each heavy rain. When these arteries
der construction are expected to bring the total empty into a reservoir, they deposit the sediment
electric power developed from streams and rivers that has been carried down from the ravished hill-
up to a total of about 350 million kilowatt-hours sides. As this sediment piles up in the storage
in the near future. The amount of land under area, it reduces the amount of water that may be
irrigation, about 100,000 acres, will also be in- impounded and lowers the value of the reservoir.
creased by the completion of these projects. Thus the accelerated erosion that has been induced
The use of electric power in Puerto Rico has by man poses a really serious problem and en-
been increasing very sharply since the prewar dangers the future usefulness of the island's fresh-
years. Production of power during 1950-51 ex- water resources for power, irrigation, and other
ceeded 620 million kilowatt-hours, compared with needs.
an average of only about 128 million in the 1935-40 What actually has been taking place in some
period. Requirements for electric power are con- parts of the island is shown by recent estimates
tinuing to increase at an average rate exceeding of sedimentation in the Guayabal, Comerio, and
70 million kilowatt-hours annually. Coamo Reservoirs (table 15). The Guayabal and
Through its use for irrigation and power pur- Coamo Reservoirs were built to supply water for
poses, water plays an important role in the econ- irrigation purposes while the Comerio Reservoir
omy of Puerto Rico. But the natural supply of was constructed to furnish water for the produc-
water on the island fluctuates markedly from one tion of electric power. Since they were completed
time of the year to another on account of the sea- in 1913, the amount of sediment deposited in these
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 55
Table 15.—Sedimentation in three reservoirs of Puerto Rico

Condition by 1950
Original Average
water Area of Estimated sedimen- annual
Name of reservoir storage watershed tation rate of
capacity Age loss in
capacity
Volume Percentage

Acre-feet Square miles Years Acre-feet Percent Percent


Guayabal _ _ 9,544 43. 4 37 4,750 49. 7 1. 34
Comerio 4,918 133. 0 37 4,318 95. 9 2. 59
Coamo _ _ _ .. 2, 687 58. 0 37 1,887 70.2 1. 89

reservoirs over a period of 37 years has reduced dam was raised an additional 16 feet in 1950 at
their storage capacity at rates estimated as ranging a cost of about 2 million dollars. But nothing has
from 1.34 to 2.59 percent a year. as yet been done to reduce the rapid rate of sedi-
The accumulation of sediment in the Guayabal mentation which made raising of the dam a costly
Reservoir between 1913 and 1950 reduced storage necessity.
capacity by about 50 percent. This brought on a Siltation in the Comerio Reservoir has been
shortage of irrigation water in the western section very severe. It is located in an intensely culti-
of the South Coast Irrigation District which was vated hilly agricultural area with about 75 inches
detrimental to agriculture. In order to restore the of rainfall annually. The altitude of the water-
initial capacity of this reservoir, the crest of the shed that drains into this reservoir varies from a

The Comerio Reservoir has lost almost all of its original water storage capacity because of sedimentation. This view shows the large delta
formation at the head of the reservoir.
56 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

little more than 350 feet above sea level to slightly stream areas is like putting the cart before the
over 2,900 feet. The amount of sediment flowing horse. Of course, a certain amount of sedimenta-
into this reservoir has almost completely destroyed tion caused by geological erosion cannot be
its usefulness for the production of electric power. stopped, but the big problem awaiting attack in
The Coamo Reservoir is similarly located, the alti- most of the watersheds above reservoir locations
tude of its drainage area varying from about 330 is the accelerated erosion caused by man. To pro-
feet to 2,950 feet above sea level. Within a 37- vide the necessary watershed protection, work
year period sedimentation reduced its original must be started even before construction of a dam
capacity to store water by an estimated 70 percent. begins. It must be carried through continuously
Several other reservoirs are located consider- after the reservoir is in operation and adjustments
ably below their watersheds. Although detailed made in the methods employed as changing condi-
surveys have not been made, it is apparent that tions may require. Soil, plants, and water are
they too have their sedimentation problems in so interdependent that all three must be consid-
varying degrees. The Caonillas Reservoir, the ered in managing a watershed for the greatest
largest on the island, was completed in 1948, and public benefit.
already a considerable amount of sedimentation The agency of the Puerto Rican Government
has taken place. Also, a long delta is already that is primarily responsible for the various as-
forming in the upper end of the Dos Bocas Reser- pects of water and energy resources conservation,
voir which was completed in 1942. development, and utilization is the Puerto Rico
The importance of conserving and thereby pro- Water Resources Authority, a public corporation
longing the usefulness of the irreplaceable water- established by the Legislature. This agency has
storage capacity of every reservoir on the island done an excellent job in developing the water and
must be stressed again and again. Puerto Rico power resources of the island. But the various
now is heavily dependent on stored water for irri- activities have not been properly balanced so as
gation, power, and other purposes. This depend- to make adequate provision for watershed pro-
ency is increasing year by year, but the land tection in the planning and maintenance of water
sources from which water may be drawn and the development and reservoir projects.
natural areas for storage are limited. Yet, despite The fact that a dam will amortize its cost by
this situation, there is no complete program oper- the time sedimentation destroys its usefulness is
ating for the conservation of the water supply and important from the standpoint of investors who
storage resources which are so vital to the may finance the project. It also appeals to the
economy. public. But by merely reaching this point the
The typical dam in Puerto Rico has been built project does not serve the public interest in full
largely on the basis of whether it would amortize measure. It does not deal with the question of
its cost within an estimated period of usefulness what can and should be done to prolong the life
determined by such factors as prevailing condi- span of a reservoir so that it may continue to
tions affecting erosion and possible sedimentation. render good service for a period far greater than
Once it was reasonably certain that the expendi- the number of years estimated for amortization
ture would be returned within the estimated period purposes. This should be of paramount public
before siltation destroyed the water storage area, concern in Puerto Rico in view of the scarcity of
construction of the dam was ready to start. natural damsites and the great need that exists
Whether any thought was given to measures that for prolonging the useful life of those that are
might initially be taken to prolong the estimated available.
life span of the reservoir is academic, since noth- Of course, the cost of applying adequate water-
ing of the sort that would provide adequate water- shed protective measures must be taken into con-
shed protection or treatment has actually been sideration and weighed against the benefits that
carried out as an integral part of such a project. would accrue. However, a great deal of what
The ample experience with reservoirs in Puerto needs to be done can be accomplished with a rela-
Rico makes it clear that under the conditions that tively small expenditure of funds on some things
prevail, the building of a dam in the lower regions and without spending any money on others. All
ahead of watershed protection work in the up- of the possibilities need to be explored.
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 57

The full burden of the watershed work does not so as to arrive at a definite understanding of the
necessarily have to be borne by the Water Re- responsibilities that would be shared by each in
sources Authority. It should, however, provide moving forward with a watershed program.
the leadership that will permit an adequate job to In some instances, it may be necessary to resort
be done in the watershed and reservoir areas. to regulatory measures in order to stop destruction
Various other governmental agencies in Puerto arising out of unconscionable waste and misuse
Rico deal directly with soil and w^ater conserva- of limited natural resources. For example, tilling
tion and forestry problems, and they also work of steeply sloping land right up to the very edge
with farmers. Those agencies are in position to of a reservoir certainly hastens the time when this
contribute materially to the success of a well- water storage facility will be ruined by sedimenta-
rounded watershed program. The help that is tion. On the other hand, the growing of grass,
available from them should be more effectively trees, or some other permanent cover over a fixed
utilized by the Water Resources Authority both area starting away from the water line would
in planning and executing watershed treatment afford protection from silting and at the same time
and protection measures. As a basis for coopera- not deprive the owner of the use of this land. Help
tive action, the Water Resources Authority might could be provided to farmers to make the necessary
find it desirable to enter into a working agreement adjustments in land use practices. In some of the
with all of the agencies that would be involved more important watersheds, it might be desirable

One of the more recent sources of hydroelectric power in Puerto Rico is the Coctnillas watershed and lake. Lands sloping as sharply as
those in this watershed require adequate protection against erosion in order to prevent rapid sedimentation and eventual destruc-
tion of the reservoir.
58 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

for extremely critical areas to be publicly owned,


with perhaps a form of zoning to permit proper
management and use of such lands by the people
who live on them. Such a zoning system might
also be desirable for critical areas under private
ownership, so as to prevent seriously destructive
land use and cropping practices.
No matter what course is followed, the fact is
that it must be suited to the needs of the particular
area and the problems that must be met. With
the proper approach it should be possible to de-
velop the understanding that is necessary for the
support and cooperation required in the successful
operation of any program.

Beach Erosion
Surrounded as Puerto Rico is by sea water, the Sand dunes along the northern coast of Puerto Rico near Arecibo.
coastal areas are subject to erosion as the result The removal of sand from this and other coastline areas has
aggravated beach erosion.
of action by winds and waves. Along the north-
ern coast there are many wide bays, and the to the mouth of the Rio Grande de Loiza. In the
beaches bordering these bays are formed by un- vicinity of Arecibo, much sand is being removed
consolidated sands. When the littoral east-west from the coastline sand dunes near the new port
currents are affected by high winds and storm facility with the result that the land area around
waves, sections of these beaches are subjected to the port is being endangered.
wave erosion and sometimes wide areas are com- The removal of sand from beaches should not
pletely washed out. be permitted where the consequences would be
These conditions occur along practically all the harmful. Since sand is continuously being re-
sandy northern coastline. The worst damages, moved from beach areas without regard to poten-
however, occur in a coastal stretch east and west tial damage, consideration should be given to
of Luquillo: At Palo Seco where recently a vil- control of this practice through some regulatory
lage was isolated because a section of the only measure that will provide the needed safeguards.
road leading there was washed out, at Dorado, at
Barceloneta, and at Arecibo where pounding Soil Conservation Districts
waves have an several occasions resulted in much Organized programs to promote a safe and con-
loss. Also, along the western coast on the beach tinually productive agriculture through the ap-
running south of Mayagiiez, high winds and storm plication of sound soil and water conservation
waves have done considerable harm, and Insular practices are relatively new in Puerto Rico. The
Road No. 102 has been badly damaged several first erosion control and land use programs were
times. started in a limited way in 1935. They were ini-
The coastline erosion problem has been greatly tiated by a Federal agency, the Puerto Rico Re-
aggravated by the destruction of vegetation. construction Administration, as part of its gen-
Where vegetation has remained untouched, some eral twofold objective of caring for the unem-
degree of protection is provided against the forces ployed and stimulating economic reconstruction.
of wind and water. This helps to reduce the But a more permanent approach to soil and
amount of erosion that takes place. water resources problems became available when
Another practice that has dangerously increased the Congress passed the Soil Conservation Act
the beach erosion problem is the removal of sand of 1935, which established the Soil Conservation
from the beach area for building purposes or for Service. This agency of the United States Depart-
filling wet or marshy sections in the metropolitan ment of Agriculture began operating in P'uerto
areas. This is having a detrimental effect on Rico shortly after it was organized. The early
the shoreline extending from San Juan eastward activities were confined largely to carrying out
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION-

the erosion control and land use programs of farmers an opportunity for democratic self-help
the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration. in dealing with soil and water conservation prob-
Beginning in 1941, appropriations for the various lems of the land they own or operate. The 17
activities of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Ad- districts that were organized as a result of this
ministration were halted and for several years legislation cover all of Puerto Rico (table 16).
afterward the Soil Conservation Service operated Each district is a legal governmental subdivision.
in Puerto Rico with money appropriated by the The farmers in each district elect three persons
Puerto Rican Government in addition to other who, with two others appointed by the Soil Con-
limited Federal funds. However, it was not until servation Committee, serve as a "Board of Super-
1946 that soil conservation work in Puerto Rico visors" with responsibility for administering the
was placed on a solid foundation by the enactment program in the district. The Soil Conservation
of Law 211, designated as the Soil Conservation Committee consists of the Secretary of Agricul-
Districts Act. ture of Puerto Rico as chairman, the directors of
The basic purpose of the Soil Conservation the Puerto Rican Experiment Station and the Ex-
Service is to help farmers bring about physical tension Service, a representative of the Soil Con-
adjustments in land use and treatment that will servation Service, and three farmers appointed
conserve soil and water resources, and thereby by the Governor. It is responsible for overall
establish a permanent and balanced agriculture, administration and policy determination under
reduce hazards of flood and sedimentation, and the local law and cooperates closely with the dis-
add to the general human welfare. Its field oper- trict supervisors and with the Soil Conservation
ations consist of making available, upon request, Service.
technical and certain other assistance to local Each soil conservation district is empowered by
conservation districts which are farmer organized the law to request the assistance of any agency, or-
and operated under laws enacted by the local ganization, or individual that may, in accordance
legislatures. The assistance is primarily the serv- with the type of help available, contribute in any
ices of trained conservationists. The districts use way to the operation of the soil conservation pro-
the technical and other assistance in helping land gram. So far, most of the technical assistance
owners and operators plan, apply, and maintain furnished farmers through the 17 soil conservation
conservation use and treatment of their land. districts in Puerto Rico has been federally spon-
Law 211, enacted by the Legislature of Puerto sored and supplied by the Soil Conservation Serv-
Rico early in 1946, authorized the formation of ice. The amount of this assistance has been gov-
soil conservation districts and opened to all erned by the availability of funds appropriated

Table 16.—Soil conservation districts in Puerto Rico


District Name of district District head- Municipalities included in district
No. quarters

1 Atlantico Arecibo____ Arecibo, Hatillo, Carnuy.


2 Caonillas__ Utuado__ Javuya, Utuado.
3 Caribe Juana Diaz Villalba, Coamo, Juana Dfaz, Santa Isabel.
4 Cibuco _ CorozaL Toa Alta, Naranjito, Comerio, CorozaL
5 Culebrinas San Sebastian Lares, San Sebastian, Moca.
6 Noroeste_ Aguadilla Aguadilla, Aguada, Isabela, Quebradillas, Rincon.
7 Norte Manati _ Barceloneta, Manati, Ciales, Morovis, Vega Baja, Vega Alta.
8 Oeste. Mayagiiez Mayagliez, Afiasco, Las Marias, Maricao.
9 San Juan Rio Piedras Bayamon, Rio Piedras, Guaynabo, Catano, Dorado, Trujillo Alto,
Toa Baja, San Juan.
10 Torrecillas __ Barranquitas Aibonito, Barranquitas, Orocovis.
11 Noreste__ Fa jar do Carolina, Loiza, Rio Grande, Fajardo, Luquillo, Ceiba, Vieques,
Culebra.
12 Este_ _ _ Juncos, Las Piedras, Naguabo, Humacao, Yabucoa.
13 Sudeste _ Arrovo Salinas, Guayama, Arroyo, Patillas, Maunabo.
14 Suroeste San German Hormigueros, San German, Sabana Grande, Lajas, Guanica,
Yauco, Cabo Rojo.
15 Sur_______________
16 Turabo _ _ _ Caguas_ Caguas, Gurabo, San Lorenzo.
17 Torito_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Cayey _ Cayey, Cidra, Aguas Buenas.
60 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

A delta more than 6 feet thick at the upper end of the Patillas Reservoir has resulted from the growing of clean-cultivated crops on steep
slopes upstream.

by Congress and the subsequent allocation of the tively new to Puerto Rico, and the people in the
money for local use. rural areas generally do not have the experience
In Puerto Rico, as in some of the States, this has necessary to take immediate hold of such an under-
resulted in far too few technically trained workers taking. But all of this can be overcome. The big
being;
o
available to meet the ever-increasing™ de- need in this connection is to get the people to
mands of the districts for help. Consequently, understand and recognize what the conservation
each year it has been possible to meet the needs of problem is in their particular area, how it affects
only a relatively small number of farmers who re- them, and what each person can do about it. At
quested assistance with their soil and water con- present 110 such understanding that will impel
servation problems. Furthermore, the soil con- widespread action prevails.
servation district supervisors have failed to solicit The fact that the program in the soil conserva-
the help they are authorized to obtain under the tion districts is moving along at what virtually
insular law from all other agencies and sources in amounts to a snail's pace does not detract from the
Puerto Rico. basic soundness of the program itself. It merely
There have been other difficulties also. Many brings into sharp focus the need for improving and
of the districts have lacked adequate local leader- strengthening the operating mechanisms and
ship capable of exercising initiative, ingenuity, techniques.
and responsibility to promote cooperation and ac- In order to make some of the changes that ap-
tion by farmers. Much of this, of course, is due to pear necessary for more effective administration,
the fact that this conservation program is rela- Law 211 should be amended. The present double-
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 61
headed administrative setup should be eliminated of 1 year each, two would be elected for a term
so that the conservation program may be more ef- of 2 years each, and one would be elected for a
fectively coordinated. To accomplish the kind term of 3 years.
of unified administration that is required by the
situation in Puerto Rico, it is suggested that Law Conservation Education and Information
211 be amended to vest in the Secretary of Agricul- The conservation of Puerto Rico's soil and wa-
ture of Puerto Rico the administrative authority ter resources, for sustained productive use, is an
over appropriated funds granted to the Soil Con- undertaking of vital concern to the island's people
servation Committee by section 13, and to elimi- in all walks of life. The farmers have a most
nate from section 6 the words "with the approval significant responsibility in initiating, planning,
and authorization of the Committee." Provision and putting into effect the various farming prac-
should be made for an agreement with the Secre- tices and soil treatments necessary to combat ero-
tary of Agriculture of the United States so that the sion and to make their lands increasingly produc-
Director of the Federal Soil Conservation Service tive. The people in the towns and cities also have
office in Puerto Rico may also be designated as the an important part to play in the support they
administrative head of the Puerto Rican Govern- give to the concerted efforts needed to build and
ment's soil conservation work. Such an agree- conserve the island's natural resources. But to
ment between the two secretaries of agriculture arouse interest and positive action by intelligent
would, among other things, provide for the joint use of rural and urban energies, it first becomes
administration of the Federal and Puerto Rican necessary to develop among all the people a full
personnel and other resources used in the conserva- understanding of the need for conservation—
tion program. This follows the same procedure what the problem is, how it affects everyone, and
that has operated so effectively in administering what each individual can do about it. This is the
the Puerto Rican and Federal forestry programs role of education and information.
and more recently the animal industry programs. The very measures that are needed to halt ero-
In order to give farmers greater representation on sion and conserve soil and water generally are
the Soil Conservation Committee, Part A, Section the same as those required for good farming.
3, of Law 211 should be amended to increase to five This is fortunate, for by the application of good
the number of farmer members appointed by the farming practices on any of the soils in Puerto
Governor and to require all the farmer members Rico production can be increased. And since a
to be named from among the duly elected soil con- greater total output of farm products is needed,
servation district supervisors. it is therefore essential that systematic and con-
Another needed amendment that should be made tinuous efforts be made to encourage and help
to Law 211 concerns the election of the Board of everyone—individuals and groups, rural and ur-
Supervisors for each of the soil conservation dis- ban, private and public—to understand and join
tricts. The law as now written provides for each in achieving the objectives of conservation.
district to have a Board of Supervisors consisting The various agricultural agencies, and the Ex-
of five members. Of this number, three are elected tension Service in particular, must assume primary
by the farmers in each district and the remaining leadership in awakening the public to the conse-
two are appointed by the Soil Conservation Com- quences of continued misuse of the island's limited
mittee. The present law makes possible a sub- natural resources. The work being done must be
stantial turnover of district supervisors every two intensified and broadened so as to develop more
years. A majority of new, and to some extent in- local leaders to help reach more people, not only
experienced, supervisors will not provide the con- in the rural sections but also in the urban areas.
tinuity necessary to operate a successful program. The 4-H Clubs and the schools where vocational
To eliminate the undesirable features of the pres- agriculture is taught are contributing much to a
ent provision, it is proposed that the law be basic understanding of conservation needs in
amended to provide for the election of all five Puerto Rico, but this should be tied in more with
members of the Board with terms of 3 years each, a community-by-community approach to the prob-
except that among those first elected under such lem. This would include analysis of the extent
a new provision, two would be elected for a term and effects of erosion and depletion in each com-
239284—53———6
62 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Careful land management protects the soil and helps maintain its productivity. This view at Cidra shows sugarcane and pineapples
planted on the contour with protective terraces, hillside ditches, and plantings for streambank control.

munity, the practices and measures that should finance farming operations—private, quasi-public,
be introduced to promote conservation, and the and public credit sources—can greatly help at-
resources available locally for doing the necessary tain conservation objectives and assure a sound
work. With such a body of information assem- basis for loans by following lending policies that
bled in each community, the focus of attention favor wise land use. Moreover, encouraging con-
would then be on a problem expressed in terms servation can be a positive and sound phase of
the work of religious leaders and religious groups
which the local people could readily understand.
in both rural and urban areas.
It is relatively simple to talk about conserva-
Effective use of natural resources such as land
tion and to develop plans on paper. But nothing
and water can be attained only through a period
is actually accomplished until positive action is of years—for some phases even decades may be
taken to deal with the problem on the land itself. required. In Puerto Rico the school system can
The farmer is the one who must follow through by make an admirable contribution toward shaping
employing the necessary good farming practices attitudes and developing an understanding (a)
and applying the treatments needed by the land that resources are not limitless, (b) that there are
so as to conserve and make it more productive. practical methods for using land and water effi-
But the actual work that the farmer does must be ciently for sustained production without impair-
sparked by a desire for accomplishment. Also, ing, but even improving, their productive capacity,
the general attitude of the community can play and (c) that the welfare of the food producer and
an important part in what the farmer does. It of the urban family are definitely tied together.
is especially in this regard that business and pro- Such an understanding is basic to attaining and
fessional men and women, and their service and maintaining effective use of the natural resources
civic clubs, can participate significantly in getting on which the well-being of all the people so greatly
the conservation job done. In addition, those who depend. , •
THE PROBLEM OF SOIL EROSION 63
Education is a slow process at best. However, soil and water conservation activities on the island.
its effectiveness may be enhanced by the use of This has come about through various means rang-
properly chosen materials and techniques. The ing from accidental discovery, trial-and-error
problem in Puerto Rico is made more difficult by testing, to systematic research.
the fact that the level of education is low, espe- Since 1948, however, considerable attention has
cially in the rural areas, and so many people lack been focused on various phases of the soil and
any schooling. To reach these people it is neces- water conservation problem through research con-
sary to rely heavily on meetings, discussions, farm ducted by governmental agencies in Puerto Rico.
tours, demonstrations, and various forms of visual This organized research work has been financed
aids such as exhibits, slides, and motion pictures. by two agencies of the United States Department
The ideas must be expressed in simple terms which of Agriculture—the Soil Conservation Service
are readily understood and appreciated by the and the Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and
individual. Agricultural Engineering. Working in coopera-
While much is already being done in various tion with these agencies are the Puerto Rican Ex-
ways, there is room for greater emphasis on cer- periment Station and the Federal Experiment
tain of the methods employed and the materials Station in Puerto Rico, which is also a United
used. For example, more widespread use should States Department of Agriculture unit.
be made of demonstrations and farm tours so as The results being obtained from the research
to get farmers to learn first-hand from the actual activities of these agencies provide the basis for
experience of a neighbor who is in the same eco- positive action in planning and applying conser-
nomic circumstances but whose cooperation has vation practices and treatments on the land. How-
been enlisted to show what conservation farming ever, the problem in Puerto Rico is so complex
is and how it works out. This means setting up that the present research activities fill only a rela-
more demonstrations on typical farms in a com- tively small part of the need for basic information
munity and providing them with all of the help on soil and water conservation. To meet the ur-
and guidance that is available to any other farmer gent requirements provision should be made to
but no more. Thus, wThat is done and how it is broaden this research work.
accomplished will have a practical application on In general, three lines of work are being fol-
other farms in the locality, and those who see such lowed. One deals with the management, improve-
a demonstration will feel that they too can do ment, and evaluation of forage grasses and legumes
something constructive on their farms. for soil and water conservation and for plant qual-
Also, greater use should be made of motion pic- ity and production. A second concerns evaluation
tures, slides, and film strips not only in rural sec- of soil management and improvement practices in
tions but also in urban areas. One major need is terms of conservation of soil and water and in-
a motion picture that would clearly depict the creased crop production.
overall soil and water problem in Puerto Rico with
A third involves the adaptation and applica-
emphasis on the basic causes, the damaging effects
tion of improved irrigation, drainage, water dis-
on resources and people, and what the use of con-
servation methods can accomplish. Such a film posal, and mechanical erosion control methods to
would be extremely helpful in getting the people the variable soil, climate, and topographic condi-
to understand and appreciate what they are up tions of Puerto Rico.
against in dealing with their natural resources. While the research work carried on in Puerto
Also needed are film shorts for use among farm- Rico is producing valuable results that are being
ers to show them how to do specific operations utilized in many practical ways, there still is
or perform certain practices in soil and water a great lack of basic information that is essential
conservation. to an effective soil and water conservation pro-
gram. The wide range of climatic, topographic,
Research Basic to Conservation and soil conditions that exist in Puerto Rico adds
Gradually there has been developing in Puerto to the complexity of the problem and these factors
Rico a store of knowledge and experience which combine to create a situation that has no counter-
provides a sound fundamental basis for practical part on the mainland of the United States. There-
64 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

fore, in many respects, research on soil and water improved crop sequences, high crop yields, and
conservation problems in Puerto Eico represents possible adaptations of machinery.
a pioneering effort. 4. Magnitudes of erosion and sources of sedi-
In order to meet the pressing requirements for ment in critical inland areas, especially above
basic information, the present research work valuable reservoirs, should be measured. This
should be extended and adequate funds should problem needs consideration both from the stand-
be made available for carrying on specific lines point of damage to basic soil resources and dam-
of investigation as follows: age to valuable reservoirs. On small watersheds,
1. Continued and intensified chemical and phys- the erosion measurements are needed in conjunc-
ical study of soils from the profile standpoint is tion with evaluations of the rate and amount of
needed. This kind of work is basic because soil overland runoff as influenced by land use and con-
is the body which produces all crops, and it must trol practices. On larger watersheds, from which
be understood, preserved, and improved, or else water yields are gaged by the Water Resources
agricultural development becomes severely re- Authority, more information appears to be needed
stricted. Moreover, soil and land classification about sources of damaging sediment and how to
are the recognized bases for conservation and pro- control it.
duction planning. A thorough understanding of 5. Erosion control structures need far more in-
soil, kept up to date with all new developments, vestigation. Bench terraces, slowly formed
plus slope and climatic information, is therefore against grass barriers, need a more extensive eval-
an essential framework and medium on which uation in relation to soil, climate, and cropping
progress in agriculture depends. systems. Small farm reservoirs need study, both
2. Soil structure deserves special attention be- as to methods of construction and proper use.
cause of its close connection with the fundamental Mechanical structures of all kinds in coffee plan-
soil physical properties. With a predominance of tations should be appraised. The first step should
clay textures, as in Puerto Rico, it is recognized be a preliminary survey of present results from
that proper structure is the factor which, in the established structures.
long run, often sets a limit on agricultural pro- 6. Erosion control and management procedures
duction and land use. To the extent that it is in relation to coffee yields should be evaluated
possible to alter, evaluate, and control soil struc- more closely. Besides the evaluation of the pro-
ture, a major restriction on land use and produc- tective soil measures already established, it seems
tion will have been overcome. logical to try any other means that will help to
3. Soil maintenance and improvement as re- solve the big erosion problem in Puerto Rico.
lated to crop sequences, utilization of crop residues, Along this line the following points should be
and management procedures, represent a major considered: (1) Careful evaluation of the chem-
field of investigation which critically needs more ical and physical properties of coffee soils; (2)
attention in Puerto Rico. Vigorous soil-building evaluation of soil erosion control measures used
legumes and grasses in sequences with various in the region; (3) study of the sources of nutrient
cultivated crops offer promise of great progress, losses and soil deterioration; and (4) study of
probable intercropping systems that will increase
but more of the basic facts are needed about the
farmers' income and at the same time maintain
soil-plant interrelations, effectiveness in control-
proper conservation through a program which
ling soil loss or other deterioration, and influence
should include a well-planned system of trash util-
on crop yields. Experimental results and observa- ization in combination with mechanical structures
tions indicate that at least the following crops and a permanent soil cover, preferably a legume.
are suitable for sequences with legumes and In all of the work that is undertaken, careful
grasses: tobacco, vegetables like tomatoes, plan- correlation with other investigations should be
tains, sweetpotatoes, corn, and probably sugarcane provided. For example, studies of forage crop
and pineapples. Erosion control measures, like improvement and management are an essential
bench terraces and mulching, deserve considerably part of investigations concerning erosion control
more experimental attention in connection with and soil improvement.
Chapter V

Use and Control of Water


The rains that fall on the land in Puerto Rico made available for domestic, agricultural, and in-
furnish enough water annually to power an in- dustrial uses.
dustrial empire, yet it is not unusual for the agri- Where there is indiscriminate deforestation,
culture and industry of the island to suffer from overgrazing, or the growing of crops on land not
the effects of periodic drought. Instead of being suitable for cultivation, and adequate soil and
conserved by sinking into the depths of the soil or moisture-conserving practices are not employed,
by being impounded in reservoirs, most of the the relationship of the various factors in the circu-
water is permitted to run off the land surface into lation process tends to be upset. Thus, water that
unharnessed streams and rivers that empty into the should be slowly sinking into soils protected by a
sea. Thus, in an area where everything has to be forested or grass cover, runs off instead to the
stretched to the utmost simply to make ends meet, streams. As this water moves over the land sur-
only fractional use is made of a constantly renew- face, it picks up precious topsoil which may be de-
ing potential for economic strength and human posited as sediment in a reservoir downstream, or
well-being. This waste is made more deplorable carried out into the sea.
by the fact that, besides the land itself, water is the There was a time in Puerto Rico when the water
most valuable of the very scant natural resources from the rains soaked into the soil and only the
in Puerto Rico. surplus gradually worked its way into the streams
The circulation of water from the time it falls and rivers which flowed crystal clear to the sea.
as rain, sinks into the land, runs off to the sea, or But that was long ago, when the island was covered
evaporates into the atmosphere represents a rather by dense forests. Since then, under the pressure
complicated cycle. While much of what happens of a rapidly expanding population, much of this
in this process is beyond the control of man, cer- natural protective cover has given way before ex-
tain aspects can be controlled since they are in- ploitation and reckless land use.
fluenced by factors such as the presence or absence The great waste of natural resources that is now
of vegetation which may be modified by the actions taking place in Puerto Rico through improper use
of man. and management seriously endangers the future of
In the circulatory cycle, rain water that is not the island and the welfare of the people. Unless
evaporated or does not run off immediately into adequate measures are taken to halt the present
streams, is absorbed bj the soil. Vegetation, trend, the productivity of the soil and the amount
through its roots, absorbs some of the ground of land suitable for cultivation will be reduced
water and in turn, through its leaves, returns much further, and there also will be less water available
of it to the atmosphere. Other parts of the for the continually increasing needs of the
ground water reach the subsoil, which acts as a economy.
storage basin. In this way the subsoil serves as a The future requirements for water in Puerto
vast underground reservoir from which, even in Rico are tied directly to the rate of population
dry periods, the flow of streams and the water increase and the progress made in economic de-
supply of wells are maintained, and thus water is velopment. With population continuing to rise
65
66 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

General view of Guayabal Dam from upstream showing the bulkhead section to the left and the spillway section to the right, after the crest
was raised an additional 16 feet in 1950 to restore the initial capacity of the reservoir.

at a rate that is among the highest in the world, city from floods. Fundamentally, sound policy
it is already apparent that present sources of involves tackling each problem at the point of
water for household uses will be inadequate within origin so as to overcome the cause of the trouble.
a short span of years unless they are enlarged and Such a policy must tie in with the soil conserva-
adequately protected. Any further development tion program and encourage proper use and man-
of new irrigation areas will also place an addi- agement of the land so as to reduce runoff and
tional demand on the present limited water re- erosion. Furthermore, it must cover the water-
sources. Likewise, the present program for in- shed areas and protect the sources of the streams
dustrialization, with continued increases in re- and rivers. This means giving greatly increased
quirements for water and electric power, will emphasis to the preservation of the forests, accel-
prove increasingly costly and limited unless a erating the shift of land unsuited for cultivation
sound policy for the management and conser- to other safe uses, and putting into permanent
vation of the island's water resources is put into forests many of the acres formerly in forests or
effect. coffee but which are now abandoned or are being
The kind of water management and conserva- used for cultivated crops until they too must be
tion policy that is needed in Puerto Rico involves abandoned. All of this is particularly important
far more than merely increasing the capacity of in the watersheds of the presently active water
of reservoirs by raising the height of the dams resources projects.
where sedimentation already is serious, or by con- In addition, a water management and conser-
structing expensive retaining walls to protect a vation policy for Puerto Rico must concern itself
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 67
with the problem of pollution, which is already creasing strain on Puerto Rico's water resources.
serious in many respects. As population density The need to conserve and use these water resources
increases and industrialization expands, this prob- wisely so they will be permanently available for
lem grows more acute and dangerous. The pollu- the greatest benefit to the people is a challenge
tion of most streams in Puerto Rico, many of that must be met if the island's economy is to
which are used for domestic purposes, constitutes continue to progress.
a menace to public health, recreation, agricultural For the purpose of bringing into sharper focus
and industrial production, and wildlife. Correc- the various aspects of Puerto Rico's water re-
tive measures and proper controls are urgently sources problem, this subject is discussed in seven
needed to cope with this situation. topics: 1, Irrigation; 2, Hydroelectric Power; 3,
On the basis of what is now taking place, it Domestic and Industrial Water Supply; 4, Water
is clear that as population rises further and in- Pollution; 5, Flood Control; 6, Drainage; and 7,
dustry develops there will continue to be an in- Wildlife and Recreation.

1. Irrigation
The use of water for irrigation in Puerto Rico Most of the water for the public irrigation sys-
is now confined primarily to the coastal sections tems is supplied by eight main reservoirs (table
of the northwestern, southwestern, and southern 17). Four of these reservoirs—Patillas, Coamo,
parts of the island. This total area, however, Guayabal, and Melania—serve only irrigation
represents only part of the land on the island that needs. The remaining four—Carite, Matrullas,
could be irrigated profitably if the necessary in- Guineo, and Guajataca—supply water both for
stallations were made. On the northern coast irrigation and hydroelectric power.
alone there are at least six sections where irriga-
tion could bring into more productive use more Table 17.—Reservoirs supplying water for
irrigation, 7950
than 50,000 acres of land. In addition to ex-
panded use in the coastal regions, there is an op-
Estimated
portunity for developing irrigation to supplement usable Average
rainfall in much smaller areas and on individual Reservoir water annual
storage inflow
farms in the hilly and interior sections of the capacity
island.
The irrigation systems that cover the coastal Acre-feet Acre-feet
areas are publicly owned and operated, except for Patillas. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 14, 000 61, 599
Coamo 800 23, 700
a very few systems that are still privately con- GuayabaL 1
9, 799 79, 761
trolled by virtue of grants of water rights that Melania _._ 314 3,641
Carite 2 _2 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 3
9, 537 30, 379
date back to the Spanish Crown. The system of Matrullas 3
2, 945 15, 507
the South Coast Irrigation District is the largest Guineo 2 __ 2 4
3
1,810 7, 199
Guajataca 32, 500 66, 000
and oldest of the publicly controlled projects.
The entire district includes 51,000 acres of land 1
After crest of the dam was raised in May 1950 to restore capacity lost by
sedimentation.
of which 33,000 acres are irrigated by gravity flow 2
3
Also supplies water for production of electric power.
Original capacity—sedimentation has been negligible.
of water and 18,000 by pumps and wells. The 4
Original capacity—sedimentation has been moderate.
second largest public system is the Isabela Irri-
The areas now under irrigation are the natu-
gation Service, which is located in the northwest-
rally dry sections of the island, and the water
ern part of the island. This was developed that is needed is drawn from the mountain re-
initially to serve 18,000 acres of land, but as a gions. Since Puerto Rico is surrounded by tropi-
result of various difficulties it now serves only cal seas and lies well within the Torrid Zone, it
about 8,300 acres. Two additional irrigation enjoys abundant rainfall in the mountainous area
projects under construction in the southern and of its interior. The rainfall, however, even though
southwestern areas will supply more than 30,000 it gives rise to numerous well watered streams,
acres of land. is not evenly distributed over the island, varying
68 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

from about 30 inches annually along the dry These isolated systems, however, were ineffi-
southern coast to more than 100 inches in the cen- cient since there were no impounding reservoirs,
tral mountainous regions, and reaching over 180 and when rainfall was deficient the water supply
inches in the El Yunque area in the northeastern on which the systems depended soon became ex-
section. This situation arises mainly from its hausted. Eventually, the idea of a general irriga-
topography and the prevailing winds. tion system for the area crystallized. This led
The high mountains of the interior form a more to the enactment by the Legislative Assembly
or less continuous divide in east-west direction of Puerto Eico of the Public Irrigation Law,
across the island. When the moisture laden north- approved September 18, 1908, which provided
easterly trade winds are deflected upward by this the initial authority for construction of a public
barrier they are rarified and thus cooled. Their irrigation system in the southern coastal region.
moisture condenses and falls as rain, largely on the Engineering studies for the south coast project
northeasterly and easterly slopes. After the winds were begun in 1908, construction was started in
cross the divide to the southern side, they often 1910, and the system was completed in 1914. Thus,
retain insufficient water to continue precipitation, it already has been in successful operation many
resulting in a comparatively dry southern coast. years.
Similarly, the northern coast, lying almost at Essentially the irrigation system of the South
ocean level, also receives less rain than the moun- Coast Irrigation District is composed of four
tain areas. This is particularly so on the plains main storage reservoirs fed with the runoff from
of the northwest corner of the island. four different watersheds, about 98 miles of main
Present methods of applying irrigation water canals and distribution laterals, two generating
in Puerto Rico are in the main costly, and need to hydroelectric plants which came into existence
be discarded in favor of other tested methods as a byproduct of the irrigation system, and elec-
which will make more effective use of water at a tric transmission and distribution lines consisting
much lower cost. The land under irrigation is of 210 miles of high- and low-tension lines.
used mostly to grow sugarcane. Practically no The system is formed by three separate systems
other use of real significance to the economy is of reservoirs and canals which receive their water
made of irrigation water on farms that have it supply from three different sources and which bear
available. no physical relations among themselves. These
are: The system which irrigates the lands situ-
South Coast Irrigation District ated between the Patillas and the Salinas Eivers
The development of irrigation in the southern and which consists of the Patillas Eeservoir and
coastal region of Puerto Eico goes back into many the Patillas Canal; the system formed by the
years of history. The scanty rainfall and rather Carite Beservoir and the Guamani Canal which
frequent failure of the water supply prevailing in irrigates the lands located above the Patillas Canal
that area had long been an obstacle to agricultural between Guayama and Salinas; and the system
development. The lay of the land and the char- originally formed by the Toro Negro Diversion,
acter of the soil were found to be particularly suit- Guayabal Eeservoir, Coamo Eeservoir, and the
able for growing sugarcane, but this plant could Juana Diaz Canal. This latter canal runs in an
not develop without an adequate supply of water easterly direction from Juana Diaz toward Salinas
for its growth.
and irrigates all the lands lying between the Jaca-
It was quite natural, then, that the practice of
guas Eiver and the Eio Jueyes near Salinas. The
land irrigation in this part of the island began
irrigation system of which it is a part was enlarged
with the early attempts to grow sugarcane. There
were at first small isolated systems, some supplied with the addition of the Guineo and the Matrullas
by diverting by gravity the flow of streams and Eeservoirs in 1931 and 1934 respectively. Each
others by pumping from surface waters and from of these three systems functions independently,
deep wells. By the middle of the last century that is, the irrigation waters, with the exception
water concessions for irrigation purposes began to of the minor relation existing between the Gua-
be granted to landowners by the Crown of Spain, mani Canal and the Melania Eeservoir, do not
and in time there were many concessions. meet at any place but flow through separate canals
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 69
located at different elevations and irrigate sepa- and elevation so as to obtain an accurate measure
rate sections of the district. and an uninterrupted flow of water into the field
The total acreage under irrigation in this south ditches prepared by the planters. The quantity
coast project amounts to approximately 51,000 of water delivered each month is one-twelfth of the
acres, of which 33,000 acres receive water by grav- amount appurtenant for the year. When owing
ity from the irrigation system and 18,000 are irri- to shortage in the water supply it becomes imprac-
gated by pumps supplied from deep wells and tical to deliver the full amount appurtenant for the
operated with electricity served from the hydro- month, then the planters are allowed a time ex-
electric system. Of the 33,000 acres irrigated tension of 11 months within which the shortage
from the irrigation system, 12,800 acres receive will be delivered to them, provided the supply be-
water from the Patillas Canal. The Guamani coming available is sufficient to cover first the
Canal serves 4,950 acres, and the Juana Diaz Canal regular monthly deliveries and then the shortage.
takes care of 15,250 acres. In the case of lands which are receiving water
The amount of irrigation water fixed by the from the irrigation systems under unrelinquished
Public Irrigation Law as appurtenant to the land water concessions which were granted prior to
is 4 acre-feet per acre per year, which is equivalent the establishment of the system, water deliveries
to an application of about 4 inches of water each are made continuously even though there may be
month to the land under irrigation. This is the a shortage in the reservoirs. In other words, de-
amount that was estimated as necessary to supply liveries to such concession lands are not subject
the deficiency in the rainfall on the south coast. to a reduction proportionate to the supply avail-
The south coast system has been delivering able as is the case with deliveries to other lands
water at this rate of 4 acre-feet per year to each included in the irrigation district.
acre of land uniformly throughout the year. The When the supply available in storage is larger
methods and the sequence followed in the cultiva- than is required to make full deliveries to the
tion of sugarcane in this district require that lands included in the irrigation district, then this
irrigation be practiced continuously (not merely surplus water is sold to the planters who request
during certain seasons as in some other areas). it at a price which is fixed for each fiscal year at
Accordingly, the project was planned and carried an amount approximately equal to, but never less
out subject to the requirement that it would have than, one-fourth of the water tax for the year.
to function continuously and uniformly. The quantity of 4 acre-feet per acre per year
To enable the planters to use the water to best has proved sufficient for a good part of the land
advantage, each planter is allowed to group and included in the irrigation district, but for porous
use all the water to which he is entitled, as appur- sandy soils, which abound in this zone, it falls
tenant to all the land under his control under each short of meeting the irrigation requirement. To
of the three systems of canals, and to deliver this supply the deficiency, the planters avail them-
water in the amounts and through the outlets re- selves of underground water which they bring to
quested. This method of delivery, authorized by the surface by means of tubular wells and pumps.
the Public Irrigation Law, permits the water to be This source of supply is being constantly replen-
applied to the fields economically. The planters ished by the same irrigation water furnished by
are able to keep their labor costs down and also the gravity system which is applied to the surface,
get the greatest benefit out of the water since they a great part of which percolates into the lower
can apply it by rotation to their various tracts of strata.
land, using the water in quantities and in the A large number of pumping installations are
number of times during the month best suited to scattered over this south coast area and, with rare
their needs. exceptions, they are all driven by electric motors.
The irrigation service measures and delivers the For this purpose electric power service at a low
water to the planters through outlets which have rate is needed and the hydroelectric system, which
been located so as to irrigate by gravity all of the came into existence as a byproduct of the irriga-
land served by those outlets. Each outlet consists tion system, has been progressively developed to
of a gate and an orifice plate arranged as to space meet this need.
70 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Plant No. 1, to amounts which now average more


than $900,000 a year.
Of the 33,000 acres of land irrigated by gravity
from the irrigation system, approximately 24,000
acres pay the regular water tax, and 9,000 acres,
which were formerly irrigated from old conces-
sions, are exempted from the payment of the irri-
gation tax but are assessed and pay each year a
small tax to cover their share of the cost of opera-
tion and maintenance of the system.
The amount of the regular water tax remained
at the maximum of $15 per acre per year author-
ized by the Irrigation Law from 1914 until 1922.
From that year until fiscal year 1935-36 it de-
Typical of the installations that pump irrigation water is the creased gradually to $7.17 per acre, mainly because
Providencia Pump near Salinas.
of the large increase in the income from the elec-
Considering the widespread use of pumps to tric power business. Since 1940 the tax has in-
make available the quantity of water used in the creased gradually with rising costs of labor and
irrigation of those lands which require more water materials. However, during recent years, partly
than the gravity system can supply, as well as for on account of the limitation of $15 per acre per
increasing the area under cultivation, the South year fixed by law, the irrigation system has been
Coast Irrigation System may well be classified as forced to work on a restricted budget, delaying
a combined gravity and pumping system. The needed maintenance to balance the budget.
Puerto Rican Government has centered its activi- The average yearly crop from land now in the
ties on building of the gravity system and supply- South Coast Irrigation District during the 7 years
ing at low rates the electric power required to from 1909 to 1915, that is, just previous to the
operate the pumps, but it has left to private ini- operation of the irrigation system, was approxi-
tiative the exploration of the underground water mately 54,000 tons of sugar. The crop for the 5
supply as well as the investment of capital re- years 1945-50 averaged more than 200,000 tons of
quired for the pumping installations. sugar. This increase in annual yield is not, of
The income necessary to operate the south coast course, wholly attributable to irrigation since im-
irrigation project is provided by (a) revenues provement in cane varieties has been a very great
from the sale of electric power, (b) receipts from factor. But such an increase would not have been
incidental sales of surplus water, and (c) assess- possible without irrigation. This increase of some
ment on the lands included in the irrigation dis- 150,000 tons of sugar in the irrigation district rep-
trict of a tax sufficient to raise the required resents a gain of more than $15,000,000 in the value
remainder. of the crop produced each year.
The total irrigation revenues during fiscal year
1949-50 amounted to $390,840 while the sales of Isabela Irrigation Service
electric power in the district alone accounted for The Isabela Irrigation Service was originally
an income of $922,954. established to supply water for irrigating a pro-
The expansion of the hydroelectric system of jected area of 18,000 acres of land distributed
the South Coast Irrigation Service has been such among the municipalities of Isabela, Aguadilla,
that it plays a role of major importance as a and Moca.
source of revenue as compared with what the Water for irrigation is obtained from the Gua-
water tax contributes to the running expenses of jataca River, which is impounded in the Guajataca
the service. The revenues from the sale of electric Reservoir located 6.2 miles south of the town of
power have constantly increased every year from Quebradillas. The capacity of the reservoir is
about $25,000 in 1916-17, which was the first full 32,500 acre-feet. The annual runoff of the river
year of operation of the Carite Hydroelectric ranges from 53,000 to 79,000 acre-feet. The diver-
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 71
sion canal follows along the canyon of the river per acre per year, which includes $1 as a charge
from its heading at the reservoir for a distance of for readiness to serve and $3 as the value of iy%
3.1 miles and then northwest for 1.2 miles to the acre-feet allotments per year. Water may be sold
irrigable lands. This canal ends at an elevation to proprietors who have paid their assessment
105 feet above part of the irrigable lands, and at at the rate of $2 per acre-foot included, and at
this point there is installed hydroelectric Plant $2.50 per acre-foot to those who owe for two or
No. 1. less 6-month periods.
The main arteries of the irrigation district are Water is also supplied by the Isabela Irriga-
the Main Canal 5.5 miles long, Moca Canal 13.4 tion Service to the aqueducts and sewage systems
miles long, the Aguadilla Canal 6.2 miles long, of Aguadilla, Isabela, Moca, Aguada, Quebra-
and 109.7 miles of water distribution laterals. dillas, and Eamey Field. The water served annu-
This service was started about 1928, and after ally for these purposes totals approximately 3,500
many modifications and revisions of the irrigation acre-feet.
district, the area under irrigation has been reduced The biggest source of income, however, is from
until now it is down to about 8,300 acres from the the sale of hydroelectric power. This amounts to
original 18,000 acres. A significant feature of the more than $400,000 annually, which is roughly
area is the large number of small farms that are 12 times the income obtained from irrigation taxes
included in the permanent irrigation district and the sale of water.
(table 18). Financing the operation of the Isabela Irriga-
tion Service has been a continuing problem from
Table 18.—Farm units in I sab el a Irrigation District
the start. The system was established at a cost
of more than $4,000,000 to irrigate the projected
Size of farm Tracts Total area
area of 18,000 acres. But since the area included
in the permanent system has been reduced to 8,300
Acres Number Acres
70 34. 50 acres, with only half of this acreage actually irri-
From 1 to 2__ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ 150 232. 54 gated by farmers, the cost factor became an
247 839. 45
From 5 t o 1 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 149 1, 051. 09 obvious burden. After several years of operation,
From 10 to 2 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 95 1, 300. 41 it was found necessary to obtain additional reve-
From 2 0 t o 30__ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 28 693. 79
From 30 to 5 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - _ _ _ _ _ - 16 639. 97 nue and this was done through an expansion of
From 5 0 t o 100__--_ _ _ _ _ _ 9 617. 63 hydroelectric power. At the time, it offered the
Over 1 0 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ - - _ - - _ - 15 2, 947. 02
best solution to the problem of getting the steady
Total___________--_-__- 779 8, 256. 38 and rising yearly income needed to defray operat-
ing expenses and to help pay the initial high cost
The agricultural lands in the Isabela area are of the installation. Unfortunately, however, the
largely devoted to the cultivation of sugarcane, course chosen does not favor interest in expanding
which utilizes 6,400 acres. The rest of the farm or trying to foster the efficient use of a maximum
land is generally planted to cotton, corn, tobacco, quantity of water for irrigation.
peppers, and other vegetable crops. According For several years most of the landowners in the
to the yearly crop census made by the personnel irrigation district were heavily in debt, as a re-
of the Isabela service, only half of the acreage sult of unpaid water taxes and yearly increases
planted is actually irrigated. Most of the irri- in rates of taxation. The Puerto Kican Legisla-
gation water is applied to sugarcane, and very ture, however, passed numerous laws canceling
few farmers use irrigation for any other crops these debts and reducing to a minimum the irri-
in the area. gation taxes as well as the payment for water
The failure of farmers to make full use of the served. Even with these reductions, no marked
irrigation system apparently stems more from increase has taken place in the use of irrigation
a lack of interest than from the cost of the water by individual farmers.
that would be used. Irrigation assessments are
Additional Areas for Irrigation
at the rate of $1 per acre per year without allot-
ment for the first 10 acres included. For all acres The productivity of many thousands of acres
in excess of the first 10 included, the rate is $4 of agricultural land in Puerto Eico could be in-
72 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

creased materially by making available additional substantially the possible acreage of irrigated
supplies of irrigation water. Plans have already lands in this area.
been made for bringing irrigation water to two The unregulated waters of the Cibuco River
areas, but other areas should also receive attention. are capable of irrigating more than 3,000 acres
Already under construction is the Southwestern of land in its lower basin area. No promising
Puerto Rico Project which proposes a complete site for hydroelectric development has been found
development for the area of the Lajas Valley. in this river basin.
This would include: (1) Reclamation and preser- The Loiza is the best watered river on the island.
vation of 26,000 acres in the southwestern part The Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority
of the island most of which are among the best is at present constructing a dam on this river
agricultural lands in Puerto Rico, (2) creation which will provide storage facilities for water
of a good potable water supply for the towns of needed by the metropolitan area of San Juan and
the region, (3) production of 100 million kilowatt- also for the production of hydroelectric power.
hours of hydroelectric energy, and (4) protection The regulated outflow from the hydroelectric
of property from floods in the Yauco, Anasco, plant will be returned to the stream below the
and Susua River Basins. impounding reservoir and will be available for
Also planned is the Coamo-Bauta Project which irrigating lands in the lower basin.
proposes irrigation by gravity of some 4,800 acres The El Yunque Project proposes to utilize the
of land in the Coamo region of the island and water of the Espiritu Santo and other streams
the development of 14,900 kilowatt-hours of on the north side of the El Yunque area and
hydroelectic energy. would provide, when constructed, storage facil-
Along the northern coast there are six areas ities for the regulation of some 50 cubic feet a
which deserve special study as possibilities for second of surface waters from this area. These
the development of irrigation. These are: (1) waters could be used to irrigate some 5,000 acres
The Arecibo River coastal area, (2) the l\|anati of land to the north of the town of Rio Grande.
River coastal area, (3) the La Plata River coastal Most of the water from these and other unhar-
area, (4) the Cibuco River coastal area, (5) the nessed streams is being wasted at present. The
Loiza River coastal area, and (6) the Espiritu total quantity of surface water in cyclic circula-
Santo coastal area. tion on Puerto Rico, measured in precipitation,
The Arecibo River is controlled at the Dos amounts to about 36,000 acre-feet daily. This is
Bocas and Caonillas Dams, which have a com- roughly 30 times the average flow of the Loiza
bined capacity of nearly 70,000 acre-feet provid- River. Some 18,000 acre-feet per day, on the aver-
ing a well regulated flow capable of irrigating age, return to the atmosphere as vapor through
some 25,000 acres of land in the lower basin. evaporation and transpiration, leaving a re-
There is no storage development in the Manati mainder of some 18,000 acre-feet a day which
River Basin but this river has a minimum un- represents the surface waters draining to the sea.
regulated flow capable of irrigating some 8,000 The tremendous energy carried by the streams
acres of land in the lower basin. The Water of Puerto Rico may be visualized if it is realized
that the 9,000 cubic feet per second average surface
Resources Authority is studying a hydroelectric
flow of the island's streams falling 1,000 feet does
development on this river which may provide
the work of some 900,000 horsepower, night and
future storage facilities for the irrigation of more day, all the time. This amounts to an average
than 20,000 acres of land in this area. yearly production of hydroelectric energy of some
There is no adequate regulation of the waters 5,600 million kilowatt-hours, which is about 23
of the La Plata River flowing to the north coast times the actual production obtained now on the
since the Comerio Reservoir is almost full of sedi- island from this source. The annual surface flow
ment. Nevertheless the minimum flow of this would cover 1,000,000 acres of land to a depth of
river would irrigate some 8,000 acres in the lower about 80 inches. A substantial part of this large
basin area. The Comerio Extension Project, a supply of surface water is now wasted to the sea,
possible future hydroelectric development, may especially through streams flowing to the north
provide the necessary storage facilities to increase coast of the island. This loss could be reduced
73
with great benefit to the agriculture and the gen-
eral economy of the island by establishing wher-
ever feasible projects that would utilize the water
for irrigation and the production of hydroelectric
power.

Overall Problems in Water Management


Use and conservation must go hand in hand in
the overall management of water resources. Al-
though the manner of use is important from the
standpoint of the economic benefits to be derived,
proper conservation is necessary to insure pro-
longed use. For example, where a dam is built The Juana Diaz Canal brings irrigation water to more than 15,000
to impound water, the life span of the reservoir is acres of farmland along the south coast of Puerto Rico.

largely dependent on how much sedimentation


flow may create little or no storage (although
takes place from the waters that run into it for
usually some pondage) value. On the other hand,
storage. dams on streams of variable flow may be valued in
In considering the problems associated with
large measure by their creation of storage capacity
sedimentation of reservoirs and the resulting
for equalizing the flow.
damage, the fact stands out that the movement of
Variable stream flow is the rule in Puerto Rico,
a certain quantity of soil and rock particles by
and accelerated sedimentation of reservoirs re-
running water from higher to lower parts of a
sults in the loss of power, irrigation, and other
stream drainage area is a natural and continuous
water use values that, under a lower rate of sedi-
phenomenon that cannot be stopped by man. In
mentation, would be available for a longer period.
planning and designing reservoirs in Puerto Rico,
Efficiency in the use of water is an important
and in all other parts of the world, this basic fact
phase of water resources management. Irriga-
is recognized and is included in estimating the eco-
tion is costly in Puerto Rico because of the large
nomic feasibility and the life span of projects.
amount of labor required by the prevailing meth-
But, even when the quantity of sediment trans-
ods of water distribution. The cost of the water
ported by a stream does not prove to be a critical
itself to farmers is reasonable where supplied by
factor, interest in the rate of erosion should not
the Government, but water from some private
diminish. By reducing erosion, a low rate of silt-
developments is much more costly.
ing may be maintained so as to prolong the useful
The loss of water through inefficient methods
life of storage reservoirs many years after the
of application adds greatly to the overall cost. As
cost of their construction has been amortized.
an average, approximately 70 cents out of every
Since desirable sites for storage reservoirs are ex-
dollar paid for water is lost because the water
tremely limited in Puerto Rico, this factor alone
leaches away. With improved methods only 25
demands that they be made to serve as long as is
percent or less would be lost in this way. If all
practically possible.
irrigation water was distributed efficiently, there
The silting of storage reservoirs in Puerto Rico
might be no lack of water for maximum yields on
has specially significant objectionable results be-
land now under irrigation. Moreover, certain ad-
cause of the seasonal distribution of rainfall,
joining lands which are not now irrigated could
which necessitates ample storage to conserve run-
off during the wet season for use during the dry receive water they need.
season. Most of the water stored in reservoirs on A continuing problem in the Isabela irrigation
the island is used for the development of power, ir- district, for example, is the great loss of water
rigation, and domestic and industrial water sup- that takes place through seepage and other causes.
ply, all requiring continuous delivery. When the irrigation system started operation, it
The value of a dam depends, in varying degrees, was found that from 50 to 60 percent of the water
on the amount of reservoir storage the dam creates. was lost through seepage and occasional sink holes
Dams on larger rivers that have relatively uniform that appeared in the main irrigation canals and
74 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

in the distribution laterals. In the network of mented by more than 50 inches of water obtained
canals owned by the service this has been corrected by pumping from the subsoil.
by lining the canals with concrete. The losses of Rainfall in the north coast area averages from
water through cracks and other causes in the diver- 60 to 80 inches per year. This is less than the
sion canal have now been reduced to 4.6 percent. amount of water received from rainfall and grav-
The losses in the Moca Canal, which has been lined ity irrigation by Aguirre Central lands, with the
with precast concrete slabs, have been cut down further inconvenience that rainfall water is un-
to 20 percent. This latter method of lining canals evenly distributed during the year while irriga-
does not appear satisfactory since there always tion water can be served when it is most needed.
will be numerous cracks between the slabs where During years of normal rainfall, supplemental
water may escape in considerable quantities. The irrigation on the north coast lands may not show
losses of the main canal have been reduced to 12 a particularly high gain in yield over nonirrigated
percent. This main canal and several other im- lands. However, irrigation presents an insurance
portant laterals have been lined with concrete, against damage to crops as a result of possible
using a mixture of cement, sand, and polvillo from dry spells, prolonged or short, which could readily
local stone quarries. cause millions of dollars in losses. Viewed in this
In spite of all these improvements that have way, the margin of profit from irrigation is high
been made to save water, the overall losses through compared to the cost. The fact that the north
seepage, cracks, evaporation and other causes are coast area is favored with an adequate supply of
still considerable. In 1949-50 they amounted to surface water which is now wasted to the sea,
29.2 percent. The water losses suffered by the adds to the attractiveness of supplemental irriga-
farmers are above 50 percent.
tion for this area.
Water applied in excess of needs is not only
lost, it also leaches away needed plant nutrients, Approximately 100,000 acres are now under ir-
especially nitrogen. This increases fertilizer costs rigation in Puerto Rico. This represents about 10
and reduces yields per acre. percent of the total cultivated acreage. At least
If all of the land in Puerto Rico received ade- 90 percent of the irrigated land is used for grow-
quate water at all times it is estimated that total ing sugarcane. A very small acreage is irrigated
agricultural production would be increased by one- by sprinkling, the remainder by furrow methods.
third or more, but very little effort has been made The so-called "McLane" system with minor vari-
by the Puerto Eican Government to demonstrate ation is used on an estimated 90 percent of the
to farmers the benefits from irrigation under nor- irrigated area. This is a short furrow, or essen-
mal weather conditions and under dry conditions. tially a modified basin method. Each furrow is
With the exception of a single irrigation experi- filled individually from closely spaced supply
ment performed with sugarcane, no research has ditches, or "McLanes," which most commonly are
so far been carried out with other crops to indicate spaced from 20 to 40 feet apart. Recently, some
the influence of irrigation water in increasing "McLanes" have been spaced as much as 72 feet
yields. apart. Long furrows are graded for about 0.5
Observations made at Aguirre Central show percent of fall, and the shorter furrows are often
sugarcane can utilize from 100 to 160 inches of level. In essentially all systems, sugarcane is
water a year, including water lost by deep perco- planted and grows in the bottom of the furrow.
lation during irrigation. The amount of such loss With time and cultivation the furrow tends to fill
depends on the soil properties, porous sandy soils so that during the second or later years, the ca-
needing the most water and clayey soils needing pacity for water is much reduced. The canes also
the least. Rainfall on the lands where these ex- retard and interfere with water movement in the
periments were conducted averages about 45 inches furrows.
a year. These lands receive the equivalent of some On the lands of Luce & Co. in the Santa Isabel
45 inches more of rainfall from the South Coast area, numerous tests have been conducted to de-
Irrigation Service. This total of 90 inches has termine the efficiency of various methods for ap-
been found inadequate and is profitably supple- plying irrigation water. These have shown that,
75
on the average, about 40 percent of the water ap- cations of about one inch per irrigation, an aver-
plied is held in the root zone for plant use. High- age of 75 percent of the water is held in the root
est losses occur when the land is poorly prepared, zone. Most of the remainder probably blows away
and when excess quantities of water are applied as spray or is evaporated. Sprinkling also has
at times when the soil has only a small capacity a low labor requirement. But the initial costs of
to store available water. More limited tests have equipment and the upkeep tend to be high, al-
been made throughout other parts of the island. though these costs are being reduced as various
As an overall average, it is estimated that only improvements are made. The feasibility of wide-
30 percent of the water applied as irrigation is spread sprinkler irrigation appears to be pri-
held in the soil for plant use. In certain cases marily an economic problem for which there is
only 20 percent is retained, 80 percent being lost as yet no stock answer. Its efficiency in saving
by deep percolation or by runoff to the sea. From water and labor is unquestioned. On the other
this it is apparent that any considerable improve- hand carefully laid out and properly used furrows
ment in the efficiency of applying water would can provide at least 50 percent efficiency; average
obviously result in a substantial saving of water. practices with planted cane are about 40 percent
Also, the prevailing methods of furrow irrigation efficient; poor practices which are common
have a high labor requirement, making distri- through Puerto Rico give only 25 percent or less
bution more costly. The average irrigator prob- efficiency in the distribution of water.
ably irrigates about one acre per day. Careful Once the advantages of surface irrigation and
planning, training, and supervision have increased the greater advantages of overhead irrigation are
the acreage per man-day to two acres and more more widely known throughout the island, it
in some cases. should be possible to overcome the apathy toward
Properly designed sprinkler irrigation is an irrigation that now exists among many farmers.
efficient method of water application. Repeated This would, perhaps, lead farmers to organize
determinations in cooperation with Luce & Co. cooperative or government-sponsored portable
have indicated that with properly spaced appli- sprinkler systems.

A field of green peppers at Isabela being irrigated by a sprinkler system. The use of overhead irrigation is relatively new in Puerto Rico.
76 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

The need to educate farmers to the value of irri- very little outside help and most of what has been
gation and the methods to be employed for effec- accomplished in developing the various projects
tive results is not confined to any one area. Most in the last half century has been through local
of the farmers in Puerto Kico think of irrigation governmental effort and enterprise. Irrigation
in terms of irrigating sugarcane. The general has contributed greatly to agricultural produc-
tendency is to overlook the possibilities of irri- tivity and has made it possible to bring into use
gating other crops profitably. Few other crops lands which otherwise would remain far less pro-
are irrigated on a substantial scale, even though ductive. This has been of vital importance to
irrigation water may be available. the economy, and it can become far more signifi-
One of the drawbacks has been the lack of in- cant for the future.
formation concerning the irrigation of crops other The experience that has been gained—both good
than sugarcane. Experimental work is needed to and bad—offers a sound basis on which further
demonstrate the value and methods of irrigating development of irrigation in Puerto Rico may
a wide range of crops under the different condi- advance, provided full advantage is taken of the
tions found in the various parts of Puerto Rico. lessons taught by experience with existing projects.
These crops include cotton, pineapple, vegetables, The fact that a large part of the water resources
grain, and hay and pastures. The possibility of of Puerto Rico are still unused and are being
irrigating coffee trees during critical periods when wasted when the economy could profit so greatly
the crop is forming so as to supplement rainfall if they were fully and wisely employed, stands
might also be worth exploring, especially where out as a prime motivating force for prompt and
the land is not too steep. determined action.
Several large areas suitable for irrigation are But action cannot effectively accomplish a set
dependent upon the development of new water purpose without organized planning and follow-
supplies. The Lajas Valley and the Coamo area through, adequate education and information, and
are two of these, and the irrigation projects being research sufficient to provide the basis for the
developed for them will tap distant sources of work that is scheduled. The one main weakness
water supply. The information already obtained in the development and operation of irrigation
relative to the efficient use of water and irriga- projects in Puerto Rico is that various agencies
tion practices in the Santa Isabel-Aguirre section in position to help either have not been fully
are generally applicable to these new areas. utilized or else they have not been directly tied
Many areas with little or no irrigation at pres- in with the work soon enough. Projects for irri-
ent would profit from supplemental irrigation if gation (or for any other purpose involving the
water supplies were available. Practically all broad interest of agriculture) should be considered
of the island suffers from dry periods at some and planned jointly by all agencies concerned.
time during the year. The Mayagiiez area in In this way the single agency charged with the
particular is badly in need of supplemental water basic responsibility will have the benefit of tech-
during a period of from 4 to 6 months almost nical assistance and advice which will enable it
every year. If local or reserve water supplies to avoid or anticipate possible pitfalls. At the
could be developed for supplemental irrigation same time, the participating agencies will be in
when and where needed, a great number of the
position to evaluate the needs they may have to
farms on the island would benefit materially.
meet in servicing the project and to prepare in
Production would be increased considerably,
especially if growers were educated to the fact advance for meeting the load when the project
that irrigation is profitable for many other crops is completed. This sort of teamwork and cooper-
in addition to sugarcane. ation can contribute much to insure the successful
operation of any project that serves a community.
Focal Points for Action This is a problem that demands constant attention
In considering the irrigation needs of Puerto so that the healthy relationships basic to good
Rico, it must be recognized that despite many teamwork may be fostered arid responsibilities to
shortcomings the island has made notable progress the public recognized and discharged without
in the use of water irrigation. The island has had stint.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 77
The different agricultural agencies concerned need to develop additional information not only
with research, education, and operational pro- for the south coast but also for other sections.
grams could help solve many of the difficulties if In moving forward with such a program, closer
their technical resources were focused on them. and more direct technical linkage should be estab-
Although a great deal of information is available lished among the various agencies such as the Ex-
about the use and control of water for irrigation tension Service, Puerto Rican and Federal Soil
and other purposes, there is much that remains Conservation and Forest Services, Water Re-
to be developed to meet the special conditions of sources Authority, Production and Marketing Ad-
soil and other factors found in Puerto Rico. ministration of the United States Department of
For example, there is a need to determine the Agriculture, Experiment Station, and any other
economical methods and the cost of improving agencies or groups which may be concerned with
present irrigation canals and laterals in order to water use and conservation. Direct liaison and
reduce water losses to a practical minimum. close cooperation among all agencies are essential
Once this has been determined, it should provide to insure that fundamental information obtained
the basis for making funds available for the through research is promptly put to practical use.
necessary improvements. At the same time, pro- There is an immediate need for a wide range of
vision should be made for furnishing to farmers experimental and research work to produce the
the technical and other assistance that will be re- information required for use in overcoming exist-
quired to enable them to cooperate in this work. ing problems as well as for making improvements
Also, there is an urgent need to encourage farm- in irrigation on the island. Early attention
ers to improve efficiency in their use of irrigation should be given to the following:
water. This could be accomplished through edu- New methods of furrow irrigation should be de-
cational activities, demonstrations, and suitable in- vised and adapted to local conditions and their
formation, but certain incentives may also be re- efficiency tested in terms of water held in the root
quired. Perhaps a system of rate differentials zone as well as in terms of crop yields.
might be employed as an incentive that would More information is required concerning the
favor water users who make and maintain certain plant use of water under irrigated conditions by
approved permanent improvements. Considera- important crops other than sugarcane, by sugar-
tion should also be given to the possibility of mak- cane at higher levels of production that result
ing incentive payments on a soil conservation basis from increased fertilization and other improved
for lining with concrete irrigation laterals and practices, and by fall-planted (gran cultura) crops
ditches running through individual farms. Some of sugarcane.
form of incentive may be desirable to encourage Determination should be made of the use of
farmers to construct watertight irrigation reser- water by upland crops in areas not now irrigated,
voirs on their farms. in relation to weather, soil moisture, and runoff
A well planned research and educational pro- from small watersheds. Such information would
gram directed at the water supply and utilization be very helpful in measures taken to increase crop
problems would fill a big gap in the present situa- production, in calculating total water supplies,
tion. With the possible exception of the indi- and in developing soil and water conservation
vidual investigations carried out by some of the practices, and in designing conservation struc-
sugar centrals in Puerto Rico, research and edu- tures. For the northern and western sections
cation on the use and conservation of water have especially, sprinkler irrigation as compared with
been rather limited. During the last 2 years some furrow methods should be more accurately eval-
valuable information on conditions along the south uated, in terms of water savings, yields of various
coast has been obtained through research work by crops, and costs to irrigate.
the Soil Conservation Service and the Bureau of The need for supplemental irrigation should be
Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineer- determined for areas where rainfall is considered
ing of the United States Department of Agricul- adequate during most of the year. Also, work
ture, cooperating with the Puerto Rican Experi- should be done in these areas to find out whether
ment Station. These results clearly indicate the crop adjustments and small reservoirs or other
78 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

devices could be used to increase the total per acre possibilities of tile and mole drainage systems
crop returns. should also be explored.
The relation of evaporation and transpiration Eesearch relating to water movement in soils
to weather should be developed in more detail. and physical properties of soils should be intensi-
Additional information about the influence of fied. Also, research is needed to determine the
hours and intensity of sunshine and wind is es- possibilities of increasing the capacity and effi-
pecially needed. Also, the effect of windbarriers ciency of underground storage of water which is
or windbreaks on evaporation and transpiration now being lost to the sea. This should include
should be investigated. consideration of the possibilities of water spread-
There is a need for determining the benefits to ing and other devices as a means of increasing
the input into appropriated underground reser-
be derived from irrigation of farms located in
voirs.
the agricultural areas of the six north coast rivers.
In all of the work that is carried on there must
This is necessary before any development project be, of course, a constant alertness to changing
is undertaken. conditions and new developments that may be
Work should be done to find out what are the adapted to local requirements. This means keep-
best methods of land preparation and irrigation ing abreast of findings in such activities as the
ditching, of lining secondary canals with concrete, removal of salts from sea water and even artificial
and of flume and reservoir construction. The rain making as well as many others that are more
proper spacing and depth of open ditches and the prosaic.

2. Hydroelectric Power
The development of the public electric power was started in 1935 and finished in 1937. It added
system in Puerto Eico was an outgrowth of the 800 kv.-a. to the system operated by the Utilization
public irrigation system that was initiated in of the Water Eesources (Carite No. 1, and No. 2
1908 when construction of the Patillas, Carite, were still operated by the Puerto Eico Irrigation
Coamo, and Guayabal Reservoirs got under way. Service).
In 1915 the Carite Hydroelectric Plant No. 1', Hydroelectric plants next added to the system
the first waterpower development of the public were the Salto Garzas No. 1 (9,000 kv-a.), Salto
system, was placed in operation by the Puerto Garzas No. 2 6,300 kv.a.), and Dos Bocas (22,500
Eico Irrigation Service with a generating capacity kv.a.). Their construction was started in 1937
of 700 kv.-a. (kilovolt-amperes). Additional as projects of the Eural Electrification Division
units were installed at Carite Plant No. 1 in 1924 of the Puerto Eico Eeconstruction Administra-
and 1931 and a second plant, Carite No. 2, was tion, but the plants were completed by the Puerto
built in 1922 below Plant No. 1. These plants Eico Water Eesources Authority in 1943. In 1941
had a combined rated capacity of 5,000 kv.-a. the small hydroelectric plant of the city of Arecibo
Encouraged by the success of the Carite system, (900 kv.-a.) was added to the system by means
the Puerto Rican Legislature in 1925 passed an of a lease contract with a long-term purchase
act creating the agency known as the Utilization option.
of the Water Eesources for the purpose of pro- In 1941 the Puerto Eico Water Eesources Au-
moting the development of industry and the sup- thority Act was passed and later amended in 1942.
ply of electric power to rural areas. Under the The Board of Directors of the Authority, which
authority of this act, the Toro Negro system was now consists of the Governor of Puerto Eico, the
begun with the construction of Toro Negro Plant Secretary of Public Works, and the Secretary of
No. 1, located near Villalba, having an initial Agriculture of Puerto Eico, was given broad pow-
installed capacity of 5,400 kv.-a. Additions were ers, including the right to make contracts, to
made to Plant No. 1, and Plant No. 2 was built acquire property, and to use, transmit, distribute,
in 1935, bringing the rated capacity of the Toro sell, rent, or otherwise dispose of water, electric
Negro system to 13,200 kv.-a. Carite Plant No. 3 energy, equipment, supplies, and services.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 79
Under the powers of this act the Water Re- The new San Juan Steam-electric Station at
sources Authority purchased the property of the Puerto Nuevo started operating by the end of 1950
Puerto Rico Railway, Light & Power Co. and the with two 23,529 kv.-a. units, and the Seapower
property of the Mayaguez Light, Power & Ice Co. plant was sold during the same year.
in July 1942. As of July 1952, the generating facilities of the
Acquired with the Mayaguez system was the island-wide interconnected system consisted of 17
Mayaguez Steam Plant, which had been operating hydroelectric plants with a total capacity of
since 1930 w^ith a capacity of 5,000 kv.-a. The 96,575 kv.-a. and four steam-electric plants with
San Juan system comprised three power generat- a total capacity of 123,087 kv.-a. (table 19).
ing developments with a total rated capacity of The demand for electric power in Puerto Rico
34,125 kv.-a. These developments were the follow- has been increasing in recent years at a very rapid
ing: Comerio Hydroelectric Plant No. 1, com- rate due primarily to industrial expansion. Dur-
pleted in 1907, with a capacity of 2,000 kv.-a.; ing a period of 15 years from 1935, production of
Comerio Hydroelectric Plant No. 2, completed in electric power was increased by more than six
1913, with a capacity of 4,000 kv.-a.; Rio Blanco times (table 20). The rate of increase has been
Hydroelectric Plant, completed in 1930, with a greatest since about the end of World War II.
capacity of 6,250 kv.-a.; and Santurce Steam Plant, Electric power generation on the island rose from
which has operated since about 1910 and in 1942 nearly 299,500,000 kilowatt-hours in 1944-45 to
had a capacity of 21,875 kv.-a. Thus, the generat- over 698,300,000 in 1951-52. The general increase
ing capacity of the Water Resources Authority in power generation requirements now appears to
system was increased by 39,125 kv.-a. with these be at an average rate of over 70 million kilowatt-
acquisitions. hours per year.
Work on new electric power developments was Assuming that the steam-capacity may take
hampered by the shortage of manpower, materials, care of about 65 percent of the total demand, it
and equipment due to World War II, and con- would seem that with the rate of increase in elec-
struction lagged behind the growth in demand for tric power requirements, all of the potential
electric energy. In addition to the power gener- hydroelectric possibilities of the island would be
ated in its own plants, the Water Resources Au- put to use by 1975. These are rough estimates,
thority bought the surplus energy available at the but barring unforeseen developments in the power
private plants of various sugar mills and from generation field, they clearly indicate that all the
the Navy-owned Ceiba Naval Base Steam-electric available water power will be needed within the
Station (10,000 kv.-a.) at Roosevelt Roads, the near future. This rapidly accelerating demand
latter plant being subsequently leased by the Au- for power results in part from the industrializa-
thority as of June 1, 1946. tion program and in part from the expansion of
A new turbo-generator unit (9,375 kv.-a.) was the domestic load.
installed at the Santurce Steam Station and was Projects now under construction will materially
placed in operation in April 1946, thus raising the increase the installed generating capacity to meet
capacity of this station to 31,250 kv.-a. To further the steadily increasing demand for electric energy
avert a serious power shortage during a period of by the people and the industries of the island.
extreme drought, a floating steam plant, the In the fall of 1951, a third generating unit went
Seapoioer, was acquired from the War Assets Cor- into service at the new San Juan steam-electric
poration. This plant, with a capacity of 37,500 plant, thus raising the installed capacity at this
kv.-a., was berthed at Catano and placed in opera- plant to 70,587 kv.-a. A feature of the Caonillas
tion in August 1946. In December of the follow- extension project is a 5,000 kv.-a. hydroelectric
ing year, a new 6,250 kv.-a. unit was placed in plant which started operation early in 1952. A ca-
operation at the Mayaguez Steam Station, raising pacity of 32,500 kv.-a. will be added by the hydro-
the installed capacity of the plant to 11,250 kv.-a. electric plants included in the Southwestern
In the early part of 1949 the Caonillas Hydro- Puerto Rico Project. Present schedules for the
electric Project was completed and placed in oper- construction of this project indicate that a 10,000
ation, and the installed generating capacity of the kv.-a. plant will be ready for operation by the end
integrated system was augmented by 22,000 kv.-a. of 1953 and a 22,500 kv.-a. plant by the end of 1955.
80 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Table 19.—Statistical data on electric power plants and related reservoirs in Puerto Rico, July 1952 1

Rated Average Average


oper- Drain- Average
annual Utili- Reser- Useful
System capac- yearly age stream zation voir storage
output ating area factor area
ity head flow

PUERTO RICO WATER RESOURCES


AUTHORITY 1,000 Square Acre- A- cre-
Hydro plants: Kv.-a. kw.-h. Feet miles feet Percent Acres feet
Dos Bocas 22, 500 30, 880 145 170. 00 283, 000 94. 9 634 24, 072
Caonillas 22, 000 60, 000 482 50.00 150, 000 97. 5 700 46, 708
Garzas No. 1 9,000 18, 200 1,210 6. 25 21, 000 88. 4 108 4,213
Garzas No. 2 6,300 13, 600 798 7.00 24, 000 87. 2 108 4,213
Toro Negro No. 1 10, 800 34, 900 1, 610 10. 68 34, 000 80. 2 157 4,755
Toro Negro No. 2__ 2,400 3,200 630 1. 57 7,200 87. 1 54 1, 810
Rio Blanco 6,250 22, 850 1,320 6.00 50, 000 41. 5 8
Comerio No. 2 4,000 9,500 140 133. 00 180, 000 52. 8 60 500
Comerio No. 1 2,000 11, 100 169 133. 00 180, 000 44. 0 60 500
Carite No. 3 _ 800 3,390 217 7.92 30, 000 64. 2 333 9,500
Arecibo___ 900 3,380 166 27. 20 60, 000 48. 9 0
Total_____ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 86, 950 211,000

Estimated potential output at percent P. F.

Kilowat t-hours generated per gallon of Percent


Steam plants: fuel o 1: P. F. Kw.-h.
San Juan__ _ 70, 587 12.*] _ 80 420, 000, 000
Santurce _ _ _ _ __ __ 31, 250 7/1 60 130, 000, 000
Mayaguez _ _ _ _ _ ___ 11, 250 8.(\ 60 48, 600, 000
Ceiba (leased) _ _ _ 10, 000 7.( 60 42, 000, 000
Total 123, 087 640, 600, 000
PUERTO RICO IRRIGATION SERVICE
1,000 Square Acre- Acre-
Hydro plants: kw.-h. Feet miles feet Percent A cres feet
Carite No. 1_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 4, 200 11, 500 742 7. 92 30, 000 63. 9 333 9,537
Carite No. 2 _ _ _ 800 5,000 335 7.92 30, 000 67. 7 333 9,537
Total____________. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 5,000
ISABELA IRRIGATION SERVICE

Hydro plants: Four. .. _ _'_ _ 4, 625 24. 5 79, 000 32, 500

1
Source: Water Resources Authority.

The Water Resources Authority owns most of proximately with the dry season, a small reduc-
the electric generating and distribution facilities tion in the demand on the hydro system is realized
on the island. Other electric properties include at the time when the supply of water is restricted.
those of the Isabela Irrigation Service, an instru- The potential water power that may be eco-
mentality of the Puerto Rican Government, and nomically developed from streams in Puerto Rico
the Puerto Rico Irrigation Service, also a unit in their present condition is estimated at about
of the local Government which is operated by the 700 million kilowatt-hours a year. Out of this
Authority at cost. total some 230 million kilowatt-hours have been
The Authority has interchange connections with developed to date. The Southwestern Puerto Rico
these other electric utilities and also interconnec- Project and other minor projects now under con-
tions with sugar centrals which utilize cane ba- struction will augment this total to about 350
gasse for fuel. The interconnections with sugar million kilowatt-hours within the next 4 or 5 years.
mills enable the system to procure surplus power Therefore, within less than 6 years, half of the
generated by these centrals during the grinding present potential waterpower resources of the
season. Since the grinding season concides ap- island will be developed. Because of the relatively
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 81
Table 20.—Electric power generaf/on in (table 21). As of May 31, 1951, electric service
Puerto Rico x reached only 14 percent of the rural dwellings
although 69.5 percent of the urban dwellings had
Fiscal year Total produc- Increase electricity available to them. The 86 percent of
tion
the rural homes on the island still without elec-
tricity represents 215,900 of the 251,000 rural
Kilowatt-hours Kilowatt-hours
1935-36_______________ 95, 628, 183 dwellings. A great many of these homes are on
1936-37________._.____ 109, 397, 658 13, 769, 475 farms, and the fact that they are without power
1937-38-___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 128, 414, 125 19, 016, 467
1938-39______________- 145, 753, 672 17, 339, 547 is a serious economic drawback. Moreover, the
1939-40_______________ 161, 068, 188 15, 314, 516 lack of electric service in rural homes and com-
1940-41____ ______ _ 197, 273, 734 36, 205, 546
1941-42_______________ 236, 415, 105 39, 141, 371 munities is one factor which contributes greatly
1942-43_______________ 253, 373, 282 16, 958, 177 to the highly unsatisfactory living conditions that
1943-44_______________ 283, 564, 275 30, 190, 993
1944-45_.._____________ 299, 477, 370 15, 913, 095 prevail in the country areas of Puerto Rico.
1945-46 351, 098, 652 51, 621, 282 The 1950 census places the total number of rural
1946-47_______________ 397, 425, 655 46, 327, 003
1947-48_______________ 458, 623, 810 61, 198, 155 dwellings in Puerto Rico at about 251,000. Actual
1948-49. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 494, 440, 325 35, 816, 515 counts from the United States Geological Survey
1949-50_______-_______ 537, 285, 257 42, 844, 932
1950-51_______________ 620, 225, 532 82, 940, 275 maps indicate that out of this total about 120,000
1951-52________._.____ 698, 358, 162 78, 122, 630 rural dwellings can be served with electric service
1
and the remaining 131,000 cannot be provided
Source: Water Resources Authority.
with this service economically because they are
meager hydroelectric power resources now avail- too sparsely located in the mountainous region of
able, hydroelectric developments are designed pri- the island.
marily to provide the peak load requirements of The rural electrification program is now enter-
the system, and steam-electric plants necessarily ing a second stage—a stage of further expansion.
have to provide the base load requirements. This is made possible by a long-term loan of
$6,376,000 made to the Water Resources Authority
Rural Electrification by the Rural Electrification Administration of the
Although the Water Resources Authority is United States Department of Agriculture. To-
actually a governmental agency, it functions as a gether with funds made available to the Authority
corporation. Its funds are derived only from sales by the Puerto Rican Government, it provides for
of electric energy and by the issuance of revenue the further extension of electric power service to
bonds guaranteed by those sales. The sale of the rural areas of the island over a period of the
electricity in the rural areas, however, produces next 6 years.
far less revenue than the actual cost of providing
Table 21.—Electric service in Puerto Rico,
service to those parts of the island. Therefore, May 37, 7951 *
the Authority has not been able to offer revenue
bonds to finance rural service with full assurance Item Urban Rural Total
that the investment would yield adequate returns.
Hence, the Government of Puerto Rico made Number Number Number
provisions under Act No. 335, approved April 16, Number of dwellings- 190, 000 251, 000 441, 000
Number provided with elec-
1946, to assign funds to the Authority to aid the tric service 132, 000 36, 100 168, 100
rural electrification program. Under the provi- Percentage not provided
with electric service 30. 5 86.0 62
sions of this legislation a total of $2,185,000 was
made available by the Government during the 1
Source: Water Resources Authority.
period from 1946-47 to 1951-52, inclusive. Up to
the end of June 1952 a total of 17,527 rural fami- Plans for the 6-year period call for the con-
lies had been served with electric facilities. The struction of lines and other facilities so that elec-
cost of getting this service to these families aver- tric service may be made available to approxi-
aged about $161 per family. mately 29,000 rural dwellings. This will increase
Electrification in the rural sections lags sadly the number of rural consumers of electricity to
behind the extension of service in the urban areas about 65,000, or about 20 percent of the total rural
82 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

dwellings. As ambitious as this undertaking may of power is thus increased, and the service stands
seem, it is evident that many more years and a better chance of paying its own way.
much more money will be required to complete But the use of electricity in ways that will in-
the rural electrification program so that this great crease productivity, lower costs, or promote effici-
segment of the island's population may enjoy the ency is something to which people generally have
advantages and conveniences which electricity can to be educated. This is especially true in the rural
provide. areas of Puerto Eico, where the people have been
Nevertheless, it is highly important that the so accustomed to outmoded methods and techni-
rural electrification program be pushed forward ques that they usually are slow to adopt significant
with speed and vigor. Strenuous efforts need to changes in ways of getting things done. And yet,
be made to reduce the time in which it possibly there are so many opportunities for improving eco-
may be completed so as to hasten the benefits nomic conditions in the rural sections by increas-
which use of electricity in the rural areas can ing the use of electricity for production purposes
bring to the entire economy. that it calls for proper emphasis and attention.
The fact that up to now the sale of electricity Electricity could be the starter for many small
in rural areas has not paid for the cost of the rural industries and enterprises. The employ-
service, although in the urban areas it has, clearly ment of electric power on farms alone offers large
points up the necessity for promoting increased potentialities. There are around 400 farm uses
use of power in the country sections. For the for electricity, and many possibilities still remain
Water Eesources Authority this is simply as a to be explored.
matter of good business. So far practically no The answer to the problem of increasing the
work has been done in the rural sections to en- use of electric power in the rural areas rests largely
courage the use of power for economic purposes with the Water Eesources Authority. It is the
which would increase productivity and raise in- one agency in Puerto Eico that can provide the
comes. The Authority has pressed hard to expand overall leadership and coordination that would
its facilities to make more power available over a be required in this particular field. The Authority
wider area, and this agency rightfully deserves a should move to inaugurate a complete program to
great deal of credit for what has been accom- increase power use on farms and in rural com-
plished. But the fact remains that it stopped munities. This may well be done at small cost
short of doing a complete job by not taking meas- by establishing within the organizational struc-
ures aimed at increasing the use of the electricity ture of the Authority a small unit headed by a
which it worked so hard to get distributed. competent person who would be responsible for
From the standpoint of Puerto Bico's economy enlisting the cooperation of other governmental
and the needs of the people, there is little reason and private agencies, planning the scope of
for satisfaction with the use of electric power activity, developing the necessary informational
merely for lighting up a few bulbs, running a materials, and providing the guidance and
radio, or some other similar purpose, as desirable coordination that would be needed in carrying
as these may be sociologically. These are simple out the educational and other activities entailed
uses that come into being almost automatically as in a power use program. Any help and advice
soon as power becomes available to a community or needed in developing such a program could un-
a farm. Unfortunately, however, such uses con- doubtedly be obtained from the Eural Electrifi-
tribute little that directly increases production al- cation Administration.
though they help improve living conditions. If The actual work of carrying out the power use
the people who are served by a power line are to program in the field and of reaching farmers and
get the maximum benefit out of the electricity that others in the rural communities need not be done
is available to them they must use it in ways that by the Authority. This should be left to the
will not only add to their conveniences but also in- cooperating groups such as the Extension Service
crease their output of goods and services and add and private business interests, including those
to their total incomes. In this way the entire eco- concerned with the manufacture or distribution
nomy gains. Moreover, the revenue from the sale of equipment and supplies. Banks could also
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 83
participate along with other agencies such as the tively in research on farm power utilization and
Production Credit Association, Farmers Home the development of equipment and techniques for
Administration of the United States Department farm use.
of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, Puerto There is a great deal to be gained through an
Eican Department of Agriculture, the Economic effective rural power use program operating in
Development Administration, and many others. Puerto Rico in conjunction with the distribution
The educational and demonstration activities that of electricity. The experience of the private power
could be carried on by all these groups would companies and the rural electrification coopera-
undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on power tives in the States shows that the rural use of
use in the rural areas and everyone would benefit. electricity can be increased if a real effort is made
The Authority, through its unit in charge of to do so. Many of the private companies employ
the rural power use program, would also work farm power advisors and have special depart-
through other groups in the development of power ments for the purpose of promoting wider use of
equipment by focusing attention on the special electricity in country areas. Electric cooperatives
needs of farmers and other rural people in an throughout the mainland have set the pace in vari-
effort to encourage research and the manufacture ous activities to increase the use of power on farms
and distribution of equipment to meet these re- and in rural communities. These efforts have paid
quirements. Such agencies as the Agricultural off well. Their application to the problem in
Experiment Station could cooperate very effec- Puerto Eico should be similarly productive.

3. Domestic and Industrial Water Supply


Water for domestic, commercial, industrial, and rural people (table 22). The population of the 6
public uses is supplied to various parts of the districts in 1950 totaled 931,563 urban and 1,277,-
island by the Puerto Eico Aqueduct and Sewer 393 rural dwellers.
Authority. This is an autonomous public corpo-
ration created in 1945 to operate all water works Table 22.—Population in aqueduct districts of
and sewer systems on the island then under munic- Puerto Rico, 7940 and 7950 1
ipal management. Its purpose is to provide an
adequate water and sewer service. 1940 H)50
Up to 1945 most of the systems limited their
water service to a number of hours daily. In most Urban Rural Urban Rural
cases the water did not meet the standards of the
United States Public Health Service. Under the San Juan _ 261, 059 198, 742 413, 493 232, 409
A r e c i b o _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 59, 968 283, 927 84, 089 288, 235
present arrangement the public is receiving 24- Mayagiiez 99, 799 211,905 115,028 236, 954
hour daily service and the water meets the stand- Ponce 103, 125 128, 408 149, 053 184, 858
Guayama_ _ 44, 784 148, 221 68, 104 142, 368
ard requirement in 99 percent of the total flow. Humacao 72, 631 196, 696 101, 796 192, 569
The progress attained so far has contributed to the T o t a l _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 641, 366 1, 167, 899 931, 563 1, 277, 393
improvement in public health and the reduction
1
of the death rate. Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.

The Aqueduct and Sew^er Authority operates in Information on population changes is of vital
6 districts, each district consisting of approxi- importance in planning future water requirements
mately 13 municipalities with their respective for domestic, public, and other uses since facilities
wards. The population is segregated into urban have to be geared to the prospective needs. In
and rural. Although there are more people in the the decade between 1940 and 1950 the increase in
rural areas, the number in the urban areas has been urban population was at an average rate of about
increasing in recent years. In 1940, the area now 29,000 per year, or a total increase of a little more
covered by the 6 districts of the Aqueduct and than 45 percent for the period (table 23). The
Sewer Authority had 641,366 urban and 1,167,899 increase in the rural population averaged nearly
84 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

11,000 per year, and the gain from 1940 to 1950 Table 25.—Water output by installations in
was only slightly more than 9 percent. aqueduct districts, 1950-51 x

Table 23.—Population changes in aqueduct Partial Rural


districts from 1940 to 1950 x District Filter treat- Deep aque-
plants ment wells ducts
plants
Percent- Rural Percent-
District Urban age age
Million Million Million Million
gallons gallons gallons gallons
San Juan 152, 434 58.4 33, 667 16.9 San Juan 11, 087. 657 32. 934 94. 695 38. 144
24, 121 40. 2 4,308 1.5 Arecibo _ 956. 363 378. 587 165. 323 105. 291
Mayagtiez_ 15, 229 15.2 25, 049 11. 8 Mayagiiez____ 1, 994. 986 373. 021 187. 234 23. 792
45, 928 44. 5 58, 450 43. 9 Ponce 1, 230. 245 600. 582 1, 369. 632 38. 005
Guayama_ 23, 320 52. 1 -5,853 -3.9 Guayama. 288. 649 177. 200 293. 520 103. 265
40. 1 -4, 127 -2. 1 Humacao 727. 702 740. 604 57. 041
Humacao _ _ _ 29, 165
T o t a L _ _ _ _ . _ _ _ 290, 187 45.2 109, 494 9.4 T o t a l _ _ _ _ _ 16, 285. 602 2, 302. 928 2, 110. 404 365. 538

1
Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
i Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
Most of the water from the installations in the
The 6 districts of the Aqueduct and Sewer
6 districts of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority
Authority are now supplied with water flowing
is distributed in the urban areas. Water con-
from 173 installations (table 24). These include
sumption for domestic, industrial, commercial, and
public uses in the urban areas approximated 181/4
Table 24.—Wafer supply installations in aqueduct
districts x billion gallons for the year 1950-51 (table 26).
Per capita consumption in these urban areas aver-
Partial
aged a little over 53% gallons per day.
Filter treat- Deep Rural Water consumption varies greatly in the differ-
District wells aque-
plants ment ducts ent towns of the island. In towns of the mountain
plants
sections and those outside of the sugarcane areas
San Juan_ _ _ 4 2 3 10 the consumption of water is lower than in those
Arecibo _ 3 6 3 35 towns close to the coast. Also, it is to be expected
Mayagiiez _ _ _ 3 4 4 5
Ponce _ _ 1 7 8 9
1 3 7 25 Table 26.—Consumpf/on of water distributed in
Humacao ___ 2 9 0 19 urban areas, 7950-57 l
Total________ 14 31 25 103
Daily con-
District Population Total annual sumption
1
Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority. consumption
per capita
103 rural aqueducts, 25 deep wells, 31 partial treat-
Million
ment plants, and 14 filter plants. Each district gallons Gallons
has varying installations to supply the water San Juan 413, 493 10,' 981. 383 72. 76
Arecibo 84, 089 1, 481. 293 48. 26
required. Mayagtiez 115,028 2, 509. 251 59.76
The amount of water produced by the various Ponce 149, 053 3 1 CO Q7/I 57. 96
Guayama 68, 104 723. 125 9Q OS
installations in the 6 districts of the Aqueduct and Humacao 101, 796 1, 394. 522 qo orj

Sewer Authority approximated 21 billion gallons Total_________ 931, 563 18, 242. 948 53.65
for the year 1950-51 (table 25). Most of this
1
water was produced by filter plants which for that Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.

year had an output of slightly more than 16^ bil- that families with sewer facilities consume more
lion gallons. The partial treatment plants pro- water than do those without sewer facilities. In
duced a little more than 2% billion gallons, and the city of San Juan, for example, per capita con-
deep wells supplied somewhat more than 2 billion sumption of water for all classes of users without
gallons of water. The rural aqueducts produced sewers is 77 gallons per day (table 27). For those
only a little more than 365 million gallons of water. users with sewers it is 111 gallons daily.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 85

Table 27.—San Juan dally per capita water use it has the same annual precipitation as the Loiza.
with and without sewers * However, during the dry year 1947, with the help
of drawoffs from the 1,700 million-gallon capacity
Water use Water use Cidra Reservoir, the Bayamon River contributed
Use with without
sewers sewers with a runoff of 250,000 gallons per square mile,
which was proportionally equal to the Loiza River
Gallons Gallons runoff.
Domestic 54 36 Outside the San Juan district, facilities for
Commercial- _ _ 33 17
Industrial _ _ _ 6 7 meeting the water requirements of large-scale in-
Public (schools, hospitals, parks, dustrialization are far from satisfactory. The
etc.) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 18 17
facilities available in these other districts, how-
Total__. . . - - _ - _ . _ - - _ _ . - _ - 111 77 ever, probably could be augmented.
1
Most of the catchment areas of the present water
Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
systems have a minimum normal capacity of run-
Cities like Ponce, Mayagiiez, and Arecibo re- off greater than the volume required to satisfy
quire water at a daily rate of 60 to 70 gallons per the present demands of the towns served. The
capita. This compares with only 11 gallons per source facilities for some of the towns, however,
capita daily for the rural population. will have to be increased within 20 years.
Requirements for water for industrial purposes Altogether, the present fupply and distribution
are increasing, especially in the San Juan district. of water provides flirly well for the existing do-
These greater needs for the San Juan section are mestic, industrial, commercial, and public require-
easily met by the facilities in the metropolitan ments of the urban population. On the other
and adjacent areas as far as Rio Grande which hand, it meets the needs of only about 16 percent
supply 50 million gallons of water daily. The two of the rural population (table 28). Funds pro-
main sources of this water are the Rio Grande de vided annually by the Puerto Rican Government
Loiza and the Bayamon River. Water from the would take care of the water needs of an addi-
Rio Grande de Loiza is treated in the Loiza Plant tional 24 percent of the rural population, raising
with a capacity of 30 million gallons daily which to 40 the total percentage of the rural people
can easily be increased to 60 million. Water from served. This estimate, however, is tentative for
the Bayamon River is treated at the Guaynabo many reasons, among them being the increasing
plant, which has a daily capacity of 30 million tendency of people to shift from rural to urban
gallons. areas and the creation of new communities spon-
The Rio Grande de Loiza has a catchment area sored by governmental agencies.
of 205 square miles with an annual median pre- Each district has aqueducts to serve its rural
cipitation of 76 inches. The catchment area of areas. In addition, there are extensions from
the Bayamon River is only 27.3 square miles, and urban water systems which have greatly helped

Table 28.—Total distribution of water served in rural areas

Total popu- Population Percent Percent Million gal- Daily gallons


District lation served population population lons yearly
served unserved per capita

Number Number Number Number Number Number


San Juan 232, 409 76, 100 32. 7 67. 3 272. 049 9. 70
Arecibo 288, 235 23, 795 8.3 91. 8 125. 271 14. 00
236, 954 14, 675 6. 2 93. 8 69. 782 13. 00
Ponce __ 184, 858 24, 020 13.0 81. 0 85. 090 9. 70
142, 368 35, 665 25. 1 74. 9 139.509 10. 70
Humacao 192, 569 29, 014 15. 1 84. 9 130. 825 12.00
TotaL___— _ _ - _ - _ - - - - - - _ - - 1, 277, 393 203, 269 15. 9 84. 1 821. 524 11.00
1
Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.
239284—53———7
86 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

In the 6 districts of the Aqueduct and Sewer


Authority there are 103 aqueducts that serve as
sources of water for their rural areas, and these
supply about 365i/£ million gallons of water a year
(table 29). Extensions from integrated urban
lines total 110, and the water served by them for
rural use approximates 456 million gallons a year.
Up to now the Legislature of Puerto Rico has
appropriated relatively small amounts for rural
aqueducts. The revenue obtained from this in-
vestment is negligible since few rural families are
in position to pay for the water service. Most of
the people come to the public fountains installed
by the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority along the
roads. Although the initial cost of providing
water service is paid from public funds, even the
costs of operation, maintenance, and depreciation
which the Authority must meet are greatly in ex-
cess of the income received from the rural dwellers.
The urban dwellers help pay for this cost by the
rates they are charged.
The task of extending the water system so as to
An expanding system of public fountains supplies good water to meet the needs of every rural ward is one that is
an increasing number of rural families.
far beyond the present means of the Aqueduct and
the rural people. These extensions are a byprod- Sewer Authority. Therefore, future progress de-
uct of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority's efforts pends on the Puerto Rican Government's ability
to integrate as many local urban water systems to provide the necessary funds.
as possible. Thus, a water main which starts at Expenditures made in connection with the con-
Rio Piedras supplies the towns of Carolina, struction of rural aqueducts from 1945 to 1951
Canovanas, Bio Grande, and Palmer. All the totaled $4,000,200 on 322 projects. Of this
rural area along the 16 miles of this line is bene- amount, a total of $3,272,580 went for 218 con-
fited with a supply of water. A similar situation structed by the Authority with an additional $609,-
exists in connection with the following integra- 000 for 45 aqueducts under construction or soon to
tions: Caguas-Gurabo, Aguadilla-Aguada-Moca, be constructed. A total of $79,115 was spent on
Fajardo-Ceiba, Humacao-Las Piedras, San Ger- 26 aqueducts constructed in cooperation with the
man-Lajas, and Isabela-Quebradillas. former Farm Security Administration. Other

Table 29.—Water distributed in rural areas, by sources of supply

Aqueduct 3 Extension 3 Total

District From Million From Million Popula- Million Popula- Daily gal-
Popula-
own gallons tion urban gallons tion gallons tion lons per
source yearly served lines yearly served yearly served capita

San Juan 10 38. 144 6,805 29 233. 903 69, 295 272. 047 76, 100 9.7
Arecibo 35 105. 291 18, 595 10 18. 980 5,200 124. 271 23, 795 14.0
Mayagtiez 5 23. 792 3,275 17 45. 990 11, 400 69. 782 14, 675 13.0
Ponce 9 38. 005 11, 120 16 47. 085 12, 900 85. 090 24, 020 9. 7
Guayama 25 103. 265 25, 735 9 36. 244 9,930 139. 509 35, 665 10. 7
Humacao_ ^ _ _ ^ _ 19 57. 041 8,799 29 73. 784 20, 215 130. 825 29, 014 12. 0
Total--.-.. .. 103 365. 538 74, 329 110 455. 986 128, 940 821. 524 203, 269 11.0

Source: Aqueduct and Sewer Authority.


USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 87
aqueducts surveyed and designed in part but not exceptions are the low rainfall areas of the south-
constructed total 33 and have involved an expendi- west coast and those marshy areas where the
ture of $39,504 ground water is salty.
Wide differences in the rates of ground water
Ground Water Resources recharge and discharge occur on the island, largely
The replenishment of the ground water re- because of the great range in the amount and dis-
sources of Puerto Eico is of vital importance not tribution of rainfall and the permeability of the
only as an aid in meeting municipal and industrial soils and rocks. These variations may occur not
requirements but also in supplying the irrigation only in different places but at different times
and hydroelectric needs. in the same place.
Although the total precipitation which falls in One of the outstanding examples of artificial
most of Puerto Eico is ample to meet all water recharging in Puerto Eico is that which occurs
needs, critical shortages arise in certain parts of from irrigation in the south coast. Similar re-
the island, particularly along the south coast, and charge takes place in the Isabela Irrigation
there are seasonal shortages throughout most of District, although this is of lesser economic im-
the island. These deficiencies together with the portance. Also of little economic importance is
increasing requirements emphasize the need for the recharging that occurs as a result of the leak-
more effective use of the total supplies of water age in the Guajataca Eeservoir. An example of
available and the importance of putting into effect artificial recharge through wells is found at the
adequate measures for the improvement, expan- glass plant near Catano.
sion, and conservation of water resources. This Induced recharge is another practice of artificial
requires dealing with the problem of each water- recharge. An outstanding example is found in
shed and determining the protective measures the south coast, where the water table has been
needed on the basis of such factors as geological drawn down by pumping from wells, so that some
conditions, vegetative cover, rainfall, and runoff. water from rainfall which formerly ran off at
The principal ground water recharge sources in the surface now enters the ground. Similarly,
Puerto Eico are: (1) Eainfall, (2) stream flow, streams now lose more water to the ground during
and (3) irrigation. Most of the ground water re- flood conditions than was lost when the water
servoirs are recharged from rainfall, particularly table was higher.
in the interior of the island; streams take care of The principal use of ground water in Puerto
ground water recharge in the alluvial areas of the Eico is for irrigation of sugarcane. Of approxi-
eastern, southeastern, and western parts of the mately 950 wells, 300 are used for this purpose.
island; and recharge from irrigation is important Of these, 200 are located in the Patillas-Ponce
in the south coast area and to a lesser degree in the section. It is estimated that the total pumpage
northwest coast. of ground water for irrigation of sugarcane on
The largest ground water developments in the island may exceed 250 million gallons a day.
Puerto Eico appear to be those found in the south A relatively small number of wells, of rather
coast, the Lajas, Guana jibo, and Mayagiiez valleys, small capacity, are used for irrigation of citrus
and the Arecibo-Bayamon and San Juan sections fruits, pineapple, and miscellaneous fruits and
of the north coast. The total average pumpage vegetables, and for watering livestock.
of ground water on the island has been estimated The use of ground water for domestic supply
as at least 250 million gallons daily. Probably depends chiefly on wells. These may be either
2'00 to 250 million gallons per day are pumped drilled or dug. It is believed that a large propor-
from wells for irrigation, 15 to 20 million gallons tion of the dug wells will yield contaminated
for industrial purposes, and 7 to 8 million gallons water. Many drilled wells are also polluted. This
for public supply. Several million gallons a day is due largely to the location of the wells near
are also pumped for domestic and stock use in buildings and other sources of pollution. Some
rural areas. wells have been dug principally for watering live-
Small to moderate supplies of ground water for stock. In some areas these yield water too salty
domestic uses and small industries are also found for human consumption but tolerable for live-
in most parts of the island. The only possible stock.
88 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Many families in rural areas of Puerto Rico still obtain their water supplies from unsafe sources.

Of the 77 municipalities on the island, 25 obtain velopment Administration alone more than 150
their public water supply from wells alone, or new industries have been established during the
their supply is partially supplemented by streams past few years. In addition, sugarcane centrals
or springs. There are also additional ground and rum and alcohol distilleries require large
water systems in the suburbs of the cities and in quantities of ground water. The processing and
the rural areas. Most of these consist of a well canning of fruits require water in moderate quan-
and a storage tank to which the people come to tities. Many of these plants obtain their water
obtain water; a few include distribution systems. from wells. The cement plants, paper, tile, and
Army and Navy installations also supply part of footwear factories depend on wells. The iron
their needs from ground water sources. Sugar works in Ponce and some public utilities are also
centrals such as Aguirre have installed wells for using ground water. Most of the water required
public supply in many of the surrounding settle- by sugarcane centrals is for general purposes, in-
ments. Some hospitals, schools, resorts, etc., have cluding domestic supply and washing. In addi-
provided their own wells. tion some use is made for boiler feed, maceration
The requirements of ground water for indus- of cane, and for cooling and condensing. Most of
trial purposes are certain to increase in future this water is needed only during the cane grinding
years. Through the efforts of the Economic De- season. It is estimated that as much as 25 million
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 89

gallons of ground water are required each day and Yabucoa as well as for some sections of the
during the grinding season, as compared with 2 interior of the island.
to 3 million gallons daily during the remainder of Of great help in developing information that
the year. Industrial wells other than those of would reveal what is happening to the ground
sugar centrals may produce as much as 4 to 5 water resources would be the establishment of
million gallons of water daily. observation wells. By periodic measurements of
To meet the increasing needs for water it will the water level in these wells, it would be possible
be necessary in many cases to tap new sources of to determine the fluctuations taking place in the
supply or extend existing sources. In many of ground water levels. This work could be initiated
the rural areas additional supplies of water may in the public supply wells of the Aqueduct and
be developed through the activities of the soil con- Sewer Authority.
servation districts. This is already being done The recharging of underground reservoirs is
successfully in some communities. It has shown important to maintaining the supply of water.
its possibilities in the wards of Maricao of Vega Investigations are needed to determine the feasi-
Alta and Pugnado of Vega Baja where the farmers bility and means of recharging underground reser-
have organized committees to raise funds and to voirs, particularly in areas where excessive pump-
allocate labor and responsibilities for carrying out age is taking place. Some of the methods that
their projects. may be considered are: Spreading water over al-
Under such an arrangement involving the soil- luvial fans or other porous areas; using natural
conservation district, the communities may pro- stream channels, ditches, basins, furrows, wells,
vide labor, casings, pipes, pumps, and other ma- or pits; and flooding.
terials needed. Machinery and equipment for
digging and drilling the wells may be obtained Water Rights and Concessions
through purchase, hire, loan, or grant. In this The practice of utilizing water from streams
connection, it may be possible for such agencies under government concessions in Puerto Eico
as the Puerto Eican Department of Public Works dates back to Spanish colonial times. Until 1898
or the Land Authority to make available to the those franchises were obtained by grant as "con-
soil conservation district, either on a rental or loan cessions" from the Spanish Crown. From then
basis, any suitable machinery and equipment that until 1917 they were obtained by application to
may be temporarily idle. The soil conservation the executive council and, more recently, by appli-
district would receive from the community in cation to the Public Service Commission. Such
which the digging or drilling of the wells is done grants amount to a considerable proportion of the
a small fee to pay for the cost of the fuel, main- ordinary stream flow of most of the rivers in the
tenance, salary of the equipment operator, and a south of the island, and exceed the low flows of
small amount to assist in paying for the cost of those rivers. Little official attention seems to have
the equipment.
been given in the past to determine the actual
The heavy pumping of ground water that is now
quantities of water used, or to the need for the
taking place and the need for increasing supplies
water.
calls for various measures that will provide the
basis for intelligent action in safeguarding the With concessions for the use of water now under
total supply. There is need for some intensive the supervision of the Public Service Commission,
investigations to determine the effect that pump- all applications for permission to use water from
ing is having on ground water in such areas as streams are referred for approval to the Water
the south coast, and to determine what control Resources Authority, the Aqueduct and Sewer
measures should be put into effect to maintain Authority, and the Department of Health. The
the supplies of water. Also, ground water in- right granted is always a revocable permit, sub-
vestigations are needed to determine the quantities ject to cancellation at any time that a case of
available and the location of the sources through- greater need for public use of the waters in ques-
out the island. This is particularly needed for tion arises.
the Bayamon-Arecibo section, for such valleys of Concessions for the use of waters granted by
the west and east coasts as the Afiasco, Guanajibo, the Spanish Crown prior to the Treaty of Paris
90 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

were recognized by article VIII of this treaty. and with the fundamentals of basin-wide manage-
These concessions were to be respected as vested ment for optimum yield.
rights, and unless their beneficiaries relinquished In view of the essentiality of ground water to
or surrendered them to the new government, these the economy and its widespread use on the island,
could not be impaired in any way. Further legis- the law governing water rights might well declare
lation and judicial interpretation reiterated this that all ground waters are public waters and sub-
principle in authorizing the owner or owners of ject to appropriation when in the public interest.
such water rights or concessions to negotiate with Provision might well be made in the law so that
government officials. any change in the location of a well or in the use
The law relating to water rights in force in of the water is prohibited unless application is
Puerto Kico dates back to June 13, 1879. This made to the agency administering the law. Such
basic legislation was amended by acts of March agency should be responsible for determining
12, 1903, and March 9, 1905. It is believed that, whether any such change will impair existing
in general, the law is adequate for regulating the rights before granting a permit to make the
use of surface waters, but difficulties arise out change. In granting the permit, the agency
of the water rights themselves. In relation to should require the proper plugging or repair of
ground water rights, the law recognizes some the well that is involved.
principles which are incompatible with ground Wells for domestic and stock water purposes
water hydrology and with the fundamentals of should be exempt from the operation of the law.
basin-wide management for optimum yield. Wells used for these purposes make a relatively
Practically all flowing surface waters of the insignificant demand upon the water supply, and
south watershed of the island have already been such an exemption would prevent possible hard-
committed to use by law. They are used prin- ship. It would be advisable, however, to require
cipally for irrigation of sugarcane lands along owners of such wells to furnish such information
the coastal plains. These legal rights introduce with respect to them as may be needed by the
serious problems in the development of a. water agency administering the law.
supply in this area, In fact, unless a major part The law could also provide that all determina-
of such supply is diverted from nonconcession tions of the agency administering it, in granting
streams of the north watershed, no rivers of the or refusing permits, determining vested rights,
south slopes appear feasible of development be- designating areas or subareas of ground water sup-
cause of the existing water rights. plies, or forfeiting rights for a nonuser, should be
subject to appeal to the courts within a specified
The laws affecting ground waters of Puerto Rico
time by any aggrieved party. Otherwise, such de-
also date back to the Spanish colonial times. Water
terminations of the agency should be final.
now plays a far more important role in the econ- Over all, wherever water rights or concessions
omy of Puerto Rico than it did when these laws are involved, it is important for the protection of
were enacted. For this reason it is important that the resource that a good measure of scrutiny be
the law be brought more nearly in line with pres- given to the actual amounts of water used, the
ent needs so that provision may be made for efficiency of utilization, and the necessity of the
greater protection of the water resource in the use that is being made of the supply. Technical
public interest. The provisions of law governing and other assistance should be readily available
water rights should, in the light of present ad- to water users so that they may be in position to
vanced knowledge, be revised so that they are cooperate effectively in the wise use and conserva-
more compatible with ground water hydrology tion of the island's water resources.

4. Water Pollution
The natural water resources of Puerto Rico are numbers of people use untreated water direct from
subject to serious pollution as a result of the great the source of supply for drinking and other house-
density of population and the lack of adequate hold purposes.
control measures. Despite this danger, large There is hardly a stream on the island that does
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 91
not have an intake of wastes from domestic or in- certain seasons. Generation of hydrogen sulphide
dustrial origin. These discharges, if untreated from the anaerobic decomposition that takes place
and uncontrolled, find their way into streams and causes a foul odor and destroys the oil paint on
ground waters and are detrimental to the many houses located in the area surrounding the main
uses to which the different bodies of water are put. stem of the river.
Natural bathing places are rendered dangerous to There are many other similar problems in vari-
public health, water supplies become strong links ous parts of the island. If nothing is done to con-
to the development of epidemics, high water treat- trol the pollution of the different bodies of water,
ment costs are made unavoidable, industrial and conditions will grow worse with increasing dam-
agricultural production costs are increased, and age to the economy.
fish and animals are threatened with destruction.
Island-wide water pollution control programs Action Taken To Control Pollution
are relatively new to Puerto Rico although various The Puerto Rico Department of Health has been
measures have been applied in the past to meet par- greatly concerned with the water pollution prob-
ticular problems in local situations. Such pro- lem, and has given attention to various abatement
grams are necessary to maintain water quality or measures. In 1947, the Puerto Rican Legislature
to restore its condition so that the water may be enacted Law 444 which created a Commission for
suitable for the various uses to which it may be put. the Control of the Bodies of Water in Puerto Rico.
The bodies of water of Puerto Eico are mostly This Commission was charged with the responsi-
low-flow streams with very little capacity to re- bility of dealing with all problems related to water
cover from the continuous intake of sewage and pollution.
industrial wastes to which most of them are sub- A section was created within the Bureau of
jected. This has given rise to acute problems of Sanitation of the Department of Health, whose
water pollution. One of the most critical now on chief, a sanitary engineer, served as the advisor on
the island is that of the San Jose Lake and the Mar- technical matters to the Commission. Immedi-
tin Pena Channel, both within the metropolitan ately after the section was organized, the work on
area of San Juan. Industrial wastes from rum dis- abatement of pollution was started. Problems re-
tilleries, soft-water bottling plants, pharmaceuti- ported by local health units on the island were
cal products factories, and other sources are dis- considered and different surveys were made to es-
charged directly, or through the sewerage system tablish the fact that uncontrolled pollution was
of San Juan, into the lake and the channel. More- causing damage. There was, however, no program
over, about 30,000 people are discharging their of organized action.
domestic sewage into these bodies of water. There In 1950, the Legislature passed Law 142, which
are also hundreds of small shacks located at the repealed Law 444 and all others which were in con-
edge of the lake in slum areas, which have their flict with the new act. This new act designated
latrines built directly over the water of the lake. the Department of Health as the Puerto Rican
Such uncontrolled pollution has been a menace to agency to intervene in everything related to pollu-
public health and has been the cause of the death tion of the waters of the island and vested in the
of thousands of fish and the production of foul- Secretary of Health authority to prevent and
smelling gases which are a real nuisance to the abate water pollution in Puerto Rico, as well as
large populated area and its surroundings. to establish rules and regulations for the purpose.
Another problem of great importance is that It also fixed penalties for the violation of any of
of the excessive pollution of the Yaguez River, at its dispositions and established the administrative
Mayagiiez. This river has a very low-flow capac- and judicial procedures to be followed in handling
ity. In addition, because of tidal effects, the violations. Also created was the Water Pollution
mouth of the river is filled with sand most of the Control Advisory Board, which advises and con-
time, thus preventing free flow of the river water sults with the Secretary in connection with the
into the ocean. From the discharge of wastes of administration of the act.
two breweries and other plants as well as from The work on control of stream pollution is as-
many other sources in the area, the water of the signed to the Section of Stream Pollution and
river, which is stagnant, becomes highly septic at Industrial Wastes of the Bureau of Sanitation.
92 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

The personnel of this section includes a sanitary pollute the river. Also, meetings to work out a
engineer, a chemist, sanitary inspectors, and sam- solution to the pollution problem were held with
ple collectors. The section also uses the personnel officials of the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority and
of the local public health units and public health with representatives of three plants which were
laboratories. the most important sources of contamination.
AJter Law 142 was enacted, the Department of The survey of the Tallaboa River drainage basin
Health developed plans for a water pollution resulted in a total of 79 samples being taken and
abatement program. With the aid of funds analyzed by the field brigade. The field work
granted to Puerto Rico under the Federal Water lasted about 2 months. Measures to reduce pollu-
Pollution Control Act, Public Law 845, enacted in tion on this river are being developed.
1948, personnel and equipment became available. The Afiasco River drainage basin survey cov-
A field brigade composed of an engineer, a chemist, ered one of the four largest rivers of the island.
a sanitation inspector, and a driver was created for This river has a very large drainage basin extend-
the purpose of carrying on field work. ing from the town of Ad juntas, in the Cordillera
During the year 1951 surveys were made in three Central, to the western coast of Puerto Rico, at
basins. These included the Yaguez River drain- the Mona Passage. About 560 samples were taken
age basin, the Tallaboa River drainage basin, and in the survey during about 6 months. The river
the Afiasco River drainage basin. The work is to and all its tributaries were covered. Even though
be continued until all of the bodies of water on the there are some industries discharging wastes into
island have been covered. the river, the general condition of the river's
In the survey, which represents the initial phase waters is good. However, some corrective meas-
in pollution abatement work, the field brigade at- ures will have to be taken in certain instances.
tempts to determine and locate all possible sources The Department of Health plans to continue
of pollution of a river basin, from the mouth of its recently inaugurated pollution abatement pro-
the river to its headwaters. Samples of the river gram so that the island may be covered within a
water are taken at variously located sampling sta- reasonable time. This agency hopes to be able
tions to determine general conditions of the river to complete the survey of about 15 basins every
and the effect of pollutants in the river water. The year, so that within 5 or more years the whole
samples are analyzed in a mobile laboratory to island will have been covered and all the bodies
determine dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen of water surveyed to determine pollutional loads
demand, alkalinity, acidity, and chlorides. No and the corrective measures that may be applied
bacteriological analyses are made in the field be- for pollution abatement.
cause of the lack of personnel and equipment. Special problems met in the pollution abate-
The second phase of the work includes the de- ment work on the island have spurred various
velopment and application of measures necessary investigations to determine possible solutions. A
to abate existing pollution. The determinations research project for determining the most prac-
resulting from the field work are analyzed in the tical and efficient method for treating sugarcane
central office where the necessary corrective meas- mill wastes has been planned, using personnel
ures are developed. The local public health units and laboratory facilities of the island's School of
are advised of the corrective measures required to Medicine. The Department of Health hopes that
be taken and they are responsible for notifying some method for the treatment of sugar mill
property owners and enforcing the needed action. wastes will be worked out so as to eliminate the
In the Yaguez River drainage basin survey, a very heavy pollutional load that is discharged
total of 209 samples was collected and analyzed. in every place where a sugarcane central operates.
Arrangements have been made with the public The School of Medicine is also doing research
health unit for the application of corrective to determine a practical and efficient method for
measures. Owners of 146 houses which were dis- treating the industrial wastes of rum distilleries.
charging wastes into the river were notified and The conditions of extreme polution of the San
given 30 days in which to eliminate the discharges Jose Lake and the Martin Pena Channel give rise
to the river. At the same time four dairies were to serious difficulties which are of wide concern,
notified of the deficiencies which made their wastes especially in connection with new housing projects.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 93
Arrangements have been made with Federal the island has a sewerage system for the disposal
agencies which assist in the construction of hous- of its human wastes. Unfortunately, only 13 of
ing projects so that a combined use of funds from these are provided with modern and efficient sew-
the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority and the munic- age treatment plants. In all others, sewage is
ipal and insular housing authorities will be made discharged directly or with improper treatment
for the purpose of working out a solution to the into bodies of water, thus heavily polluting them.
big sanitation problem that exists in the area The establishment of new industries has boosted
from Isla Verde to El Condado in Santurce. This the urban population of the island, increasing the
area has no sewerage system and the sewage from amount of sewage to be disposed of.
the many homes is now discharged into the two The greatest obstacle to progress in pollution
bodies of water. abatement in Puerto Rico is the lack of funds for
the construction of structures necessary to treat,
Problems and Needs To Be Met and thus render harmless, pollutional loads which
No scientific estimate has been made to deter- are discharged into the bodies of water. In
mine the economic loss which results from pollu- 1950 the Legislature made its first allotment
tion of the bodies of water in Puerto Rico, but, of $800,000 for such works as sewage treatment
without doubt, it is considerable. On different plants and sewerage systems. While such an
occasions, during past years, as a result of exces- amount helps, it is far short of the total sum
sive pollution, thousands of dead fish have ap- required to take care of the great need for pollu-
peared on the surface of the San Jose Lake and tion abatement plants all over the island.
the Martin Penn Channel, and in many other New industrial plants to be set up in Puerto
bodies of water on the island. The destruction Rico have to comply with pollution control re-
of animal and vegetable life in these waters repre- quirements established by the Department of
sents a great loss of income for the many people Health. All new plants which produce liquid
who make their living from fishing. In other wastes are required to treat them so as to reduce
places, the source of water for cattle and other the pollutional load to a reasonable degree.
livestock has been destroyed. Among those industrial plants existing in 1947
Water treatment costs are greatly increased when Law 444 was enacted, it has been very diffi-
when the source of drinking water is polluted cult to apply corrective measures for abating pol-
with either human or industrial wastes. An ex- lution. Lack of funds by private enterprises has
ample of this is the Loiza River water, which is been a great obstacle to this work. In the case
used as a source of drinking water for the San of distilleries and sugarcane mills, no treatment
Juan metropolitan area. Chemicals used in treat- process is known that is available for immediate
ment procedures are greatly increased on account application. That is why the Department of
of the discharge of the industrial wastes from Health has granted funds to the School of Medi-
two sugarcane mills located in the surroundings cine for research work to investigate treatment
of the Loiza River and from four sewerage sys- procedures for these wastes.
tems which discharge directly into this body of The problem of pollution of streams and other
water. Other benefits to be derived from water waters requires the attention of the Government
resources such as recreation, boating, sport fishing, and the people of Puerto Rico for many reasons,
etc., are destroyed by pollution. the most important being the transfer of patho-
The island has 34 sugar mills and 13 distilleries. genic organisms of infectious diseases by the con-
On account of their high content of organic mat- tinuous intake of sewage. Polluted waters are
ter, the wastes from these factories constitute a vehicles for the transmission of diseases such as
heavy source of pollution when discharged into bilharziosis, typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery.
a body of water. Also, many of the new industries Most epidemics of typhoid fever have had their
established on the island in recent years discharge origin in waters polluted with human feces. The
their liquid wastes into bodies of water, thus pol- esthetic values involved are also important. A
luting them. heavily polluted stream is a nuisance to the senses
Nowadays, thanks to an activity of the Aque- of sight and smell. Polluted streams cause eco-
duct and Sewer Authority, almost every town on nomic losses to industry and agriculture, increase
239284—53———8
94 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

the costs of treating drinking water, and result knowledge concerning sanitation and health. The
in damage to aquatic life. All these harmful situation is deplorable in many respects since it
effects can be prevented by maintaining a sound involves the health and welfare of such a large
program for abatement of water pollution. segment of the total population of the island.
The Puerto Rican Government should rate sew- More sanitation work needs to be done in the rural
age disposal as important in the modern com- sections with greater emphasis on the proper dis-
munity as is the supply of drinking water. Still posal of human feces and other wastes such as
more funds will have to be appropriated for sup- garbage. The great deficiency in health education
plying sewage-treatment plants to all existing that exists among rural people will have to be
sewerage systems which do not have adequate dis- met head on by positive action to overcome wide-
posal facilities. To reduce pollution dangers, spread ignorance which now results in a tremend-
every town on the island would have to have a sew- ous waste of human, as well as economic, resources.
erage system and sew^age-treatment plant. All of the agencies functioning in the rural
Also, more funds for the pollution abatement areas can contribute to the improvement of health
are needed by the Department of Health. This conditions, provided the Health Department as-
program is now being carried on almost com- sumes its proper role of leadership in this situa-
pletely with Federal funds granted to Puerto Rico tion. For example, the Extension Service, which
by virtue of Public Law 845. The money now
reaches in the remote corners of the island, could
available is wholly inadequate. More funds are
cooperate more effectively with the Health De-
necessary to increase personnel and facilities in
order to achieve pollution abatement more effi- partment in a unified rural health program, as
ciently and in a shorter period of time. The time could many other agencies, including the rural
factor is a very important one in view of the schools. Local civic organizations and business
serious nature of the pollution problem that exists groups could cooperate also in conducting clean-
in Puerto Rico. up campaigns and other activities designed to
The rural areas are severely handicapped by boost interest and pride in sanitation and good
tlie lack of sanitary facilities and the lack of health by means of encouraging self-help.

5. Flood Control
The most damaging floods in Puerto Rico are tems in Puerto Rico. These included the Portu-
usually the result of the heavy precipitation which gues-Bucana, Bayamon-Hondo, La Plata, Yaguez,
accompanies tropical hurricanes. Records show Estero, Guamani, Lapa, Susua, Chico, and
that 67 hurricanes passed over or near Puerto Rico Maunabo and Quebrada Arena Rivers.
during the period from 1915 to 1945. From 1945 One of the principal problems encountered was
to 1951 no major hurricanes have passed over the difficulty of separating damage to crops and
Puerto Rico. Some damage to crops, especially property caused by floods from the damage result-
to coffee, resulted from the winds and rains of a ing from the effect of winds and rains. In addi-
hurricane which passed near the island in August tion, the information available as to losses is not
of 1950. limited to the flooded areas of the streams, but is
With the exception of the flood-control exam- spread over the entire area covered by the partic-
ination studies conducted by the United States ular storm.
Army Engineers, Puerto Rico District, under au- When floods occur most of the damage to cane
thority of the Flood Control Act approved by the fields and pasture lands is not severe, provided the
76th and 77th Congresses, no survey or study has water recedes within a reasonable time. The
been conducted in Puerto Rico to determine the greater part of the damage caused in these areas re-
extent of damage and the flood-control measures sults from the erosion of river banks. This has
required. In the work that was done, the Army been brought about by undercutting of the exist-
Engineers made preliminary flood-control exam- ing stream bank, thus causing the river banks to
inations of 10 of the more important river sys- collapse into the stream, and in some cases altering
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 95
or changing the stream course for some distance. vention of flood damage. Piecemeal flood control,
Damage from floods to cropland in the south coast where only a part of the watershed is considered,
has resulted chiefly from the filling in of drainage will not be effective. A coordinated plan should
and irrigation ditches with debris and silt. be prepared by the Federal and Puerto Rican
Floods have also caused damage to highways and agencies concerned. These should include the Soil
to urban areas in different parts of the island. Conservation Service, Forest Service, Production
A great deal of the damage from floods can be re- and Marketing Administration, Aqueduct and
duced by the use of the land according to its capa- Sewer Authority, Water Resources Authority, the
bility and the application of soil conservation Puerto Rican Department of Agriculture, and the
measures. Much of the flood damage is due to soil Experiment Station.
erosion caused by the lack of forest or other protec- Flood control must begin where the rain first
tive cover and by clean cultivation, particularly of hits the land. It is first necessary to get the land
tobacco and other crops grown on extensive hill- to absorb as much of this water as possible. The
side areas which are too steep for cultivation and excess that cannot be absorbed should be held or
located near the headwaters of the streams. retarded on the fields by means of soil conservation
General recommendations for each of the major measures applied to the land as needed. Adequate
rivers in Puerto Kico may be found in the pre- control must be exercised for every acre, from the
liminary flood-control reports prepared by the top of the watershed down to the place where the
Army Engineers. Some of the more important river empties into the ocean.
engineering recommendations made by these re- In addition to the need for a coordinated pro-
ports include: (1) Construction of additional re- gram, group action on the part of farm owners
servoirs for conservation storage of floodwaters; and operators should be encouraged to facilitate
(2) straightening, widening, and deepening river dealing with problems of watershed extent. This
channels; (3) construction of retaining walls or may be done through the soil conservation districts
dikes where needed; and (4) replacing or remodel- or through the formation of watershed associations
ing of highways and of pumping facilities to re- where the areas overlap into different districts.
move storm water runoff. Greater emphasis should be placed on creating
One of the most important recommendations public understanding of the soil and water re-
that needs to be carried out is the development of sources problem in Puerto Rico and the importance
sound coordinated flood-control plans for every of corrective measures which will also contribute
watershed in Puerto Rico in order to assure a well to flood control. This is important in both rural
balanced and truly effective program for the pre- and urban areas.

6. Drainage
Proper drainage is the removal of excess water ner plains and river flood plains, the terraces and
from any soil or field as quickly as necessary for alluvial fans, and the coastal plains and lowlands.
satisfactory growth of the crop which is to be About 40 percent of them are fertile soils of the
grown. This water may be in the soil voids or river flood plains which are mostly devoted to
may come as runoff from the surrounding places sugarcane cultivation. Infiltration tests con-
at higher elevations. For Puerto Rico where land ducted by the Experiment Station have indicated
is so scarce, the reclamation through drainage of a slow infiltration rate of 0.09 inch per hour for
swamps and other low areas subject to frequent representative soils of this group. The values
overflows is important, but effective drainage of range from 0.03 for Aguirre clay to 0.19 inch of
lands already under cultivation is probably still water per hour for Vayas clay. Laboratory perco-
more important. lation determinations on subsoils have indicated
There are about 250,000 acres of soils which need rates of less than 0.01 inch per hour for Caguas
provision for drainage if crops are to be produced clay, for Vega Baja clay, and a poorly drained
successfully. Poorly and imperfectly drained soils phase of Lares clay. Any rate below 0.05 inch
of Puerto Rico include the alluvial soils of the in- per hour is considered likely to limit the growth
96 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

of most crops. These soils are confined to level These areas may interfere with farming opera-
topography where percolation is impeded by some tions and they must be considered when hillside
unfavorable soil condition, or where the distance ditches, bench terraces, or other conservation
to the drainageway prevents the effective move- practices are being applied.
ment of water at enough speed before more water Land not under cultivation, but which could
is added by rainfall. Most of these lands are be cultivated if properly drained, totals around
under cultivation. 58,800 acres. Land already reclaimed by gravity,
Open ditches are used as a rule for removing tiles, and pumping approximates 7,500 acres.
excess water in cultivated fields. If well con- The drainage of the area known as Caiio
structed, they usually have ample capacity and Tiburones which is under way will provide an ad-
are able to dispose of the water quickly at a low ditional 4,200 net acres of arable land out of a
grade. On the other hand, open ditches waste total of 5,600 acres in this project. An appropri-
considerable land (sometimes as much as 10 or 15 ation of iy2 million dollars has been made of which
percent of the area) and demand a yearly expendi- about half was spent by the end of June 1951.
ture for upkeep. If not well constructed, they Already about 200 acres of land in the Monte
sometimes are ineffective, inconvenient, and may Grande, Lisas, Santa Barbara, and Tiburones
encourage erosion. farms have been made available by the lowered
The flatland areas of organic soils planted to water table which resulted from the engineering
sugarcane require more complex drainage pat- works that have been established.
terns than do mineral soils; in many cases pumps Preliminary work for the Lolza-Kio Grande
must be installed and dikes built in addition to drainage project which covers an area of slightly
all other ditches needed for mineral soils. more than 4,000 acres is under way. Out of
Drainage problems on many hillsides and on around 3,500 acres to be drained, the net area of
rolling land are limited to the disposal of runoff arable land will total about 2,700 acres. The esti-
during excessive rainfalls. The removal of runoff mated cost of the project is about $865,000. Stud-
must be effected with a minimum of soil losses, ies have been completed for draining the swampy
which under improper management may be large. area called "La Eegadera" near Vega Baja which
Eather than a removal of water, the problem with comprises a total area of 1,200 acres. The total
soils of the uplands is mainly one of soil and cost of the project has been estimated at $156,000.
moisture conservation. The term "drainage" Other poorly drained soils which could be re-
under such conditions must only imply the dis- claimed for agricultural uses total more than
posal of excess runoff at a nonerosive speed. 48,000 acres. These are located in various sections
In the case of tobacco plantations, which are of the island.
often on fields with slopes of more than 40 percent Drainage requirements are different on each
in Puerto Rico, shallow ditches are dug around group of soils and for each crop. There is need
every plot (each plot encloses about 900 to 1,200 for improved drainage in the lowlands and this
square feet) giving the field the appearance of a ordinarily calls for the establishment of properly
gridiron. In that way, the water travels only spaced laterals, or cruceros, and main channels of
very short distances before entering the ditches adequate capacity. The spacing, depth, and ca-
and therefore its erosive power may be decreased.
pacity of the ditches will vary with the amount
In coffee plantations, holes may be dug 1 by 1
of water to be disposed of, and this in turn varies
foot and about 8 to 12 inches deep near most of
with the rainfall and soil properties.
the coffee trees. During rains these holes catch
runoff water and sediment and check the speed Also, drainage is an essential part of the im-
of the flow. In addition, deep long pits are dug provement of salty soils. Deep ditches or tiles
along drainageways and hillside roads which also are needed to hold the permanent water table be-
receive sediment and check the velocity of the low about 4 feet or deeper, so that salts may be
runoff. carried down far enough to keep them from re-
With shallow soils on the uplands there are turning by capillary action to the crop-root zone.
often seepage spots where slowly permeable rock Until adequate drainage is provided, it is usually
layers force percolating water to the surface. impossible to improve or reclaim salty soils.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 97

Improved drainage in the upland areas is payments, made under the Agricultural Conserva-
necessary. This calls for the use of hillside tion Program, should be continued since properly
ditches, bench terraces, graded contour planting, constructed ditches contribute to conservation as
and grassed waterways as the particular piece of well as to improved crop production.
land and the crop grown may require. Properly Since providing proper drainage tends to be
located hillside interception ditches will usually rather costly, there is need for developing im-
eliminate hillside seepage zones as well as provide proved methods and techniques for removing ex-
runoff control. The Soil Conservation Service cess water. Studies should be made of the possi-
has done considerable work on drainage problems bilities of subsoiling to break compact soil layers
in Puerto Rico, and the advice of this agency and allow quicker percolation of water. Also,
should be utilized for best results. studies should be made of the possibilities of tile
Ditching costs vary widely from area to area and mole drainage systems. Use of chemicals and
according to the volume of water to be disposed, other materials that may improve soil structure
soil characteristics, and other factors. Under should be examined to determine their practicality
present conditions the cost of establishing ditches from the standpoint of effectiveness and cost. In
ranges anywhere between $10 to $40 per acre in view of the common use of ditches, there is need
Puerto Rico. Maintenance costs are much lower, to determine the proper spacing and depth of open
ranging from $5 to $12 per acre. In recent ditches under varying conditions. In connection
years the Production and Marketing Administra- with all the work on drainage, there is need for
tion has made incentive payments for the construc- intensifying research relating to water movement
tion of open drainage ditches on farms. These in soils and other physical properties of soils.

7. Wildlife and Recreation


The fields, forests, and waters of Puerto Rico After several years it is clear that laws establish-
were once well stocked with birds and fish, but this ing refuges and restrictions on hunting cannot by
wildlife has dwindled until now there is very themselves bring back the constantly decreasing
little left. game supply. The laws must be enforced, and a
The most important game birds and mammals proper management program is essential to in-
of Puerto Rico at present are the Zenaida and the crease the amount of game available.
white-winged doves, the white-crowned and the Wildlife management has become increasingly
scaled pigeons, resident and migratory waterfowl, complex. Increases in the number of hunters, and
and the feral goats and pigs of Mona Island. The
the problems of diversified land use, make neces-
bird population has declined seriously during the
sary a great deal of factual information for in-
first half of the present century as a result of the
telligent wildlife management. As a matter of
destruction of their preferred habitat through
thoughtless clearing of woods and other various fact, little is known about the life history and the
agricultural activities, merciless hunting, and hur- needs of most of the game species of Puerto Rico.
ricanes. In certain cases, these forces have re- The various forces at work must be understood
sulted in the actual extermination of some species. before an effective wildlife restoration program
Attempts to manage game in Puerto Rico were can be put into operation.
begun only in recent years. The first move was Puerto Rico participates, with the 48 States and
the setting aside of game lands as refuges or sanc- Territories, in Federal aid to wildlife restoration
tuaries and providing hunting restrictions. Up under the Pittman-Robertson Act. With an an-
to now 18 refuges with a total area of 96,191 acres nual allotment which has ranged from $5,000 to
including marshlands, lakes, and forested areas, $8,500 since 1948, investigative work has been con-
have been established. The game law and regu- ducted to obtain current information on popula-
lations limit the annual take by prescribing hunt- tions, distribution, production, natural enemies,
ing seasons, fixing bag limits, and restricting the food habits, migratory movement, and kill of im-
time and manner in which game may be taken. portant game species.
98 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Table 30.—Gun pressure for doves and pigeons, 7950

Hunting Average Zenaida Cuban W. I. Scaled White-


Area trips kill per dove white- mourning pigeon crowned
reported trip winged dove pigeon

Number Number Number Number Number Number Number


South-southeast 130 6. 39 4. 86 0. 79 0. 40 0.25 0.09
Southwest 77 4.83 3. 61 .43 .06 .23 .50
North-center 63 3.79 2. 71 .60 . 22 .26
Northwest- _ _ 24 3.08 2.50 . 12 . 46
East-northeast _ 15 3.86 2. 61 .26 .26 .73

Count of Waterfowl and Doves only 251 birds were shot. The migrant blue-
winged teal made up 49 percent of the birds taken,
An annual census of waterfowl populations,
while the native coot made up 33 percent and the
covering both migratory and resident species, was
ruddy duck and other species, including Antillean
started in 1950. This census which is carried on
gallinule, Antillean grebe, least grebe, and the
by plane, rowboat, and automobile, is a valuable
migrant baldpate, made up 18 percent. Of the
tool for measuring the seasonal fluctuations in
birds killed, 49 percent were migratory North
duck populations, and serves as a basis for de-
American birds and the remaining 51 percent were
veloping native-duck hunting regulations from
resident species.
year to year. A waterfowl census, carried on by
A total of 164 questionnaires sent at random to
boat on August 16,1950, showed that nearly 1,700
sportsmen revealed that hunters averaged 7 or 8
Caribbean coots, Antillean grebes, and ruddy
trips in the dove and pigeon season for 1950 with
ducks were using the Guanica, Cartagena, Tortu-
an average of 4 or 5 doves per trip and 1 pigeon
guero and Quintin lagoons. All these birds are
every other trip. The season kill per hunter was
resident species.
about 33 doves and 4 pigeons. An analysis of the
A census carried on by plane on December 14,
kill showed that the Zenaida dove made up 75 per-
1950, revealed that 687 migratory ducks (blue-
cent of the season take, while the Cuban white-
winged teals and lesser scaups) and 755 native
winged and the West Indian mourning doves, the
ducks were using the same lagoons. Since these
scaled and the white-crowned pigeons constituted
censuses comprised the first waterfowLinventory,
10.75, 3.6, 5.1', and 5 percent respectively. The
comparisons with past years cannot be made. The
gun pressure in 1950 in five different hunting areas
study is to be continued and will help determine
is indicated in table 30.
population trends and annual production indices.
The usefulness of dove population indices taken In conjunction with the study of the kill and
at periodic intervals is well established as a tool relative abundance of doves, pigeons, and water-
in wildlife management. For the sound manage- fowl, information is also obtained as to the nesting
ment of the Zenaida dove, the most popular game success of game species. Observations made in the
bird in Puerto Rico, it is necessary to determine its Guanica Insular Forest during the peak of the
general, overall population movements, designate breeding season of the Zenaida dove revealed that
population segments, and to determine annual rate out of every 100 dove nests with eggs, only about
of turnover in the dove population. 37 produced fledgelings. This is a relatively low
nesting success, the most important detrimental
Hunting and Kill Data ecological factors being rats, mongoose, rain, wind,
and diseases.
Information obtained at three waterfowl check-
Another major part of this wildlife study is the
ing stations temporarily established at Cartagena, examination ofHoves in hunters' bags during the
Anegado, and Guanica lagoons, showed that the course of the shooting season, to determine sex
average sportsman bagged 2 or 3 ducks for his ratio, juvenile-adult ratio, and breeding condition.
total kill during the first 3 days of the 1950-51 This information is helpful in determining pre-
duck season. A total of 98 hunters visited the vious season production and the abundance of
lagoons in the first 3 days of the duck season and actually nesting birds.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 99

The kind and the quantity of food are among the can survive these unfavorable conditions. This
most important limiting ecological factors in game calls for considerable experimentation to find
production. Since 1949 much progress has been plants which are suitable for seeding on the bare
made in ascertaining the native foods utilized by shores and mudflats left by the annual January-
doves and pigeons in Puerto Rico. Data on food July drawdown. In addition, upland patches
habits is essential since one of the most important should be planted and developed for the benefit
methods for increasing wildlife is the widespread of waterfowl.
establishment of feed crops. The project under way on the southwest coast
for the irrigation of the Lajas Valley calls for
Feeding Grounds Need Development the draining of the Anegado, Cartagena, and
The investigations being conducted with the Guanica lagoons, which are the most important
Federal aid funds for wildlife restoration indicate waterfowl areas. Cartagena Lagoon is the best
that certain wildlife management measures should and most important breeding ground for resident
be put into effect, particularly regarding water- waterfowl as well as the most important refuge
fowl. for migrant water birds. It also supplies food
In Puerto Eico 24 reservoirs, lagoons, and man- and refuge for thousands of other beneficial birds
grove swamps, with a total area of approximately which are not primarily marsh birds. Altogether,
10,000 acres, constitute the only waterfowl habitat. 105 species of birds are .found at Cartagena Lagoon
Of these, 18 are reservoirs ranging in size from 39 and its immediate vicinity. Another 42 species
to 972 acres and having a total area of 5,612 acres. breed there either regularly or occasionally. Of
They are operated or controlled by the Water Be- the 42 species, 19 might be called typical lagoon
sources Authority, the Aqueduct and Sewer Auth- species. Nine of these are entirely dependent upon
ority, or by sugarcane estates. Water-control the marsh for food and shelter, while 10 visit it
practices employed at these reservoirs are based on primarily for food.
particular requirements such as hydroelectric The planned drainage of Cartagena Lagoon will
power production and irrigation, and the needs of probably mean the extermination of certain
water for domestic, commercial, industrial, and species of birds as far as Puerto Eico is concerned,
public consumption. and a great diminution in the numbers of others.
The most important factor detrimental to water- Many of these birds are of great value either to
fowl at the reservoirs is the extreme or irregular the farmers or to the sportsmen. Drainage of the
fluctuations in the water level. It is difficult to Cartagena Lagoon would also divert fresh water
establish true aquatic plants where water levels from Laguna Eincon and this would greatly re-
fluctuate widely. When the water level in a reser- duce the oyster colony in the eastern part of
voir goes down marsh plants begin to die off, Laguna Bincon, and perhaps in other areas of that
and this usually happens at the season when lagoon. Before the complete draining of Carta-
migratory waterfowl are present and native ducks gena Lagoon is undertaken, careful consideration
are more abundant. As a result, most of the reser- should be given to its development either as a
voirs are biological deserts insofar as wild-duck private or, preferably, as a public wildlife pre-
food is concerned. serve where birds would be strictly protected while
If the present water-control practices at the breeding, and hunting carefully regulated and
reservoirs cannot be modified to even out the water supervised at other seasons.
levels, other measures should be taken. These Mona Island, with its 14,00 cuerdas, is a habita-
should include the construction of lateral pools tion of approximately 3,500 feral goats, 700 feral
where the water level could be controlled inde- pigs, the remnant of the rock iguana (Cyclura
pendently, thereby permitting the separate de- stejnegeri), and thousands of doves and pigeons.
velopment of stabilized areas without appreciably Information is secured systematically each year
reducing the storage capacity of the reservoir. and compared with past conditions to determine
In areas subject to irregular fluctuations where the trend in pig and goat population. The male-
stabilization of water is not feasible, improve- female ratios determined so far indicate that the
ment of waterfowl feeding grounds must be ac- goat population has kept ahead of the number
complished through the planting of foods that taken by hunters each year. At least 1,000 goats
100 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

could be removed annually from the herd without creasing fish production calls for adequate re-
endangering reproduction. At the present time frigeration and storage facilities, improved han-
hunters, Coast Guard men, and fishermen take dling and distribution of the catch, exploratory
only about 350 goats per year. fishing to appraise the potentiality of the fishing
Mona is very dry. In order to assure a continu- grounds actually exploited and to discover new
ous supply of water for its wildlife, four rain productive banks, economic and statistical studies
water catchments with underground cisterns and on production and marketing, development and
access ramps have been constructed. At least six establishment of standards and grades of quality,
more "gallinaceous guzzlers" must be constructed consumer education to increase fish consumption,
to meet the water requirements of the wild animals an adequate credit system, and mechanization of
established on that island. fishing boats. Fisheries' activities should be also
encouraged by educational work among fishermen.
Commercial Marine Fisheries For an immediate increase in commercial fish
Puerto Rico is surrounded by water, yet the production it is advisable to carry out small but
catch of fish is very limited. The catch for 1950 economically sound projects which the Puerto
was estimated at 4,225,000 pounds of fish and Rican Government should sponsor since other as-
480,000 pounds of lobsters, valued at $865,500 to sistance is not available to these fishermen. The
the fishermen. This industry employed 2,050 fish- development of the marine fisheries must be a slow
ermen, 806 classified as regular fishermen, and and gradual process under the conditions in Puerto
1,244 as casual. Most of the fishermen temporarily Rico.
give up fishing when they can get a job that offers
better remuneration. The following fishing craft Inland Fishery Resources
and gear were reported operating in 1950: Puerto Rico has 28 streams of some magnitude
Craft and gear: Number and 18 reservoirs which provide (1) an unknown
Dories and other rowboats_ ._ 531 but fairly large poundage of fresh-water fish to
Sailboats______________ ._ 322 rural people fishing for their own use as food, and
Motorboats____________ 38 (2) recreation to hundreds of tourists and resident
Launches_________________ 10
anglers.
Fish pots________________________ 5,226
Trawl lines_______________________ 201 As part of the fish-stocking program which
Hand lines and troll lines_____________ 979 started in 1938, the large-mouth bass, bluegill sun-
Cast nets_______________________ 414 fish, and four different species of catfish have been
Hawl seines_____________________ 230 introduced. Fingerlings for stocking purposes
Gill nets________________________ 109
Weirs_________________________ 8 are produced at the Maricao Fish Cultural Station.
From 1938 to 1951, 325,011 fingerlings have been
Several private concerns handle the sale of fish
released in public and private waters. A total of
bought from the individual fishermen. These op-
erate mainly in the commercial fishing centers of 331 fish plantings have been made, 66 of them on
Puerto Eeal, Guayanilla, Mayaguez, Fajardo, Ar- lakes, 200 on rivers, and 65 on private fish ponds
royo, and other seashore locations. As a result of and lagoons. The lakes of Puerto Rico, virtual
a lack of organization and facilities among fisher- biological deserts prior to the introduction of
men, the marketing system favors the middleman. North American fresh-water fishes, constitute a
Consequently the fisherman's income is very low new source of animal protein to the rural
and his standard of living very poor. population.
For the purpose of helping individual fishermen Beyond doubt the rivers and lake fisheries have
and the fishing industry, a law was enacted by the been improved as to quantity and quality of fish,
Puerto Rican Legislature in 1951 appropriating since the start was from a very low point of deple-
$20,000 for granting small loans to any fisherman tion. But the job is far from complete. The in-
in terms of fishing gear, and for promoting fisher- land fishery resources need to be developed to the
men's cooperatives. utmost for the benefit of the people and the eco-
It seems beyond doubt that Puerto Rico could nomy. This means more extensive stocking and
produce much more fish, but the problem of in- improved management.
USE AND CONTROL OF WATER 101
The need for surveys and research to discover tion to fish production; and chemical and physical
basic facts for establishing a fish management pro- characteristics of most important lakes and
gram is now widely recognized. In 1950 the Con- streams.
gress enacted the Dingell-Johnson Act which pro- The information obtained from these studies
vides Federal aid for fish restoration. Under the will provide a practical guide to fish management.
provisions of this act, an annual allotment of $10,- The findings may show that a particular lake or
000 is made to Puerto Kico for use in fish conserva- stream needs to be fished more or less intensively
tion and management programs. With the help to keep its fish population in balance with food
of these funds, research has been started to obtain supply, or that the lake or stream has to be re-
basic information concerning lake fish population, stocked to increase population.
composition and trends; fish production per acre In attacking the different problems in the con-
of water; annual fish catch, determined through servation of the inland fisheries special consider-
creel censuses; effect of fluctuating water levels on ation must be given to pollution, sedimentation,
bass and bluegill spawning; food habits of bass, and fluctuating water levels. Bad farming prac-
bluegill, and catfish; effect of water pollution and tices and excessive tree cutting hasten erosion and
sedimentation on fish production, in at least two create stream and lake conditions which cannot
lakes; natural food available in lakes and its rela- be tolerated by fish. Rapid runoff of rain waters

Farm fish ponds have a definite place in Puerto Rico and their construction deserves to be encouraged.
102 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

scour stream beds and destroy fish. food. Sedi- ing stock a matter of first concern. Blasting of
mentation may bury fish spawning beds and may fish out of ponds or other waters should never
affect plants in two ways, one by obscuring the be tolerated.
sunlight and thus interfering with photosynthesis, 7. Farm ponds are needed for effective soil
and the other by actually burying the plants. On conservation. Many of them should be made on
the other hand, industrial pollution may affect the headwaters of tributaries.
fish life in any or all of three ways: (1) Direct Farm fish ponds provide food and recreation
killing of fish; (2) changes of natural conditions and are important in soil and water conservation.
so that the fish seek other habitat either because Some ponds have been built during recent years,
of the condition of the water or the effect the indus- and their number should be increased in the next
trial wastes have upon plants or lower animal decade. Properly managed, a farm pond may
life constituting fish food; (3) influence upon fish yield from 300 to 600 pounds of fish per acre,
larvae and young fish, that is, upon the repro- or much more than the average food production
duction of the species. of an equal area of farm land. Sound manage-
In the interest of fishery and wildlife conserva- ment of farm ponds includes stocking with proper
tion, closer coordination should exist between the species in proper proportion, fertilization, and
governmental agencies concerned with river, harvesting the fish crop regularly. Greater en-
forest, and land use and those familiar with the couragement of farm pond construction through
requirements of the fisheries and wildlife. Fish agricultural conservation program payments and
and game laws and regulations must be respected Insular Government assistance would thus pro-
and enforced if the wildlife resources are to be vide an additional source of food for the people
conserved for the benefit of the whole island. as well as conserve w^ater.
Certain fundamentals must be observed if the The Soil Conservation Service estimates that
wildlife is to be restored to its real usefulness: more than 400 farm ponds could be successful in
1. New pollution of streams and lakes must Puerto Rico. Most of these ponds could be stocked
not be permitted, and existing sources of pollution with fish. Both the Production and Marketing
should be removed whenever possible. Administration and the Soil Conservation Service
2. Reforestation, and soil-conserving methods assisted land owners in the construction of farm
of farming must be encouraged to the maximum ponds. One handicap has been the limited amount
as important ways of improving fishing in inland of machinery or equipment suitable for farm pond
waters. construction. This could be remedied by the
3. Hatching and stocking fish must be accom- Puerto Rican Legislature authorizing loans to the
panied by the protection and restoration of soil conservation districts for the purchase of the
habitat. necessary equipment. This equipment could then
4. Sewage should be adequately treated before be made available to the land owners for the con-
it is poured into streams. struction of ponds on a fee basis which would help
5. In planning the drainage of lakes and repay the loan. Also, temporary idle equipment
marshes consideration should be given to measures owned by Puerto Rican agencies such as the De-
for the protection of fish and waterfowl. partment of Public Works and the Land Athor-
6. Management of fish and waterfowl should ity might be made available to the soil conserva-
be on a crop basis with the preservation of breed- tion districts for use in farm pond construction.
Chapter VI

Land for Forests and Tree Crops


Few areas of the world have experienced a de- than forest crops, however, so that only a portion
terioration of their forest land resources such as is forest land.
Puerto Rico has known. What was once a forest-
covered island has been largely denuded by the The Forest Lands and Their Condition
great pressure of a rapidly expanding population It is at present impossible to locate satisfactorily
exerted against very limited natural resources. the forest lands of Puerto Rico by simply com-
Four centuries of human activity have not only paring the returns from forest and nonforest
removed the timber from all lands suited for con- crops. There are few local data as to the cost of
tinuous cultivation or grazing, but they have also establishing and caring for forests, the yield which
stripped steep, sloping hillsides and mountains of they will produce, and the probable future value
their protective tree cover with disastrous results of that yield. Moreover, changing demand and
to these areas and the island's economy. the development of new production techniques
As used here, the term "forest land" is defined may cause frequent changes in the relative desira-
as land for which the best suited crop is a closed bility of forest and nonforest crops on any specific
tree cover, or forest, without regard to the present area.
cover or use of the land. Forest is the best suited One category of forest lands is recognized by
crop where it produces a higher sustained yield, all: Those areas which because of excessive slope
in terms of economic or social benefits, than other (nearly all lands of more than 50 percent slope,
crops. The yield from forest may be in the form according to the Soil Conservation Service), heavy
of timber, fruits, fibers, and drugs, or, because rainfall, or shallow, infertile, or poorly drained
forest is superior to most other crops in controlling soil cannot be cultivated or pastured continuously
erosion and regulating streamflow, it also may be without soil deterioration or very low yields, yet
partly in terms of soil and water conservation. which can produce trees as a permanent crop. The
Or it may be in the form of environment for out- area of such forest land in Puerto Rico, estimated
door recreation or valuable wildlife. from studies of topographic and soil maps, is not
Forest land resources include the land itself, as less than 600,000 acres, or nearly one-fourth of
a source of forest production, and any timber the land surface of the island. It includes almost
cover which grows upon the land. Wise use of all of the land in capability class VII. Forest on
these resources requires the dedication of all the this land would protect numerous watersheds and
forest land area to its highest permanent use, the provide a large volume of timber. Wise use and
growing of highly productive forests upon it, and management of all of this area should be the im-
the complete utilization of all products of these mediate goal of a forestry program. At the same
forests. time, there should be a halt to the deforestation
Forest will grow in any part of Puerto Rico, as that is still continuing in the few sections remain-
is evidenced by the fact that it was entirely forest- ing with protective tree cover.
covered when Columbus arrived. Much of the A recent inventory by the Puerto Rican Forest
island today produces greater returns from other Service shows that only 119,000 acres of the 600,-

103
104 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Forest streams run clear. This, the Rio Hicaco, in the Caribbean National Forest in the Liquillo Mountains, drains an area of steep slopes
covered with loose sandy soil and subject to nearly 200 inches of rainfall per year, yet the forest helps hold the soil and keeps the
water clear.

000 acres of forest lands are covered with timber the surface and cause erosion or contribute to flash
forests. The volume of all types of wood in these floods, but reappears in the uniform clear flow of
forests is estimated at 105 million cubic feet. natural springs downstream. This timber cover
These remaining forests have been repeatedly cut also provides the environment for the three pub-
over, removing the larger, more useful trees of lic forest recreation areas, and is the last retreat
the better species, until the stands are now com- of many species of beneficial birds.
posed largely of trees of poor quality. The volume An additional 140,000 acres of forest land bear
of saw timber, about 13.5 million cubic feet, is forest-covered coffee plantations which can be,,
less than 1 percent of what it was at the time of but generally are not, so managed as to protect
discovery. More than 80 percent of the area now the soil and conserve water about as effectively as
forest-covered has been cleared periodically for do timber forests. The trees which make up this
temporary cultivation. Grazing by cattle and cover are generally not of good timber species,,
goats has eliminated young trees from some of and they yield only posts and fuelwood. The
the forests. total volume of these products in this area is esti-
The timber cover that still remains, although mated at 74 million cubic feet. A considerable
abused, is of value for more than its wood. It area of the coffee plantations is in various stages
protects some of the most important sources of of abandonment and is gradually reverting to
water. It maintains a loose, porous surface soil secondary forest. Such plantations protect the
which can absorb a maximum of rain water. soil and conserve water but produce little coffee or
Water absorbed by forested soils cannot run off timber.
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 105
About 20,000 additional acres of forest land, all stems and branches down to a diameter of 1
which are as much as 40 percent shaded by trees, inch. Nevertheless, because the utility of the
are grazed. This type of cover is less protective woods of most species has never been studied, there
than forest or coffee plantations because the tree is a large waste in misusing for charcoal those trees
canopy is not closed and because grazing compacts which are better suited to higher uses. It is esti-
and tends to expose the soil and to cause mechani- mated that half the post and pole timber is at
cal erosion. Yields of both forage and timber present used for fuelwood or charcoal. Another
are low. The open-grown trees are of poor form source of waste is the use of wood without pre-
and of inferior species. The grazing prevents the servative treatment. The life of many local forest
reproduction of good timber trees. In addition, products might be tripled by the use of preserva-
about 1,000 acres of forest land are covered by tives.
bay-rum and citron trees. These plantations are The deterioration of the forests is still continu-
open, and their protective value depends directly ing despite the fact that it already has virtually
upon the intensity of use of the soil between the terminated the local supply of forest products in
trees. Timber yield is negligible, quantity, quality, and uniformity adequate to serve
The remainder of the forest land, about 320,000 as a basis for important industries. Saw timber
acres, or more than half the total forest land area, is now so scarce that no organized market based on
bears no tree cover. Most of this area is subject local materials exists. Except in a few small
intermittently to cultivation for tobacco, food forest regions, no stands exist which contain 10,-
crops, and some sugarcane. At other times it is 000 board feet of accessible standing saw timber
grazed or idle. Where it is not recultivated for of the better species. Ninety-five percent of the
posts and poles available in present forests are not
several years it may become covered with a tangle
durable in the soil beyond 18 to 24 months. But
of young trees, shrubs, and vines, the first stage
in the natural return to forest. This low brush they could be made far more durable by proper
treatment. Since their untreated value is low,
is in no sense a productive forest, but it is of value
they cannot be marketed long distances from the
in protecting the soil from grazing and in gradu-
stump because they are bulky and transportation
ally improving its porosity and organic matter
would cost more than they are worth. Fuelwood
content. This large deforested area produces no
and charcoal are becoming progressively less eco-
wood, cultivated crops only occasionally, and poor
nomic forest products because their manufacture
forage. The rain water which falls upon it runs
involves a comparatively large amount of labor,
rapidly over the exposed and compacted surface,
the cost of which is rising rapidly. The present
contributing to floods downstream, eroding the
small supply and heterogeneous nature of the
soil, and carrying sediment into reservoirs.
forest products reduce their value as raw materials
for the manufacture of industrial products such
Forest Resources Abuse and Its Results
as pulp and wallboard.
Historically, Puerto Eico has wasted its forest The growing scarcity of local forests and their
resources. Past use of wood for local consumption products has led to the use of substitutes. Ex-
or for export accounts for not more than 20 per- amples are concrete for house construction; metal
cent of the timber which has disappeared. The for window frames, fence posts, and sugarcane
rest was felled and burned or permitted to decay carts; imported construction lumber and railroad
on the ground. ties; kerosene as a domestic cooking fuel; and fuel
More than a century ago forest destruction oil in bakeries. Some of these substitutions have
reached the point where the island was no longer come about primarily because of the obvious su-
self-sufficient in forest products. Now about half periority of the substitute material, and in these
the municipalities are less than 10 percent covered cases, of course, they create a desirable rise in the
with trees, and even such small products as posts standard of living.
and fuelwood are locally scarce. Other substitutions, however, are at least partly
With the growing scarcity of wood, utilization due to the depletion in the supply of the local
has become much more complete than it was in the forest products and the increasing relative cost
past. Charcoal burners, for example, now utilize brought about by this depletion as well as by a
106 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

rise in the wages which form a large part of the water transportation to bring this lumber to the
cost of forest products. The trend of such sub- island added nearly $1,900,000. The production
stitutions is generally toward products the prices of this lumber represents permanent employment
of which reflect capital investment more than for more than 800 men in offshore areas. Much
wages. Such substitutions are in one respect un- of this employment might eventually be available
fortunate because some of the employment value to Puerto Rico if local forest lands are made pro-
is lost. If the substitute is from the exterior the ductive.
entire employment value of the local product is The lack of forest cover on a large area of forest
lost and the island must also pay the cost of im- land jeopardizes agriculture because, whatever
portation. Where the substitute is a metal or the present use of the land, it leads to lower soil
petroleum product another undesirable feature is permeability and greater surface runoff and con-
the shift from renewable to nonrenewable raw ma- tributes to serious flood hazards downstream. An
terials. indication of the magnitude of flood damage to
At least 80 percent of the wood and wood prod- agriculture is shown in data from the United
ucts consumed in Puerto Rico is imported. Of States Army Engineers, Puerto Rico District,
this, about 40 percent is lumber, which in 1949-50 concerning six rivers of southern Puerto Rico with
was valued at more than $6,000,000. Costs of deforested forest lands in their headwaters: Rio

There was a time when Puerto Rico was well covered with vegetation such as this. It now is found on less than one percent of the
Island's land area.
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 107
Guamani, Rio Portugues, Rio Loco, Rio Maunabo, outside of Puerto Rico are limited to about 20
Rio Lapa, and Rio Guanajibo. The total area of small cabins. The potentialities of establishing
these watersheds is 154,000 acres, of which 20,140 additional forest recreation areas with suitable
acres, or 13 percent, is subject to occasional flood- facilities as an aid to encouraging tourism have
ing. Of this area 15,720 acres are productive hardly been explored.
sugarcane lands, and 430 acres are even more valu-
able urban lands. If an equal proportion of other Need for Education and Research
watersheds is subject to flooding, the total area A greater effort must be made to educate the
that may be affected by floods is about 280,000 general public, and particularly landowners, as
acres. to the need for proper use of local forest land
Much of the land in forest is in such poor con- resources. This should include emphasis on recog-
dition that it contributes little to the economy. nition of forest land; the various values of forest
For example, full use is not being realized of a cover in the production of timber, fruits, fibers,
great deal of the forest land dedicated to coffee. and other products; the protection of watersheds
Only a relatively small area of coffee plantations from erosion; the control of floods; the conserva-
is managed intensively. Even in such areas there tion in the soil mantle of water which is released
is considerable opportunity for improvement. gradually during dry weather as well as in wet
Large areas are merely harvested and receive no weather; and the provision for ideal environment
care. Productivity in these areas is low and is for outdoor recreation and beneficial wildlife.
declining with the gradual reversion of the planta- Landowners should be shown the beneficial role
tions into secondary forest. Grazed forest lands of trees on their individual farms as a part of an
are declining in productivity because the grazing overall plan for proper farm land use. Past
is detrimental to the trees and the soil. experience shows that this approach must be a
Grazing or cultivation of cleared forest lands direct one in which qualified technicians consider
endangers the development and future of the en- carefully with the farmer his specific problems,
tire island because of resulting erosion which is as is done in the soil conservation district program.
sedimenting reservoirs needed for hydroelectric This approach can be most efficient and effective
power and irrigation, and for water for industrial from the standpoint of the Government and most
and domestic use. About 75 percent of the forest acceptable to the farmer if it is the responsibility
lands which have been denuded lie in watersheds of a single agency or closely coordinated group
above existing or proposed major reservoirs. of agencies. Preferably, the landowner's interest
Reservoir sites are an irreplaceable basic resource should first be aroused by the Extension Service
and their useful life might be greatly lengthened working through schools and other local organiza-
by reforestation. Sedimentation caused by misuse tions. Then, at the landowner's request, a general
of forest lands also has damaged roads and ditches. land-use plan for the farm should be made, fol-
The lack or inferiority of tree cover on a large lowed by more detailed advice, including recom-
area of the forest lands makes it impossible for mendations for the improvement and management
the people to reap the full benefits from the poten- of land on which trees are growing or should be
tial uses of forests for recreational and wildlife established. Full-time forestry extension workers
purposes, as well as for the protection of water should be assigned to work with farmers and other
resources. groups in at least each of three critical forest
Natural forest areas suited for outdoor recre- land areas: the Sierra de Cayey, the south slope
ation are mostly inadequate for the local popula- of the Cordillera Central, and the basins of Rio
tion, and the development of additional recreation Arecibo, Rio Manati, and Rio La Plata.
facilities within the public forests is sorely needed. Technically trained foresters in sufficient num-
Developed forest recreation areas can properly bers for direct contact with farmers are not at
serve no more than 1,000 persons at any one time, hand. The foresters available must train and
and they are seriously overcrowded during the work through other educational workers. To pro-
summer season. Satisfactory overnight accom- vide the training necessary for these workers, a
modations within these forests for tourists from 2-day demonstration and training session should
108 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Teak poles produced in 13 years. This plantation, located in the Carite Insular Forest near Patillas on an alluvial gravel soil unsuited
for farming, is ready for its first thinning and will yield a large number of high quality poles.

be held annually within each soil conservation dis- The slow progress of forestry in the past has
trict. Participants should include the local field been due either to lack of knowledge or a failure
personnel of the Soil Conservation and Extension to put available knowledge in the hands of the
Services, Farmers Home Administration, Produc- practitioner. New methods of closing the gap be-
tion and Marketing Administration, the District tween knowledge and practice through education,
Superintendent of Schools, school principals, technical assistance, and incentives should be de-
leaders in vocational and community education, veloped. Demonstrational and pilot plant experi-
and others. ments are needed to show the public in general
Demonstration of good forestry on public lands and the landowner in particular the local benefits
should be of a more positive nature than it has from forestry. Demonstration of the benefits in
been in the past. Lands within the public forests erosion and water control, as compared with those
and elsewhere, which are typical of a large area from other crops, should be included to strengthen
of adjacent forest lands in private ownership, public opinion concerning the proper use of crit-
should be dedicated formally to the demonstration ical areas. The financial returns from different
of forestry techniques which are practical for the forestry practices should be shown by management
average farm er. experiments to increase farmer interest. Results
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 109

of incentive programs should be investigated to destruction of the soil through accelerated erosion
make possible the best use of funds available in and to prevent excessive surface runoff, and (2)
the future for this purpose. a higher standard which in addition accomplishes
Putting in practice present knowledge will go a the maximum level of soil productivity consistent
long way toward better forest land use, but this with the economics of coffee production. In-
is not enough. There is a desperate need for new volved are cultivation practices, use of protective
forest crops which will produce higher returns ground cover, mechanical structures and barriers,
than those recognized today. The development of and application of chemical fertilizers, lime, or-
new tree crops, including fruits, nuts, and other ganic matter, etc., to improve the chemical and
nontimber products, and of new uses for timber physical properties of the soil. Also included is
is high priority research. Better production meth- the study of maximum slopes which can be farmed
ods for timber and other tree crops, and practical under each intensity of conservation.
techniques for wood preservation could also in- The third major line of research should deal
crease returns. with the management of coffee plantations and
One of the great needs is for research that will lands suitable for coffee growing. The research
supply the answers to many problems in coffee work should be confined to areas identified as coffee
growing. Although this tree crop has been grown lands and only practices which satisfy the basic
in Puerto Rico for about 200 years, cultural prac- requirements of soil and water conservation de-
tices are still predicated largely upon tradition or serve to be studied. The research required divides
rule of thumb with little or no scientific basis. itself into at least three approaches to better coffee
Average yields are low, costs are high, and planta- management, as follows:
tions have long been in a generally poor condition. 1. Improvement of the environment of the coffee
Yet this tree crop is important for the protection tree. This involves studies of light, humidity,
of nearly 10 percent of the farm land in Puerto root competition, soil, and biological factors.
Rico which otherwise would be subject to extreme Light may be influenced by spacing, pruning, or
erosion with serious consequences to the entire thinning of the coffee shade trees. Humidity may
economy. A sound research program designed to be affected by shade density, windbreaks, and pos-
improve methods of production would not only be sibly ground cover. Root competition is in-
of direct benefit, but would also result in informa- fluenced by the relative spacing of the coffee trees
tion of great value to the improvement of coffee and by the species and age of the shade trees. The
growing in Latin American and other countries soil can be influenced by use of leguminous shade
where similar conditions prevail. The scope of trees and ground cover, and by the application of
the research work that needs to be done on the lime, organic matter, and fertilizers. Biological
island is such as to require the participation of factors, insects and disease, may succumb to in-
both the Puerto Rican and Federal Governments. direct control through improvement of the en-
In general, four major lines of research in coffee vironment for the plants.
production should be carried out. First, there is 2. Improvement of the coffee trees. This in-
need to identify the lands in Puerto Rico which volves propagation of high-yielding trees, cultural
should be devoted to coffee production: (1) practices such as pruning, early replacement of
Where, because of especially favorable conditions aging trees, and improvement of flowering and of
of climate, soil, or topography, coffee grows best, the quality of the fruits.
and (2) where coffee does or can produce greater 3. Diversification of plantation yield. This in-
sustained yields than other crops. This involves volves investigation of valuable fruit or forest
not only the identification of a general coffee "re- tree crops which might serve also as coffee shade,
gion," but also methods for identifying the exact and of more productve crops which might par-
location of coffee lands within individual farms, tially or wholly substitute for the coffee itself and
as defined by local changes in environment. also provide adequate protection for the land.
The second line of research should relate to the The fourth major line of research should be con-
conservation of soil and water on coffee lands. cerned with the harvesting and utilization of cof-
Two standards of conservation intensity should fee. This relates to development of improved har-
be determined: (1) A minimum necessary to avoid vesting methods, including reduction in the num-
110 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Trees for tKe future are propagated in large-scale plantings. This is a planting of coffee shade trees in the Catalina Forest Nursery
located in the Luquillo Mountains.

ber of pickings now necessary, and also studies of the Production and Marketing Administration,
the effects of different cleaning, drying, storage, cooperating.
and roasting practices upon coffee quality. More than 1 million dollars a year are already
A balanced program of research on coffee pro- being spent by the Puerto Rican and Federal
duction is urgently needed and should be provided Governments in a unified program for the reha-
for by the appropriation of Puerto Rican and Fed- bilitation of the coffee plantations in order to
eral funds. It is estimated that such a program encourage growers to restore and maintain the
could be initiated with $75,000, of which at least protective tree cover that is so necessary on the
$50,000 should be provided by the Federal Govern- steep slopes of the coffee region. Although strik-
ment and the remainder furnished out of Puerto ing results are being achieved through this pro-
Rican funds. The research work should be carried gram, there is little scientific basis by which the
on jointly by Puerto Rican and Federal agencies in annual expenditure can be guided. The informa-
Puerto Rico, the main participants being the Fed- tion needed, and which must be derived through
eral Experiment Station, the Tropical Forest Ex- a sound research program, would not only in-
periment Station of the Forest Service, and the crease the effectiveness of funds being spent by the
Puerto Rican Experiment Station with other governmental agencies and also by the coffee
agencies, such as the Soil Conservation Service and growers themselves, but would also point the way
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 111

to possible savings to reduce the cost and at the scribing the importance and value of forests has
same time place the coffee industry on a firmer been distributed. Government assistance by the
footing. Soil Conservation Service for the conservation of
Research on utilization of other forest trees 357,000 acres of farm lands has included recom-
is also of high priority. The decline of the fuel- mendations for good management of forest lands
wood and charcoal markets makes nearly worth- within such farms. Recently both the Federal
less a volume of heterogeneous wood material from and Puerto Rican Governments have offered in-
branches and crooked stems. The possibility of centives for conservation practices in coffee cul-
industrial development centered around this and ture in an effort to rehabilitate the coffee growing
other forest raw materials should be thoroughly industry and prevent the cutting of the planta-
explored with an eye to the prospect of even tions.
greater volumes of this material in the future. The continued abuse of forest land resources
A number of little-used tree species might supply which is evident throughout the island shows
adequate material for a local container industry clearly that the conservation efforts made so far
or increase the output of the paper factory. The by the governmental agencies* have been inade-
raw material needs of potential wood industries quate. On private lands reforestation is progress-
indicate the desirable kinds of trees that should ing at so slow a pace that more than 150 years will
be produced and the techniques that should be be required to reforest once all bare forest lands.
encouraged for the utilization of wood and for Survival of the planted trees is very low, a situa-
increasing production on forest lands. tion often due to improper selection of species or
Forest research is logically a public activity. It inadequate care of the plantations. Almost no
should be closely coordinated with forestry edu- existing forests in private ownership, with the
cation, extension, and administration, and with exception of some of the coffee plantation forests,
other research programs. The local significance have been consciously placed under good manage-
of forest research in Puerto Rico is at least as ment. The destruction of coffee plantations has
great as its national significance, and the cost of continued at a rapid rate in spite of the incentive
the program should be shared by the Puerto Rican program. On public lands only the first steps in
and Federal Governments. good management have been taken and only in the

Strong Public Leadership Required


Over the years both the Puerto Rican and Fed-
eral Governments have undertaken various meas-
ures designed to encourage the conservation of the
forest land resources. Large blocks of forest land
have been set aside as public forests to assure their
protective management. Some 81,000 acres of
land, about half of which was acquired by pur-
chase, are included within these public forest
areas. These lands have been afforded protection
from overcutting, trespass, and fire. Bare areas
within their boundaries have all been reforested,
and the more accessible existing timber stands
have been improved by the removal of inferior
trees. An extension program in forestry has been
directed toward private landowners. Some 50
million trees have been produced by the Puerto
Rican Forest Service and distributed to farmers
by the Extension Service free of charge in the past
30 years. Most of these trees have not been planted Mahogany is well adapted on the north coast of Puerto Rico.
This 11-year-old plantation of broadleaf mahogany in the Rio
in solid blocks and therefore do not provide all Abajo Insular Forest near Arecibo shows a promising land use
the protective benefits of forest. Literature de- for sinkholes in the limestone region.
112 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

more accessible areas. Very little is known as to tive. About 425,000 acres lie within such blocks.
techniques of really intensive forest management. On these lands the Government should demonstrate
The direct benefits of public forest management good forestry practices and multiple-use forest
are confined to less than 5 percent of the island. nmanagement, developing them for timber pro-
The rate of increase in public forest land owner- duction, watershed protection, integrated farm-
ship has been only about 1,200 acres per year dur- ing, recreation, and wildlife.
ing the past 5 years. At this rate, acquisition of Not less than 101,000 acres of forest land in-
the large blocks of nonfarm land which probably cluded in 14 large concentrations should be pub-
should be in public forests will require nearly 300 licly acquired during the next 10 years. Addi-
years. tional forest lands will probably have to be ac-
The present situation in Puerto Rico with re- quired subsequently, but the amount, rate, and
gard to forest land resources calls for stronger timing of this acquisition will depend upon the
governmental leadership and more positive action progress made in private forestry and in the de-
in a program to conserve and encourage wise use velopment of new uses for forest land. The loca-
of these resources. The approach must of neces- tions, area, and character of the 14 large concen-
sity be broader and far better coordinated than trations where public acquisition of forest land
it has been up to now. The main effort should be should take place and the priority for acquisition
directed toward the improvement of practices on are shown in table 31.
forest lands now in private ownership. This is The benefits to be derived by the public from
where education and demonstrations and technical forestry on the areas which may be acquired in
assistance to farmers will play major roles. these 14 large concentrations of forest lands are
Where these measures alone are inadequate, they summarized briefly as follows:
will have to be supplemented by economic incen- 1. Sierra de Cayey:
tives to forest land owners, by outright Govern- (a) Storage of water in the soil on the wet
ment purchase of critical forest land areas, and by slopes of the watersheds of Bio Majada,
regulatory legislation to prevent serious abuse. Eio Guamani, Eio La Plata, Eio Patillas,
Eio Turabo, and Eio Maunabo, alleviat-
Public Acquisition of Forest Land ing floods and assuring greater dry-season
The Government should acquire, improve, and flow and higher well levels.
manage as public forests those critical forest lands (b) Protection of municipal watersheds for
the protection of which is of greater concern to Yabucoa, Maunabo, Patillas, Guayama,
the public as a whole than to individual land- and the San Juan metropolitan area.
owners. Included are lands which because of their (c) Erosion control and minimizing sedimen-
degraded condition as a result of past abuse do not tation of the watersheds above Carite and
offer an attractive prospect to the private land- Patillas Eeservoirs and part of that above
owner for improvement and management as for- Comerio Eeservoir, which are the basis
ests. Forest lands which are protected by timber for hydroelectric power generation ca-
today but which are abandoned and may at any pacity of 13,800 kilovolt-amperes and
time be cleared should also be included. These which serve a 16,000-acre irrigation dis-
lands should be acquired, not with the objective trict.
of obtaining a monopoly of local timber produc- (d) Eestoration of 27,000 deforested acres to
tion or even to control a large proportion of such
a permanent protective and productive
production, but rather to protect critical areas
use and assurance of such use on an addi-
and to provide a reliable supplement to the antici-
pated future timber production of more accessible tional 33,000 acres.
private forest lands. 2. South slope of the Cordillera (Guayabal) :
Public acquisition should be confined to large (a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep
contiguous blocks of forest lands where efficient headwaters of Eio Coamo, Eio Descala-
large-scale public forest management will even- brado, and Eio Jacaguas, alleviating
tually be possible. Blocks of not less than 10,000 floods and assuring greater dry-season
acres of forest land should be the minimum objec- flow and higher well levels for irrigation.
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 113
Table 31.—Proposed public forest land acquisition program for Puerto Rico

Area (in thousands of acres) Reason for acquisition !


Area to
Prior- acquire
Location Needs ity for within
Net Net de- Now in assured Water Soil Timber acqui- 10 years
Gross forest for- public protec- conser- conser- produc- sition (WOO
land ested forest tion vation vation tion acres)

2
Sierra de Cayey____ 70 60 27 7 53 X X X I 23
South slope of the Cor-
dillera : 3
19 18 7 18 X X X I 9
3
42 41 9 41 X X X I 212
(c) Guanajibo _ 25 24 4 11 13 X X X I 1
3
Rio Arecibo _ _ 33 29 3 3 26 X X X I 12
3
Rio Manati_ 36 33 11 2 31 X X X I 15
2
Rio La Plata _____ _ 24 23 19 23 X X X I 12
2
25 25 14 25 X X X II 5
Northern limestone: 3
(a) Guajataca 37 35 9 2 33 X X II 3
( b ) Tanama__ _ _ _ _ 68 55 6 7 48 X X II
Sierra de Luquillo 49 47 12 34 13 X X X III
16 16 1 9 7 X III
Tallaboa__ _ _ _ _ __ __ 11 11 11 X III
13 10 6 10 X III
Grand total- 468 427 128 75 352 101
Total, priority !..__ 249 228 80 23 205 93

12 "X" Benefits, "x" Benefits of unusual importance.


Recommended for acquisition by the Puerto Rican Government.
3 Recommended for acquisition by the Federal Government.

(b) Protection of the municipal watersheds and assurance of such use on an addi-
of Coamo and Juana Diaz. tional 32,000 acres.
(c) Erosion control and minimizing sedi- 4. South slope of the Cordillera (Guanajibo) :
mentation of Guayabal and Coamo Reser- (a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep
voirs, which serve an irrigated area of headwaters of Rio Duey, Rio Yauco, and
40,000 acres. Rio Guanajibo, alleviating floods and as-
(d) Bestoration of 7,000 deforested acres to suring greater dry-season flow and higher
a permanent protective and productive well levels for irrigation.
use and assurance of such use on an addi- (b) Protection of the municipal watersheds
tional 11,000 acres. of Yauco and Sabana Grande.
3. South slope of the Cordillera (Portugues) : (c) Erosion control and minimizing sedimen-
(a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep tation of numerous small reservoirs serv-
headwaters of Rio Guayo, Bfo Inabon, ing an irrigated area of 15,000 acres.
Rio Cerrillos, Eio Portugues, Rio Canas, (d) Restoration of 4,000 deforested acres to
Rio Tallaboa, and Rio Guayanillas, alle- permanent protective and productive use
viating floods, assuring greater dry-sea- and assurance of such use on an addi-
son flow and higher well levels for irri- tional 20,000 acres.
gation. 5. Rio Arecibo:
(6) Protection of the municipal watersheds (a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep
of Ponce and Penuelas. headwaters of Rio Grande de Arecibo
(c) Erosion control and minimizing sedi- and its major tributaries: Rio Saliente,
mentation of numerous small reservoirs Rio Jayuya, Rio Caonillas, Rio Vivi, Rio
serving an irrigated area of about 25,000 Limon, alleviating floods and assuring
acres. greater dry-season flow.
(d) Restoration of 9,000 deforested acres to (b) Protection of the municipal watersheds
permanent protective and productive use of Utuado and Jayuya.
114 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

(c) Erosion control and minimizing sedimen- (d) Restoration of 14,000 deforested acres to
tation of Dos Bocas and Caonillas Reser- permanent protective and productive use
voirs, which are the basis for hydroelec- and assurance of such use on an addi-
tric generating capacity of 50,000 kilo- tional 11,000 acres.
volt-amperes. 9. Northern limestone (Guajataca) :
(d) Restoration of 3,000 deforested acres to (a) Protection of the municipal reservoirs
permanent protective and productive use for Camuy and Hatillo, and Aguadilla.
and assurance of such use on an addi- (&) Erosion control and minimizing sedi-
tional 26,000 acres. mentation from the north slope into
6. Rio Manati: Guajataca Reservoir, which is the basis
(a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep for hydroelectric generating capacity of
headwaters of Rio Grande de Manati and 2,2*00 kilovolt-amperes and which serves
its principal tributaries: Rio Toro an irrigated area of 8,000 acres.
Negro, Rio Bauta, and Rio Orocovis, (c) Restoration of 9,000 deforested acres to
alleviating floods and assuring greater permanent protective and productive use
dry-season flow. and assurance of such use on an addi-
(&) Erosion control and minimizing sedi- tional 26,000 acres.
mentation of a large reservoir proposed 10. Northern limestone (Tanama) :
for hydroelectric power. (a) Protection of the municipal watershed
(c) Restoration of 11,000 deforested acres to of Arecibo.
permanent protective and productive use (&) Restoration of 6,000 deforested acres to
and assurance of such use on an addi- permanent protective and productive use
tional 22,000 acres. and assurance of such use on an addi-
7. Rio La Plata: tional 49,000 acres.
(a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep 11. Guanica:
headwaters of the major tributaries of (a) Restoration of 1,000 deforested acres to
the Central La Plata basin: Rio Usabon, permanent protective and productive use
Rio Hondo, Rio Cuesta Arriba, and Rio and assurance of such use on an addi-
Guadiana, alleviating floods and assuring tional 15,000 idle acres.
greater dry-season flow. 12. Tallaboa:
(&) Protection of the municipal watershed (a) Assurance of permanent protective and
of Comerio. productive use of 11,000 idle acres.
(c) Erosion control and minimizing sedi- 13. Lajas:
mentation of Comerio Reservoir which is (a) Restoration of 6,000 deforested acres to
the basis for hydroelectric power pro- permanent protective and productive use
duction capacity of 6,500 kilovolt- and assurance of such use on an addi-
amperes. tional 4,000 acres.
(d) Restoration of 19,000 deforested acres
14. Sierra de Luquillo:
to permanent protective and productive
(a) Storage of water in the soil in the rainy,
use and assurance of such use on an addi-
tional 4,000 acres. steep headwaters of Rio Naguabo, Rio
8. Sierra de Atalaya: Blanco, Rio Gurabo, Rio Canovanillas,
(a) Storage of water in the soil in the steep Rio Canovanas, Rio Grande, and Rio
slopes of the north side of the lower Fajardo, alleviating floods on the eastern
Afiasco Valley and in the central Cule- coastal plain.
brinas Valley, alleviating floods and (&) Protection of the headwaters of munici-
assuring greater dry-season flow. pal watersheds of the towns of Luquillo,
(&) Protection of the municipal watershed Fajardo, Juncos, Canovanas, Rio Grande,
of Aguada. and the San Juan metropolitan area.
(c) Minimizing sedimentation of roads, and (c) Erosion control and minimizing of sedi-
ditches in the lower Anasco Valley. ment contribution from the headwaters
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 115

above a proposed hydroelectric power re- Rican phase of the acquisition program would in-
servoir on Rio Canovanas. volve 44,000 acres, costing about $100,000
(d) Kestoration of 12,000 deforested acres to annually.
a permanent protective and productive The need for cash outlay for land acquisition
use and assurance of such use on an addi- might be reduced by acquiring some of the lands
tional 35,000 acres. through tax delinquency channels. Since forest
The forest areas of greatest importance in soil lands are now low in productivity, many are tax
and water conservation are of first priority for delinquent and revert to the Puerto Rican Gov-
acquisition, as shown in table 31. Those of some- ernment in default. At the present time these
what less importance are of second priority, and lands are resold at auction. If they were examined
those where the major benefit is only increased and considered from the standpoint of their de-
productivity are in third priority. The proposed sirability as a part of the public forest area prior
public acquisition program contemplates, as a 10- to resale, they might be so classified and added
year minimum, the acquisition of half the first- to the public forests. This policy has another and
priority areas and at least a workable unit of 5,000 more important advantage in preventing other
acres in each of the second-priority areas. Areas farmers from trying to make a living in the same
already in public forests are subtracted from these submarginal areas. In the long run it would also
requirements. The cost of this program is esti- encourage emigration from areas where social
mated at not less than $250,000 per year. Acqui- services such as schools, transportation, electricity,
sition should be a joint venture of the Puerto and medical aid are costly to supply and cannot
Rican and Federal Governments, with Federal be supported by the local community.
land acquisition confined to the lands adjacent to A policy of public f 6rest land acquisition must
existing Federal forests, an area of 57,000 acres, include realistic provisions for the people now
costing about $145,000 annually. The Puerto living on lands to be acquired. The eviction of
CRITICAL AREAS IN PUERTO RICO REQUIRING PROTECTIVE FOREST COVER

Location and area covered by 14 large concentrations of forest land in Puerto Rico recommended for public acquisition over a 10-
year period. A total of 101,000 acres would be improved and managed as public forests to provide critically needed protection
against erosion and other destructive forces.
116 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

all people should not be a prerequisite of public Forestry Incentives for Landowners
land acquisition for forestry. The average land- The Government obviously cannot afford to pur-
owner cannot afford the legal proceedings con- chase all forest lands in order to protect them and
nected with eviction and, therefore, acquisition put them under good management, nor could such
of some of the most abused farms would be delayed management be efficient, because most of these
indefinitely, and the abuse of the land would con- lands are widely scattered in small tracts. There-
tinue. Also, forced eviction is not necessarily a fore, the private landowner must be relied upon to
social gain, since people required on short notice practice protective and productive forestry on at
to move are apt to appear promptly in slums else- least 175,000 acres which are in blocks of less than
where and present a social problem. 10,000 acres in size, or about 30 percent of the
Policies concerning the improvement and man- forest lands. The Government should provide in-
agement of the forest land resources after acqui- centives to private forestry, since satisfactory re-
sition should recognize the need for maximum sults from education alone may not precede the de-
employment in the area during a period of adjust- struction of the basic soil resource. The rate of
ment of the population to less intensive land use. private forestry progress will also directly indicate
Developmental work within the forest after ac- the area of land which the Government must ac-
quisition can for a time occupy a large number quire. The more forestry the private landowner
of local people, but multiple-use forestry will gen- practices, the less will be required of the
erally not employ permanently as many as were Government.
previously employed by destructive agriculture, The value of economic incentives in forestry is
so new sources of employment for many of them seen in the coffee industry, the financial returns
may eventually be necessary. The final objective from which have been responsible for the preser-
should be the maintenance of a permanent popula- vation of a tree cover on some 200,000 acres of
tion within the forest boundaries which can be lands not suited to other known types of agricul-
adequately supported partly from the conserva- ture and lands which would have been severely
tive use of such small areas as are suited to sub- eroded if not so protected. The economic incen-
sistence farming, and partly from work related tive of the yield has in this case been sufficient to
directly to the forest—its utilization, manage- provide some protection of the resource. In rec-
ment, and administration. ognition of the absence of other more remunerative
Experience of the Puerto Kican and Federal protective crops known to be adapted to this re-
Forest Services to date indicates that from 5 to gion, the public should encourage the continuation
10 percent of the blocks of forest land consist of of coffee culture in the highlands and should take
valleys and other relatively level areas that can be measures to stop the trend toward abandonment
used permanently for subsistence farming. Ex- and clearing of coffee plantations. Until a sub-
perience has also shown that tracts of 6 acres pro- stitute crop appears, incentive payments for the
vide an adequate area for subsistence farming by rehabilitation and improvement of existing coffee
one family in the forests where such farming is plantations and the establishment of new planta-
feasible. Thus it is estimated that the area pro- tions should continue to be offered within the
posed for public acquisition in the next 10 years region most suited to coffee culture. The preser-
could provide permanent subsistence farms after vation of the coffee industry is the cheapest way
acquisition for about 1,250 families. The impact to protect the steep slopes and the rivers of the
of public land acquisition is, therefore, less real coffee region. Incentive payments should be con-
than apparent. Such additional population as fined to conditions and practices which are certain
exists in the area at the time of acquisition must to improve land use, and should be offered only
eventually be accommodated by other sources of when careful checking of compliance can be as-
employment, either in the vicinity or elsewhere. sured. They should be tapered off as rapidly as
The establishment of local industries would pro- the returns from higher yields resulting from the
vide an ideal method for reducing excessive popu- use of improved cultural practices enable growers
lation pressure on the land itself. to begin absorbing the additional costs entailed.
LAND FOR FORESTS AND TREE CROPS 117
third year if the plantation has been successfully
established. The total cost of tree propagation
today is about $20,000. If expanded to 10,000,000
trees annually and supported half by the farmers
it would cost $50,000.
Tax relief or differential rates favoring certain
forest practices have not been effective in the past
and are not to be recommended at present. Tax
rates on forest lands below levels warranted by
their productivity tend to prolong apathy con-
cerning their use and care. Nevertheless, such
lands are offered for sale at artificially high prices
since they do not bear their fair tax burden. Thus
an incentive payment program appears to provide
a more flexible method of obtaining good land use.
Legislation requiring proper use of forest lands
deserves thorough consideration as a supplement
to other measures. Although the possibilities of
education and incentives have not been fully ex-
plored and although the soil conservation dis-
trict program holds much promise in improving
land use, progress along these lines may not be
Trees can grow as a crop on Puerto Rico's worst soils. This planta- sufficiently rapid to save forest land resources in
tion of maria in the Maricao Insular Forest was established on
a sterile red clay which had been abandoned by farmers.
critical areas before their value is greatly reduced.
The proposed public forest-land acquisition pro-
Incentives for good forestry practice on private gram is based upon this belief. The most serious
lands should be offered through a comprehensive abuse of forests might be stopped by official public
program of farm land use in which they form a recognition of the critical areas as forest areas
logical part of a general incentive program. In- within which all clear-cutting of any forest or
centives should be in the form of payments for the coffee plantation now existing or which develops
successful establishment of forest plantations, in the future is prohibited without approval by
rather than merely on tree planting, as at present. the Government. If new markets, new forest crops
Half the cost of tree planting should be paid if at or management techniques provide a strong eco-
least 600 trees per acre remain at the end of the nomic incentive to practice tree culture on those
first year. This would approximate $10 per acre. lands, the enforcement of such legislation should
Half the cost of plantation care should be paid be no great problem, and satisfactory progress by
each year for the next 2 years. This would be private initiative could be made on the best forest
about $3 per acre per year.
lands. If this incentive does not appear, enforce-
An indirect incentive which should be continued
ment will prove costlier than public acquisition
is the propagation by the Government of the for-
and this will necessitate an accelerated public ac-
est trees needed for farm plantings and their dis-
quisition program.
tribution to the farmers. The cost of this propa-
gation averages about $10 per thousand trees. Recreation, Wildlife, Community Forestry
Present nursery facilities are adequate to propa-
gate 10,000,000 trees annually, the maximum fore- Satisfactory areas for forest recreation are not
seeable demand in the near future. Experience adequate at present because of the scarcity of for-
elsewhere has shown that best results will be ob- est in suitable locations. Private capital has not
tained in the long run if the farmers are requested been important in the development of such areas,
to pay a part, probably half, of the cost of these and Government should continue to be the chief
trees. They should be reimbursed for this cost by participant in order to assure a uniformity of
the incentive payment received at the end of the policy and availability of facilities to all.
239284—53——9
118 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Forest recreation facilities should be made avail- of pigeons and doves within the public forest lands
able near all centers of population. Development should continue to be prohibited until their num-
should be directed first toward the satisfaction of bers have increased to a level adequate for a sea-
the forest recreation needs of the local population, sonal hunting period.
and second to the needs of tourists from outside. In many areas the local forest lands, including
Picnic areas in the forest have proven to be the those publicly owned, constitute the chief source
best use of this environment to serve a large num- of forest products for rural communities. Experi-
ber of local people. The sale or long-term lease ence in the Cambalache Experimental Forest on
of summer home sites within public forests should the north coast has shown the high value of forest
be discontinued as it puts the scarce local resources to local communities and the necessity of dedicat-
in the hands of a few people and makes them un- ing such areas primarily to the production of local
available to the general public. needs. A survey of all present public forest areas,
Reforestation and good forest management will including an analysis of their present and poten-
also increase, with no special measures, the bene-
tial contribution to adjacent communities, should
ficial wildlife population. The numbers of cer-
be made as a basis for dedicating more areas as
tain wildlife species might be increased by en-
community forests and managing them for the
couraging food plants, providing special refuge
areas, and other measures. The identification of products most needed locally. But the acquisition
important wildlife food plants should be under- of lands specifically for community forestry should
taken. When a larger public forest area has been not be undertaken unless they are acquired also
blocked out in the central mountains, an effort for resource protection, since community for-
should be made to introduce the native parrot to estry is a less pressing problem than is watershed
this area from the Luquillo Mountains. Hunting protection.
Chapter VII

Utilizing Grassland Resources


One of the great and most promising potentials same time making more effective use of local re-
for increased production in Puerto Bico lies in the sources with greater returns to the economy.
improvement of grasslands to produce pasture, Lacking in improved pasture and other grass
silage, and green crops for livestock feeding. crops, Puerto Eico now has to import at high cost
More and better grass can be grown on the island, much of the feed needed for its livestock, especi-
and ample land suited for this purpose is available. ally for dairy cattle. This makes milk production
Improved pastures and forage crops on this land expensive. With good pastures and the use of
would provide the basis for a considerable expan- silage and other forage crops for feeding dairy
sion in livestock production, especially dairying, cattle, milk production on the island could be in-
and thus produce a far greater economic return creased substantially and made far more econom-
than is now obtained from these same acres. ical. A good pasture is generally recognized as
Much of the land now used for pastures in the lowest cost feed that can be furnished dairy
Puerto Rico is generally regarded as being low in cattle, and use of silage and soilage further re-
productivity. Actually, this includes a great deal duces feed costs. It has been estimated for the
of land which previously had been cropped but United States that pasture alone furnishes one-
subsequently deteriorated, principally through third of the feed for dairy cattle at one-seventh
erosion, to a point where cropping no longer was of the total cost. The advantage that Puerto Eico
profitable. This erodible land was then aban- has in a longer grazing season will obviously allow
doned to volunteer vegetation that was usually low cattle to obtain larger proportions of their feed
in palatability as well as in yield. Thus, this land from pastures than in northern latitudes.
came to be used as pastures, and little consideration In Puerto Rico, pastures are to be found all the
has been given to its proper utilization and way from the low-level lands of the coastal areas
improvement. to the very steep slopes of the mountainous inte-
Altogether, there now are about 730,000 acres of rior. Of the 730,000 acres now considered as
strictly pasture lands in Puerto Eico, most of strictly pasture lands, nearly 80 percent constitute
which are still in unimproved pastures but possess cleared land and the remainder is woodland pas-
a considerable productive potential. The produc- ture. The cleared pasture lands are distributed
tivity of much of this grassland could be doubled among the cropland areas throughout the island.
and even tripled simply by the use of such pasture The cleared pasture lands also include about 60,000
improvement practices as liming, fertilizing, re- acres of f allowland and 97,000 acres of idle land
seeding, and the adoption of better grazing systems which consist mainly of native grasses in the de-
and more efficient management of the improved velopmental stages of the vegetation, which are
grasses and legumes. With improved grasslands also pastured. About 30,000 acres are also planted
and increased production from pasture, silage, and to silage and soilage or green-feeding crops.
soilage crops (grasses planted only for cutting and The most important types of pasture are found
feeding green), Puerto Eico would be in position largely on the dry uplands and coastal plains
to save materially on imported feed costs, at the which surround the island, although some develop-

119
120 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

mental types occur in the mountainous interior On the north coast, where the soil is sandy and
region. The four most extensive areas are the subject to seasonal droughts, the grass consists
northern coastal plains grasslands, the grasslands mainly of Thalia lovegrass (Eragrostis ciliaris),
of the dry uplands and adjacent plains of the west abrojo or southern sandbur (Genchrm ecfimatus),
and southwest, and those of the southern coastal and Bermuda-grass (Cynodon dactylori). The
plains and foothills, and the grasslands of the last named species is prevalent in fields that for-
mountainous interior region. merly have been in cultivation.
Moisture conditions and topography of the land Large areas of sandy soils along the coast are
vary widely in different parts of the island and utilized as coconut groves, occasionally in con-
these factors largely determine the uses now being nection with dairy farms. The land among the
made of the soil. The present uses, however, may trees is planted to Para grass and elephant grass
be modified by improved practices and methods or Napiergrass (Pemiisetum purpwevm). The
of management. This is evident in the situation Para grass is grazed and the elephant grass is
that now prevails in the use of grasslands in cut and fed green.
various areas of the island. The moist uplands that are used for pasture are
Some lowlands near streams, for example, are found in the northern part of the island, especially
too wet for the production of cultivated crops. in the "haystack" hill region, where the soil origi-
These are used for pasture during the dry season nated from calcareous rock and is underlain by
and for the production of grasses to be cut and fed it from several inches to a foot or more below the
green during the wet season. Para grass (Pani- surface. These areas are occupied mainly by St.
cum purpurascens) and Carib grass (EriocJiloa Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum] and
poly st achy a) are the principal grasses in such cerrillo.
areas. These areas are subject to periodic floods On the south and the southwest sides of the
during the wet season, and cattle are exposed to island are the dry uplands. Where the soil is
foot rot and intestinal parasites if grazed on them more than 6 inches deep the main grass is cerrillo.
during this period. This native grass has been replaced rather gen-
Some lowlands that have adequate surface erally by planted guineagrass (Panicwm maxi-
drainage but are underlain with heavy clay sub- mum) . Where the soil is shallower it is occupied
soil are not suitable for most kinds of crops that generally by lamilla (Bouteloua heterostega),
require intertillage. Cattle are grazed generally since guineagrass that is planted on such shallow
on such lands. Although the yield of pasturage is soils is subjected to being pulled up by the roots
low, the lands will not produce a cultivated crop by grazing animals.
economically. Such areas generally are occupied On the croplands which are distributed
by tropical carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus) throughout the island, pastures and grasses play
and cintillo or sour paspalum (Paspalum* conjuga- a minor economic role. Where one of the main
twn). sources of income is from dairying, some farmers
Dry lowlands are found mainly on the south rotate croplands with pastures. Such pasture
and southwest coasts of the island. Those that are areas are planted to Carib grass and Para grass
suitable for irrigation are planted to sugarcane. in the northeastern part of the island, and to
Others are pastured. The yield of forage is com- guineagrass in the region west and south of Are-
paratively low. The main grasses are paragiiita cibo. More frequently, however, croplands are
(Chloris mflata) and cerrillo (Sporobolus in- abandoned when they no longer are productive
dicus). Where the soils are saline, a condition in and are allowed to grow to volunteer grasses con-
some instances due perhaps to comparatively re- sisting of such annuals as jungle-rice (Echino-
cent geological uplift of the lands above sea level, chloa colonum) and Jamaica fingergrass or pata
there is still a considerable stand of beachgrass or de gallina fina (Digitaria horizontalis}, also called
seashore rush grass (Sporobolus mrginicus}, pendejuelo, locally, which is the name for Pas-
which is a pioneer grass ecologically and is gen- palum decumbens, on the north side of the island,
erally found only a short distance from the sea- and redtop millet (Panicum ads persum) and para-
shore. This grass is low in palatability and yield giiita in the dry region on the south side. These
and constitutes poor pasturage. grasses are followed by others in succession de-
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 121

A poorly managed pasture yields very little for cattle to eat.

pending upon the length of the time the land in the vicinity of Ponce and Salinas are seashore
remains idle. Frequently there is a thick stand rush grass, cerrillo, Yerba de Salinas or buffel
of Bermuda-grass immediately following aban- grass (Pemdsetwm ciliare], and paragiiita. Many
donment. of the woodland pastures south of the divide have
In addition to the cropland pastures there are been improved by planting guineagrass. In the
almost 150,000 acres of woodland pastures. These coffee region of the west central and north central
are located primarily on slopes on the south side parts of the island the principal woodland pasture
of the divide that are too steep for cultivation, grasses are tropical carpetgrass, cerrillo, and St.
in the open savanna lands between the seacoast Augustine grass.
and the foothills, and in the coffee region in the
west central part of the island. The number of Land for Pasture and Forage
trees per unit area is decidedly variable and ranges Although about 730,000 acres are now regarded
from a few to many trees per acre. The native as being grasslands because of their present use
grasses in these pastures on the steep slopes on or condition, this does not mean that all these
the south side of the divide comprise mainly ce- acres are being employed for the purpose to which
rrillo, which is distributed throughout the area, they may be best suited. Undoubtedly, some of
and, at the higher elevations, sporadic or, in some this land with very steep slopes would be far bet-
places, thick stands of zorra or silky grass ter utilized if planted to forest or some tree crop.
(TrichacJwe insularis). At the lower elevations On the other hand, there is no doubt that much
south and west of the divide, lamilla is the pre- land on the island is being used for intertilled
dominating native grass. The main grasses in the crops when it might be used more advantageously
savanna lands between the foothills and the coast if devoted to improved pasture. All of this merely
122 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

points up the need for better use of the land ac- precludes effective, continuous use of land for pas-
cording to land capability. ture on any steeper slopes. In order to use land
By far the best classification of land according with a slope as steep as 50 percent for pasture,
to capability has been worked out by the Soil Con- the plant coverage must be excellent. With good
servation Service. This classification consists of herbage protection 50 percent should be consid-
eight categories, ranging from class I which is ered as the upper slope limit, and 40 percent slope
land best suited for continuous cultivation to class should be the upper limit on land which will sup-
VIII which is land suited for recreation or wild- port only moderate herbage density, such as on
life. shallow soils.
Most of the land in Puerto Rico is on slopes and Out of the island's total of 2,184,591 acres of
the degree of slope is one of the factors affecting land, it is estimated that 664,000 acres are best
land capability, even for pasture. Most of the suited for the production of pasture and forage
steepest sloping land is in class VII and this class crops (table 32). If there is any great difference
of land is normally questionable for pasture be- between what is needed and that which exists as
cause of extreme hazards of slope, shallow soil, pasture, it is not in acreage but in the quantity
local arid soil climate, and other factors. Some and quality of the pasture and forage produced.
class VI land may also be questionable for pasture Proper management and balanced stocking also,
except on a very extensive and rather unprofitable of course, are essential to good pasture.
basis. Class V land is wet land which is suitable In general, pastures in Puerto Rico are of low
for pasture or cut forage but not for cultivation. productivity because of the little attention that is
All other classes, i. e., I, II, III, and IV, can be given to grazing systems, use of legumes, reseed-
cultivated following conservation methods of iiig, application of lime and fertilizers, improved
farming, including forage crops and pastures in a pasture practices and management, and to research
well-balanced crop rotation. for the improvement of the existing species.
Strictly from the standpoint of the capability of Other factors, such as the seasonal lack of water
land for continuous production, research studies in certain pastoral regions of the island and the
and detailed observations on many parts of the need for supplemental feeding, contribute to the
island indicate that a 50-percent slope is close to poor condition of native pastures.
the upper limit which should be considered for In many parts of the island, lands used for pas-
pasture, even under good grazing management. ture are badly eroded, and the process of erosion
Mechanical erosion is the primary factor which continues because of the inadequacy of the grass

Table 32.—Estimated desirable acreages of pasture relative to land class

Approximate Approximate
Land class Total percentage acreage best Primary reasons for using as pasture or forage
acreage best suited to suited to
pasture pasture

I 56, 068 Very small- _ Very small. To control erosion and improve soil for culti-
vated crops, and to balance the feed supply
for farm plans.
II________--__----_---_ 181, 204 20 36,000_______-
iii_-_____------------- 366, 283 30___________ 110, 0 0 0 _ _ _ _ _ _
IV-_____--___--___---- 91, 683 50___________ 46, 0 0 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _
¥_______-_____-------- 69, 293 90__________ 62, 000 Too wet for other crops.
VI 460, 574 70__________. 322, 0 0 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ Most profitable use which will control soil
movement.
VII__________---____-_ 882, 328 1 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 88, 0 0 0 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Most of class VII needs woodland protection.
VIII_-_--___---------- 23, 424
Miscellaneous (lakes, 53, 734
roads, urban areas).
2
Total.. _ _ _ _ _- 2, 184, 591 664, 0 0 0 _ _ _ _ _ _

1
2
Based on data from Soil Conservation Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Total land area as determined by a survey made by the Puerto Rico Planning Board.
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 123
cover. Erosion and excessive runoff from grass-
lands can usually be controlled by careful grazing
management alone, but high, profitable returns per
acre normally require attention to forage species,
soil treatment, and control of weeds and trees, as
well as to grazing management. By considering
these several aspects of pasture improvement and
use, it becomes feasible to prevent overgrazing and
land deterioration without reduction of present
livestock numbers. High forage production on
suitable land thus not only protects the specific
land areas themselves, but it also makes possible
a considerable adjustment in cropping and a re-
duction in the intensity of use of land now being
cultivated in excess of its capability for sustained
production.
So long as there are thousands of acres of un-
improved grassland well suited to pasturing and
improvement in Puerto Rico, there is little point
to spending time and money for pasture improve- This sloping land was abandoned after having been exhausted by
ment work on lands approaching the limits of clean tillage and continuous cropping. Establishment of an
improved pasture would make such land valuable for grazing
soil and slope suitable for pasture. It is more livestock.
practical to put such steeply sloping lands into
woodland, or some tree crop such as coffee, where same time that it was being more rapidly improved
growing conditions are suitable. Experience in for the next cultivated crop or crops. In such a
other areas has been that as pastures and animals pattern pasture could be produced to good ad-
both improve, it becomes evident that lands over vantage under irrigation also. In many parts of
40 percent in slope are too steep and too difficult the island, however, there is a great need to estab-
to maintain in pasture for farmers to continue try- lish grass on land so that a protective cover may
ing to use them for grazing. Proper management be provided as a first step in restoring productiv-
and improvement of land well suited to pasturing ity. In the mountain areas there is a high per-
with improved animals have shown that it pays centage of sloping land that has been ruined for
best to concentrate even more on the adapted land further use because sugarcane or other tilled crops
rather than to develop or improve land that is have been planted where only permanent pastures
marginal for pasture use. But regardless of the or permanent forests should be located. This
possibility that pasture land may become more great and costly damage could have been avoided
restricted in the future, there certainly is every at the outset if, in planning the use of the land,
reason to emphasize forage improvement on the recognition had been given to the factors of slope,
better land first. plant cover, soil, and degree of erosion which are
Much of the forage improvement should be on embodied in the land classification developed by
land that will be cropped part of the time, but not the Soil Conservation Service.
used exclusively for pasture, that is, as forage in
sequence with cultivated crops on land classes II, Pasture Improvement With Legumes
III, and IV. This is done on a large scale now, The grasslands of Puerto Rico represent a vast
especially on class VI and class IV land, except underdeveloped resource which through wise
that the period in forage is essentially a case of handling and use can add greatly to the health and
abandonment of the land for a period of from welfare of the people. The value of these grass-
one to several years. Planned, well managed se- lands lies in the nutrients they are capable of pro-
quences involving high yielding legumes and ducing for feeding livestock from which milk,
grasses instead of inferior native species, would meat, and other products are derived for human
provide a valuable return from the land at the consumption. However, most of the grasslands on
124 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

the island are now low producers of feed nutrients. coa de tres flores (Sagotia triflora), and yerba de
Therefore, more acres are required to maintain an contrabando (Alysicarpus vaginalis).
animal, and fewer animals can be kept because of One of the most widely distributed legumes
the limited amount of land. Also, this makes it throughout the island is the conchita. A dense
necessary to import large quantities of feedstuffs stand of this legume, frequently covering as much
which are far more costly for feeding than are as 50 percent of the soil, is found in planted
locally produced supplies. guineagrass pastures on both the southern and
Too few farmers are aware of the fact that northern coasts of the island. Cattle eat the green
Puerto Rico can produce considerably more feed flor de conchitas leaves, but not with relish, so
nutrients per acre of grassland than is now the that the vines have an opportunity to creep along
case. This is true even among the few farmers the ground and climb over the guineagrass
who have well-managed grass pastures. The key bunches.
to boosting the production of feed nutrients from By far one of the most common legumes in the
grassland is in the use of legumes, and their proper pastures of the limestone areas is "wild alfalfa."
use along with other necessary improvements will It grows abundantly in pastures of lamilla in the
increase livestock feeding values of present grass south and southwest, and in cerrillo and para-
pastures in Puerto Eico by three or more times. giiita pastures of the northern coast, especially
The fact is that grass and legumes will produce on in soils of the Colinas and Tanama series. It
much of the croplands more total digestible nutri- grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches and is gen-
ents per acre at lower costs, and with greater re- erally grazed to a height of about 2 inches from
turns per man hour of labor, than will corn or the the ground. Because of the deep root system, this
other feed grains. legume can obtain water at deeper levels than the
No legumes are now planted primarily for pas- grasses with which it grows in association, and
turage in Puerto Eico. The planting of combina- thus is resistant to drouth.
tions of grasses and legumes for pasture is Further studies should be made on wild alfalfa
relatively uncommon on the island. It is a well- to determine its nutritive value, nodulation, prop-
established fact that a legume increases the protein agation, etc., inasmuch as promising native
content of the grass with which it grows in combi- legumes that are already adapted to certain en-
nation ; it also increases soil fertility by the nitro- vironmental conditions in Puerto Eico should
gen in the high protein residue and the nitrogen have a prominent place in a program of pasture
formed in the nodules of the legume roots. More- improvement.
over, legumes increase the resistance of pastures to The species of Meibomia known as pega pega
the effect of water erosion, and add variety, lon- are very common in pastures of St. Augustine
gevity, and palatability to the grazing. grass along the northern coastal plains. As many
In the pastures of Puerto Eico there are, how- as 125 plants of zarzabacoa comiin (Meibomia
ever, a considerable number of native species of supina) have been counted in a single square meter
legumes which are found in permanent pastures, of St. Augustine pasture. The species of pega
on hillsides, and in thickets at lower and middle
pega are among the most highly palatable of na-
elevations. But the amount of forage they yield
tive pasture legumes. They require a compara-
is comparatively low because of the competition
with existing vegetation and the effects of con- tively moist, fertile soil that has good subsurface
tinuous overgrazing. drainage.
Among the more common native species of Another native legume, Alysicarpus vaginalis,
legumes that are eaten by livestock are flor de occurs abundantly in pastures of St. Augustine
conchitas (Bradburya pwbescens), zarzabacoa and carpetgrass. It grows in association with
enana or "wild alfalfa" (Stylosanthes hamata), the various species of pega pega and is also rel-
various species of pega pega (Meibomia supina, ished by livestock.
M. adscendens, M. purpwrea), habichuela cimar- The average protein content of the forage fed
rona (PJiaseolus adenanthus), wild cowpea (Vigna to livestock may be improved also by establishing
vexillata), frijolillo (Dolicholus reticulatus}, mo- on the pastures a number of leguminous shrubs
rivivi bobo (Aeschynomene americana), zarzaba- or trees. The tender growth as well as the pods
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 125
of these leguminous forbs and trees are relatively
rich in protein.
Among the leguminous trees that are found in
pastures of the southwestern part of Puerto Rico
is the bayahonda, or mesquite (Neltwma juliflora).
The stock browse on the young shoots, which are
high in protein. The pods and beans of this tree
are also relished by cattle and make a good con-
centrate feed.
Other leguminous trees that are planted in
pastures are the bucayo enano (Erythrina berte-
roana), woman's tongue (Albizza Lebbek], and
the shrub, L&wcaena glauca, or acacia. Some
farmers cut these trees periodically so as to en-
courage a low, new growth that can be easily
reached by livestock. The new growth can also be
fed as soilage. In addition to the value of the
foliage and pods for forage, these leguminous
trees may be used as windbreak hedges and for
shade.
There has long been a great need on the island
for vigorous leguminous plants that could be used
for grazing. During the 1940's, several legumes
were introduced. The most promising of these
are tropical kudzu (Pueraria phaseoloides) and
trailing indigo (Indigofera endecaphylla}, both
introduced by the Soil Conservation Service.
Tropical kudzu is a vigorous, spreading peren-
nial which is adapted to the moist coastal plains
and uplands of the island. The foliage contains
from 20 to 22 percent protein (dry basis). It
is palatable and yields from 20 to 24 tons of forage
per acre annually. This legume is a valuable
Tropical kudzu and molassesgrass planted in combination makes
perennial for many regions of the island. a luxuriant pasture under growing conditions such as those that
Extensive trials with tropical kudzu made by prevail in the Orocovis area. This planting is on steep, shallow,
eroded Mucara clay—soil that is typical of large sections of the
the Soil Conservation Service and the Bureau of island.
Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineer-
ing in cooperation with the Puerto Eican and Fed- and this was from land that is too steep for
eral experimental stations indicate the value of cultivation.
this legume. Trials made at Orocovis, Mayagiiez, It is estimated that grass pasture in the Orocovis
and other regions in Puerto Rico have shown that area, without tropical kudzu, may produce about
tropical kudzu with mollassesgrass is at present 180 pounds of beef per acre at a rate of gain of 0.7
the best combination to produce good returns in pound per head per day, while the results of the
beef per acre in the mountain area. At Orocovis, trials with tropical kudzu were 477 pounds of
the cattle showed a rate of gain of 1.5 pounds beef at 1.5 pounds per head per day. At Mayagiiez
per day per head, and a return of 477 pounds of similar gains were obtained from Guernsey heifers
beef per acre. This return represented around on kudzu with grass, the rate of gain being 1.7
$95 per acre for the farmer. No supplementary pounds per head per day. Milk cows produced
feed and little labor were needed. It took only about 2 pounds more milk per head per day on
$20 per acre to get the pastures started. The net the good grass-legume pasture than on good barn
return amounted to $75 per acre the first year, feeding alone. This happened 2 years in succes-
239284—53- -10
126 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

sion. The value of the increase represents about On the drier uplands of the northern coastal
$40 profit per cow per year. plains guineagrass and trailing indigo appear to
Recent experiments conducted at the Puerto make a good combination although the latter is
Rican Experiment Station indicate that a mixture toxic to livestock. Among the native grasses cer-
of tropical kudzu and guineagrass or Para grass rillo and the native legume, wild alfalfa, will do
increases both the total yield and total protein well on hilltops while St. Augustine and wild
content of the grasses. The combination of Para alfalfa will thrive on the foothills.
grass and kudzu was found to give the best results For the southern coastal plains the best native
in total digestible nutrients, gain in weight of the legume appears to be wild alfalfa, which will grow
animals, and carrying capacity of the grass. very well with lamilla and buffel grass on the
Kudzu alone contained 17 percent crude protein uplands that are not irrigated, and on the unirri-
on the dry basis, and Para grass in the mixture gated level lands guineagrass and wild alfalfa.
had a higher protein content than when grown Irrigated lands can be planted to Merker and
alone. kudzu, while Para grass and kudzu will do well
There are five important grasses in Puerto Rico in the wet lowlands.
that grow well with kudzu, the specific combina- For the mountainous region the best combina-
tion varying with local conditions. These grasses tion so far is molassesgrass and kudzu.
are Merker, elephant, molasses, malojillo or Para Other species of introduced and native legumes
grass, and guineagrass. Combinations involving and grasses should be tried more extensively in
more than one grass help provide a better balanced each one of the areas.
production throughout the year than with a single Some of the climax grasses that constitute per-
species. manent native pastures on the island are of low
Molassesgrass and kudzu form a natural combi- yield and of comparative low nutritive value. A
nation for the mountainous region. Both species typical example is the lamilla grass which pre-
thrive on about the same height of grazing or dominates over thousands of acres of arid, shallow,
cutting. stony soils of the west and southwest. Steps
Malojillo or Para grass has formed an excellent should be taken to replace these inferior species
pasture with kudzu at Mayagiiez for more than with introduced varieties and species of superior
5 years on river bottom soil. Malojillo and kudzu forage value.
are also growing well at Rio Piedras, at Orocovis, Among the introduced species that should be
and elsewhere. tested in the various ecological regions of the is-
Guineagrass and kudzu are growing well in land are the pangola grass (Digitaria decumbens),
humid parts of the island such as in Mayagiiez, Barbados sourgrass (Andropogon pertusus var.
Rio Piedras, and Orocovis. acidula), Giant St. Augustine grass, Bahia grass
Merker grass and kudzu have been grown in (Paspalum notatum), Yaragua (Hyparrhenia
combination at the Puerto Rican Experiment Sta- rufa], and others.
tion in Rio Piedras, at Mayagiiez, Utuado, Oroco- Recent evaluation studies on new varieties of
vis, and Barranquitas. More information is grasses have shown that Hybrid #208 x #1 gave
needed, however, on the management practices of higher yields than Merker grass. At Isabela the
this combination. yield of this hybrid was 77 tons of green forage
Although much research is still needed to deter- per acre per year, while at Lajas the annual yield
mine the best combinations of grasses and legumes was 60 tons. Merker grass produced 70 and 53
for both pasture and cutting in each of the ecolog- tons of green forage at Isabela and Lajas respec-
ical regions of the island, some indications are tively.
already apparent on the basis of observation and From the standpoint of the farmer it is im-
incomplete research. portant that the proper kind and quality of seed
On the northern coastal plains, it appears that needed for pasture and forage crop improvement
Para grass and kudzu should be planted in wet be readily available. Local sources of seed pro-
lowlands and guineagrass and kudzu on wet up- duction need to be encouraged in order to assure
lands. Merker grass and kudzu should be used as adequate supplies of the good seeds that will be
soilage. required for more effective use of grassland re-
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 127
sources. Efforts should be made to stimulate far- of grass. As much as 70 tons of soilage may be
mers and other private operators to produce good obtained from Merker and elephant grasses per
quality seeds for sale on the island. acre per year. None of these grasses withstand
However, until such time as private production continuous grazing or trampling.
is increased to meet requirements, the bulk of the There are three important species of grasses
improved grass and legume seeds needed should planted for cutting and feeding green and for
be produced on the seed farms operated by the pasturage. They are guineagrass, Carib grass,
Puerto Rican Government. These farms should and Para grass. They are used for feeding pack
produce certified seed of superior quality, and of animals, oxen and beef animals, and dairy cows.
the grasses and legumes found by research work- Guineagrass is planted on the dry uplands and
ers to be adapted to conditions in Puerto Rico. on coastal plains with good drainage, while Para
In order to protect the interest of farmers, a sys- and Carib grasses are planted on poorly drained
tem of seed testing and inspection should be es- lowlands. Some dairies near San Juan, Maya-
tablished so that any seed bought will be of known giiez, and other large cities, depend almost entirely
quality and purity. on these grasses as their source of forage.
Two species of grasses are planted for cutting
Use of Pasture Supplements and for feeding green and for grain. These are
Although good pasture is the most economical Indian corn (Zea mays] and Guinea corn or sorgo
feed for livestock, it is not available throughout (Sorghum vulgar e}. Indian corn is most com-
the year in many sections of Puerto Rico. There- mon, and it is planted for grain throughout the
fore, there is often a need for pasture supplements. island. The fodder is fed directly to livestock.
At present, most farmers on the island make use On the dry south side, however, it is planted on a
of various pasture supplements and these fall few dairy farms, to be fed as silage. The esti-
roughly into eight classifications: (1) Grasses mated yield of green forage is 7 tons per acre per
planted only for cutting and feeding green; (2) crop.
grasses planted for cutting and feeding green and Grasses not planted but cut and fed green in-
for pasturage; (3) grasses planted for cutting and clude the many species which may be found grow-
feeding green and for grain; (4) grasses not ing along roadsides or in idle areas. These grasses
planted but cut and fed green; (5) sugarcane tops; are used by the many people in rural and urban
(6) silage; (7) hay; and (8) feed concentrates. areas who do not have lands, but who keep a few
Three main grasses are planted only for cutting goats or a cow. These people cannot afford to
and feeding green in Puerto Rico. These so-called buy feed; so they search for grasses to be cut
soilage grasses are Merker grass, elephant grass, and carried home, The most desirable kinds are
and Guatemala grass. All of these require for Carib and Para grasses that grow near swampy
their best growth a fairly fertile soil with abun- areas, or guineagrass and gramalote that grow in
dant rainfall. However, in certain parts of the ungrazed abandoned fields intended for planting
island, especially in the region near Arecibo, farm- sugarcane. If these are not available, these people
ers plant Merker and elephant grass in sandy soils use goosegrass (Eleusine indica), gramalote, pen-
of low fertility. The soils are first fertilized with dejuelo, or other annuals that are available. Some-
heavy applications of filter-press cake, a residue times, especially during prolonged droughts, the
from the sugar mills, and the grasses grow luxuri- short branches of bamboo and of Indian grass are
antly on such treated soils. These soilage grasses cut and their leaves fed to cattle.
can be cut from four to six times a year, depending Sugarcane tops are used during the harvest
upon the stage of maturity at which they are fed. season in different parts of the island, especially
On large farms the soilage is run through an en- for oxen. Many dairies, especially in the drier
silage cutter before feeding, while on small farms regions, depend almost entirely on sugarcane tops
near Arecibo the grass is cut and the entire stem as a source of forage during the cane harvesting
and leaves are given to livestock in the same field. season. This season usually coincides with the
This is done by tethering the animals close to the season of severe drought in the south and south-
cutting area, where they can reach the cut bundles west of the island.
128 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

When the prolonged dry season starts in the southern part of Puerto Rico farmers soon find themselves short of feed and are forced
to use sugarcane tops for their cattle.

Most of the silage is used in a small area near from February to July along the south and south-
Coamo, Salinas, and Ponce. Some is used along west. Pastures are poor during these dry spells,
the northern coast. A few farmers in other areas, and silage could do much to help meet the need for
such as near Lajas and Cabo Rojo, are also becom- feed and at the same time make feeding more
ing interested in feeding silage, and some silos profitable.
have been built. But progress in the use of silage The number of silos used is unquestionably in-
has been very slow despite the fact that this feed- adequate to furnish the necessary supplementary
ing supplement could be utilized very profitably feeding in the form of silage. Farmers need to
in most parts of Puerto Rico throughout the year. be given every possible assistance and encourage-
In 1940, there were only about a dozen silos in ment in order to stimulate more widespread use
active use, while in 1951 there were between 50 of silage in all sections of the island. In addition
and 60 silos in operation throughout the island. to awakening them to the advantages of silage by
Actually, only about 20 farmers operate silos on educational means, steps should be taken to help
their farms in the drier section from Guayama to farmers finance the cost of constructing the nec-
Cabo Rojo. essary facility for storing silage. Loans for this
The greatest need for the kind of supplement- purpose should be furnished by public and pri-
ary feed that silage can provide happens to be in vate credit agencies, since the construction of a silo
the most important dairy regions, where prolonged and the use of silage represent an investment that
seasonal droughts occur every year and result in will pay off by increasing production and by sav-
the biggest losses to the livestock industry. From ings in feed costs. Each farmer in the dry region,
February to May the northern section of the is- for example, should own and operate a silo of 120
land is relatively dry, while this period extends tons capacity for each 50 cows. This will provide
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 129
enough silage for 120 days, which is enough to last imported is in the form of mixed feed and corn.
through the most critical period of the dry spells, A limited amount of corn and sorghum is pro-
when pastures are almost completely unproduc- duced on the island and fed on the farms.
tive. In the wet areas, as well as in the dry sec- Molasses is also fed to dairy animals, and a few
tions, silage could be fed advantageously through- farmers feed the roots of cassava and sweet-
out the year. The use of silos all year would pro- potatoes.
mote more intensive land use and add to the sup- Feed product-ion could be increased substan-
ply of feed available for livestock. The grasses tially through the use of improved seed corn and
best adapted for silage in Puerto Kico are Indian improved methods of growing corn, and through
corn, sorghum, Merker grass, elephant grass, and the utilization of processing plant wastes and
sugarcane tops. Since molasses from the pro- other materials suitable for making byproduct
duction of sugar is readily available on the island, feeds. At the present time, for example, practi-
its use in silage would increase the feeding value cally all of the peel and pulp from the pineapple
of the product. Although pit, tower, and trench canning plants is being wasted. Also wasted are
silos are used in Puerto Rico, the pit silo appears large quantities of blood and other materials from
to be/ the more convenient and economical type to slaughtered livestock. If processing facilities
use in many localities. Tower silos are better were available all of these and other plant wastes
adapted to the more humid areas. could be converted into economical feeds.
The amount of hay made in Puerto Rico is More widespread use of legumes for pasture
negligible. The most favorable conditions for and forage would increase the protein available
haymaking are in the dry south and southwest, to livestock, thus making it possible to reduce pro-
and probably some may be produced in the north- tein-feed imports. A concentrate mixture contain-
west, near Isabela. Facilities for storing hay are ing 14 to 16 percent total protein should be ade-
not available on the island, and there are few quate to supplement improved pastures and soil-
grasses that are suitable for hay. Guineagrass age and silage crops. Since high-protein feeds
occasionally has been made into hay on sugarcane are more expensive than feeds rich in carbohy-
plantations on the south side of the island. The drates, a considerable saving in the feed bill would
yield of the first cutting is from 1 to 2 tons of be possible by using concentrate mixtures of a
hay per acre. It is estimated that the average lower protein content with improved pastures and
annual yield would be from 4 to 6 tons per acre. forage containing legumes.
It is relished especially by horses and could be Many of the soils in Puerto Rico are deficient
used more extensively. in minerals needed for building strong bones in
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) has been tested at animals. Much of this deficiency is due to the
the Isabela Substation, and this legume thrived great amount of erosion and depletion that has
under the environmental conditions there. Nine taken place by cropping without regard to con-
cuttings yielded 9 tons of dry hay per acre per servation. The poor bone structure and small
year. It may be worthwhile to continue testing skeletons of many of the animals on the island indi-
adapted varieties of alfalfa for haymaking. cate the need for minerals. This deficiency needs
Other grasses that should be tested for haymaking to be met in order to produce larger and more
are Natal grass (Tricholaena re-pens), fine-leaved vigorous animals, and to make more efficient use
guineagrass, commonly known as Borinquen vari- of the pasture, forage, and other feedstuffs they
ety, star grass (Cynodon plectostachyum), Pan- consume. While some farmers on the island are
gola grass, and Venezuela grass (Paspalum using mineral supplements for livestock feeding,
fasciculatum). more extensive use of the bone-building elements
Concentrates fed to livestock in Puerto Rico should be encouraged.
consist mostly of imported mixed feeds. The big-
gest portion of the supply of concentrates is fed Grasslands Management
to dairy cattle, some to poultry, and a small The general low level of productivity that pre-
amount to other classes of livestock. Feed imports vails on the grasslands of Puerto Rico is due pri-
now approximate 100,000 tons a year, compared marily to the lack of proper management of this
with 60,000 tons a decade ago. Most of the feed potentially great resource. Very little attention
130 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

has been given to management practices and graz- all showed a higher nitrogen content when they re-
ing methods that will increase and maintain pas- ceived the fertilizer in two applications and were
ture and forage yields on a sustained basis. cut at 10-week intervals. A lower nitrogen con-
Although farmers are accustomed to the use of tent resulted when the nitrogen was given in one
fertilizers on such crops as sugarcane and tobacco, application and the grasses were cut at 12-week
they seldom fertilize or apply lime to their grass- intervals.
lands. While there is some appreciation of the Lime also is required for increased production
value of fertilizing soilage crops, virtually no at- from the grasslands of Puerto Eico. To improve
tempts is made to improve pastures by the use of 500,000 acres of pasture, it is estimated that a mini-
fertilizers, even though most of the soils in Puerto mum of 500,000 tons of lime will be required every
Rico are deficient or low in availability of one or 2 or 3 years. This figure may run to a maximum
more of the nutrients essential for pasture grasses of around a million tons of lime.
or legumes. In the humid, mountainous sections, Experiments recently conducted by the Puerto
grassland soils are often deficient in calcium, Eican Experiment Station on the effect of lime
phosphorus, nitrogen, and some in potassium. and fertilizer on the mineral composition of the
All of these elements are essential for proper plant soil, of the grass, and on crop yield showed, among
growth and to improve the mineral content and others, the following results; (1) Liming defi-
quality of the forage. nitely helped increase yields; (2) applications of
Production from grasslands in Puerto Eico 500 pounds of ammonium sulphate per acre gave
could be increased very substantially by the use of about 2 tons more of green grass per acre than
fertilizer. This would greatly boost the amount a previous unfertilized crop; (3) grass harvested
of feed obtained per acre of land and make live- early (36 days after nitrogen application) con-
stock production more profitable. Improved pas- tained around 11 percent protein, or three times
tures require more fertilizer than do natural pas- as much as in the unfertilized grass; (4) lime
tures, but they can be made far more productive. was still effective in keeping the soil but slightly
Assuming an attainment of 500,000 acres of im- acid 32 and 39 months after it was applied. The
proved pastures on the island, farmers will have to experiments also showed that lime was effective in
use at least 150,000 tons of complete fertilizer per increasing the availability of phosphorus and
year. The general formula recommended is other elements in the soil needed for good pasture.
10:10: 5 to be applied at the rate of 600 pounds Crushed limestone for liming soils is sold to
per acre in one or two applications. Where a farmers in Puerto Eico at a reasonable price from
legume is used no nitrogen is necessary. If the quarries and crushing facilities operated by the
acreage devoted to forage crops is increased, as it local Department of Agriculture. However, only
should be, by about 75,000 acres, an additional 22,- those farmers located relatively near the quarries
500 tons of fertilizer will be required, in addition are benefited, inasmuch as transportation costs
to about 8,000 tons of ammonium sulphate. The make the lime too expensive for farmers over 50
amount of fertilizer to be applied per acre varies, miles away from a quarry. The number of quar-
of course, with the particular requirements of the ries operated by the Puerto Eican Government
grass and soil involved. should be increased from the present 4 to a min-
Fertilizer studies made by the Puerto Eican Ex- imum of 10 well distributed over the island. This
periment Station on various forage grasses such would considerably reduce the expense of trans-
as Merker, Para, and guineagrass show that nitro- portation and stimulate more widespread use of
gen applications greatly increase the yield and the lime for pasture improvement.
protein content of these plants. Single applica- The aim in pasture management is to obtain
tions of 200 pounds of ammonium sulphate per and maintain the greatest possible production of
acre resulted in a maximum production of protein livestock (milk, meat). This necessitates use of
and of dry forage in both guineagrass and Merker such grazing methods and rate of stocking as will
grass. Para grass, however, gave maximum permit the plants to make enough top and
yields when the same amount of nitrogen was split root growth to maintain their vigor. In Puerto
into two applications, the first one 6 weeks after Eico, continuous overgrazing is a common prac-
cutting and the second 9 weeks later. The grasses tice. This has resulted in pasture deterioration
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 131

•**ir<-" >
A&V -~*3!
Grasses planted only for cutting and feeding green yield well in Puerto Rico. Merker grass is one of the favorites.

where the prevailing plants are of very low graz- St. Augustine grass, and carpetgrass. Cattle are
ing value. Being more palatable, the most de- staked out with freedom to graze within a radius
sirable pasture plants are eagerly sought by graz- varying from 15 to 25 feet. The stakes are moved
ing animals. On the other hand, the objection- to immediately adjacent ungrazed areas from
able, or weedy species, are left over to grow and three to four times a day. When the entire pas-
reproduce. Most of the plant growth in these ture area is thus utilized, usually after four to six
areas consists of undesirable annuals and per- wreeks, the animals are returned to the first area,
ennial weeds. Sheet and gully erosion prevail in where the new growth is ready for gazing.
most of the overstocked pastures, especially on the Purely from the standpoint of utilization, teth-
highlands. The result is a sharp decline in forage, ering is the ideal method of grazing. However, it
underfed and underdeveloped stock with a de- has various disadvantages. Where a large num-
crease in animal production, and low financial re- ber of animals are involved, the method is la-
turns and frequent losses. borious. Besides, cattle are not free to seek pro-
A local method of grazing that is practiced to tection from the inclemencies of the weather while
a limited extent in the region from Aguadilla to pasturing.
Arecibo, and in the mountainous area, is the Various improved systems of grazing have been
"tethering method." In this region farmers with developed which should be employed in Puerto
a comparatively small number of animals tether Rico. These systems, varying with the particular
their dairy cows on guineagrass and gramalote pasture type and with the region, are rotational
pastures, while the dry cows and young stock grazing, deferred and rotational grazing com-
are tethered on the common pastures of cerrillo, bined, and the Hohenheim system.
132 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Rotational grazing involves the division of the first pasture greens up again the fresh cows are
pasture into a convenient number of units. The back. Applications are made of large quantities
livestock are concentrated on one unit while the of complete fertilizers with heavy applications of
rest of the pasture is allowed to recover. A good nitrogen, usually twice a year. Droppings are
pasture, with the proper grass-legume combina- scattered by machinery to avoid uneven grazing.
tion, should be divided into four to six units. Ex- Experiments conducted at Massachusetts
periments show that this system increases the yield showed that the Hohenheim system increased
of total digestible nutrients, the number of days grazing capacity three times, and milk production
grazing, and the production of milk. Further- also was about three times greater. This system,
more, this system encourages more uniform graz- however, can only be used where rainfall is abun-
ing of the pasture area, thus keeping a proper bal- dant and well distributed throughout the year and
ance between legumes and grasses, and helping to in areas close to large cities where the land is ex-
control weeds. Tests of rotational grazing have pensive. It may be adapted for use with guinea-
shown similar benefits in Puerto Rico. The prac- grass in the northern and northeastern parts of
tice brought not only higher returns per animal Puerto Rico, and with mollassesgrass-kudzu in the
and per acre, but it also enriched the land by con- mountainous region.
servation of both moisture and soil. After a year's To increase and maintain the productivity of
pasturing of kudzu- molassesgrass at Orocovis, an pastures it is also necessary to employ practices
average production of 540 pounds of beef per acre that will conserve soil and moisture. Steps should
was obtained with rotational grazing as compared be taken to maintain the productivity of the soil
to 385 pounds of beef per acre with continuous by saving it from erosion through a proper adjust-
grazing. This is only an indication of what may ment between pasture acreage and cultivated crop
be expected, and does not account for the condi- acreage as well as between the available pasturage
tion in which the pastures remained. Rotational and the number of head of livestock that can be
grazing left a much better balanced combination kept on a farm.
of forage plants at the end of the year than did Through its Agricultural Conservation Pro-
continuous pasturing. Rotational grazing is suit- gram the United States Department of Agricul-
able for all types of pastures and should be prac- ture is directly assisting farmers in adopting
ticed throughout the island. improved pasture management practices in Puerto
Deferred and rotational grazing combined is a Rico. During 1950 this agency had 9,645 farms
system similar to rotational grazing except that participating in pasture improvement work that
one pasture unit is allowed to reseed each year was conducted on more than 47,000 acres of land.
and recover its natural stand. Under this system, As an incentive for their participation farmers re-
grazing in one pasture unit is delayed until past ceived payments totaling slightly more than $140,-
the blooming season, giving the pasture a chance 000 which helped pay part of the cost of employ-
to reseed and develop new seedlings. It is used ing such pasture improvement practices as liming,
mostly in pastures that are propagated by means fertilizing, mowing weeds, cutting brush, and es-
of seed instead of stolons and rhizomes. This sys- tablishing permanent pastures. This is a type of
tem should be practiced in Puerto Rico in pastures activity that deserves to be extended in order to
where the dominant grasses are one of the follow- permit more widespread participation.
ing species: Lamilla, guineagrass, molassesgrass A general grasslands improvement program
(Melinis minutiflora), cerrillo, gramelotillo which includes planting and proper management
(Paspaluwi plicatulum)^ buffel, paragiiita, and practices is necessary to conserve the soil. Old
Natal grass. pastures should be renovated by reseeding with
Under the Hohenheim system, the pastures are the proper balance of grasses and legumes. Like-
divided into a number of units of equal size and wise, water should always be conserved for live-
the herd is separated into three groups: best pro- stock and forage production by installing ponds,
ducers, low producers, and calves and bulls. The wells, water spreaders, terraces, irrigation systems,
animals are rotated so that the most productive and other improvements. Farmers in Puerto Rico
cows will be turned on first, leaving the other two need to be taught to seek technical assistance in
groups to clean up the pasture. By the time the grasslands improvement and in soil and water
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 133
conservation from their local agricultural agencies. ingested by animals, this disease may cause poison-
Control of weeds and brush is also an important ing. In order to stop formation of the toxic fun-
factor in grasslands management. Pastures in gus bodies, the pastures should be cut just after
Puerto Rico are continually invaded by weeds flowering of the grass or they should be grazed
and brush. In well managed kudzu-grass pas- heavily at the beginning of the blooming stage.
tures the kudzu controls most weeds by pulling Bermuda-grass is attacked by rust caused by
them down and smothering them. Very little Puccinia cynodontis and by a helminthosporium
weeding is required in pastures of this type. One spot caused by Helminthosporium cynodontis.
of the most economical and practical ways of Steps should be taken to replace this native variety
weed and brush eradication in pastures is by the by the coastal Bermuda varieties that have been
use of herbicides. There are various selective developed at Tifton, Ga, These new varieties are
herbicides available on the market that can be superior to the Bermuda-grass that is native to
used for this purpose. Puerto Rico and are well adapted to the dry coastal
Insects and diseases in pastures also need to be plains.
controlled as part of good grasslands management, Sorghum, one of the important silage grasses
but little attention has been given to these sources for the southern coast, is attacked by a rust, Puc-
of damage in Puerto Rico. There are several cinia purpurea, which causes constant defoliation
insect pests and diseases that attack some of the and even death in some species. Resistant vari-
native grasses and seriously affect production. eties are known and should be introduced for
One of the more important insects is the chinch testing.
bug (Blissus Leucopterus var. insularis) that af- Numerous other diseases attack the most impor-
fects the guineagrass pastures along the coastal tant pasture and forage plants in Puerto Rico,
plains. Heavy infestations of this insect in over- but little is known about them. These diseases
stocked pastures on sandy lands will destroy in a require further study to determine measures for
period of 2 years a pasture which otherwise would their control.
have lasted over 12 years in good production. No
attempt has been made to control this pest, al- Grasslands Research and Education
though various methods for its control are known The utilization of grasslands for increased and
and practiced elsewhere. Other insects, such as more efficient production is relatively new to
army worms, mole crickets, white grubs, etc., cause Puerto Rico, and few farmers have as yet realized
considerable damage to pasture and other forage the importance of this undeveloped resource. The
crops on the island. interest of farmers in developing the grasslands
Losses to pastures also result from diseases potential must be aroused, but at the same time
caused by fungi, such as the Helmmtliosporium farmers must know what to do and how to do it.
that attacks Napier grass and the Cercospora that This requires research to obtain the basic infor-
occurs in the foliage of various other grasses. A mation, and education to get the farmers to apply
new species of ergot, not previously reported, was the knowledge that is developed.
recently found by the Federal Experiment Station Only a limited amount of research work relat-
to attack the seeds of guineagrass. It was ob- ing to grasslands has been done in Puerto Rico.
served that a high percentage of seed produced in Until recently, investigations involved only a few
the southwestern region of Puerto Rico is non- forage grasses that were used as soilage. No re-
viable. One of the contributing causes was found search work was conducted on native grasslands
to be the high prevalence of ergot in this area. and very little on cultivated pastures. Such im-
In the Aguadilla area, however, fields of guinea- portant phases of pasture research as breeding of
grass appear to be free of ergot. Thus, produc- pasture plants, grazing systems, fertilizing, seed-
tion of guineagrass seed should be in the region of ing, and cultivation of pastures were neglected.
Aguadilla or at the governmental seed farm at The first pasture research work in Puerto Rico
Isabela, where ergot does not prevail. was started in 1937 by the Soil Conservation Serv-
The gamelotillo, another important pasture ice with a study of the botanical composition of
grass of the moist uplands, was found infested pastures, and of the influence of soil, climate, and
with ergot caused by Claviceps paspdli. When grazing animals on the various pasture types. A
134 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

collection was made, for the first time on the is- lands development and meets the practical needs
land, of all species of grasses that occur in the both of farmers and those who work with farmers.
numerous types of pastures. These were planted The overall grasslands program should be
in experimental plots to assess their forage and planned, developed, and carried forward as a joint
soil conservation value. The various pasture types responsibility of all of the agricultural agencies
were classified and mapped. Studies on plant on the island.
succession were undertaken covering all the eco- The Puerto Rican and Federal research agencies
logical regions of the island. These studies were that have been concerned with grasslands up to
continued until 1942 when the grass collection was now should bring together the applicable informa-
moved to the Institute of Tropical Agriculture at tion that is already available on pastures and
Mayagiiez, since then absorbed by the College of forage crops in Puerto Rico and continue their
Agriculture and Mechanic Arts of the University research work from there, giving emphasis to the
of Puerto Rico. Exploratory surveys were made following phases: (1) Selection and testing of
in various tropical countries of South America. superior ecotypes of native grasses and legumes
About 100 new species of grasses were introduced, for the various ecological zones of the island; (2)
of which nearly 30 species have become adapted testing of promising introduced grasses and leg-
to the island. umes ; (3) breeding work on grasses and legumes;
In 1944 the Puerto Rican Experiment Station (4) determination of desirable mixtures of grasses
obtained planting material of all the grasses from and legumes in the various ecological regions of
the Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and regional the island; (5) studies on pasture and forage crop
tests of promising pasture species were started by fertilization and liming; (6) comparative studies
this station. Since 1946, the College of Agricul- of the various systems of grazing under different
ture and Mechanic Arts has been working with the field conditions and with different types of pas-
grass and legume collections. It was not until tures; and (7) studies on pasture management,
1946 that the Experiment Station started a grass- control of insects and diseases, brush and weed
breeding program. eradication, and other related problems.
Shortly afterward studies on chromosome num- More research workers trained in pasture and
bers in grasses and studies on fertility were under- forage crops are very much needed on the staffs of
taken by the Federal Experiment Station at Maya- the agricultural research agencies in Puerto Rico.
gtiez. Experiments were also started with legumes Usually the pasture and forage crop research has
to determine nitrogen fixation and forage yield on been left to veterinary or livestock specialists or
different soil types, and tests were initiated on to agronomists without the proper training for
legume palatability and toxicity. The most re- this special type of work. As a result there has
cent study started at the Federal Station concerns been a lack of interest in, or knoweldge of, proce-
the various diseases affecting the most important dure to develop research on native pastures. The
forage grasses. basic responsibility for pasture and forage re-
The Bureau of Plant Industry and the Soil Con- search in Puerto Rico should rest with the local
servation Service in cooperation with the Puerto Experiment Station and that agency should be
Rican Experiment Station are carrying out studies in position to exert its leadership through special-
relating to the establishment, management, and ists who are well trained in this kind of work.
fertilization of various kudzu-grass mixtures in Results obtained through research should be
the mountain regions. tested cooperatively by representative farmers
While the research already undertaken in Puerto working with agricultural extension agents as well
Rico represents a start in building up the basic as with representatives of other Puerto Rican and
information needed for developing the economic Federal agricultural agencies, such as the Soil
potential of the island's grasslands, the work is not Conservation Service, Farmers Home Administra-
geared to the kind of broad development that tion, Land Authority, Production and Marketing
should take place over the next few years. The Administration, and others. Steps should be
need now is for a wide frontal approach to the taken to establish close working relationships
grasslands problem. Research should be fitted in among workers in the fields of research, education,
so that it is part of an overall program for grass- extension, and other services so that farmers may
UTILIZING GRASSLAND RESOURCES 135
receive more effective help in grasslands improve- nutrition. Their work should be in close associa-
ment. tion with other agricultural workers, especially
A vigorous educational program is needed to those in the extension and research fields concerned
focus the attention of farmers on the economic with problems relating to the utilization of grass-
potential of their grasslands and to help them lands. Representatives of credit agencies also
apply measures that will increase pasture and need to be reached, so that they will understand
forage production and effectively utilize the total the advantages of making loans to farmers for
output for livestock feeding. The Extension improving the use of their grasslands by establish-
Service should have the primary responsibility for ing improved pastures and increasing livestock
leadership in the educational work, but it needs production.
the cooperation of all other agencies in teaching In order to show farmers what can be accom-
farmers how to make the best use of their grass- plished through grasslands improvement and good
land resources. pasture management, a number of demonstrations
The extension personnel assigned to work on should be established on farms in the different
grassland problems has been wholly inadequate parts of the island. Farms cooperating in carry-
for Puerto Rico. So far there is only one specialist ing on a demonstration project should be typical
who spends any time on pastures and he works of the local area with respect to size, general topog-
in three different fields—bees, hogs, and pastures. raphy, soil, and other conditions characteristic
Naturally, one-third of a specialist's time on pas- of the locality. These demonstrations will pro-
tures is not sufficient for adequate attention to all vide concrete examples that will serve as a guide
of the educational and advisory work that needs to other farmers in the community. In addition,
to be done in this important field. Certainly, if farm youth enrolled in 4-H Club work and in
pasture improvement and effective grasslands vocational agricultural courses should be en-
utilization are to be achieved in any reasonable couraged to participate in grasslands improve-
ment and pasture management projects. The
time, it is obvious that the Extension Service needs
possibilities of grassland improvement and pas-
trained personnel to devote full time working
ture management on farms owned by the Puerto
with farmers on grasslands problems. This can- Rican Government should not be overlooked for
not be left to workers in other fields. demonstration purposes. Agricultural agents and
The agronomic aspects of forage production and technical advisors concerned with pasture and
pasture management should be handled by special- forage problems need to gain the confidence and
ists who are trained in soil fertility, soil conserva- cooperation of farmers in more effective grass-
tion, cropping practices, and forage-crop produc- lands utilization. Demonstrations, group discus-
tion. They should understand the relationship sions, and field days for farmers are important in
between good forage and pastures and animal this respect.
Chapter VIII

Developing New Land by Reclamation


Puerto Bico has had to focus more and more sideration must be recognized from the outset of
attention on reclamation as a possible means of planning. It is a factor that greatly restricts the
expanding the total land area available for agri- amount of land that can or should be reclaimed
cultural production. Beginning in the latter part in Puerto Eico.
of the last century, when the population pressure Even where reclamation may be economically
against limited natural resources already was feasible on the island, the question well may be
great, the Spaniards started reclaiming land along raised as to whether it should be undertaken so
the south coast by irrigation. During the first long as such a large proportion of the agricultural
decade after Puerto Eico came under United land already available is not being fully utilized
States sovereignty, initial steps were taken by the because of improper cropping, neglect, or other
local Government to establish a public irrigation reason. More effective use and improved manage-
system on the basis of the earlier start that had ment of the existing land, greater diversification
been made in that coastal area by private land- of agricultural production, and the application of
owners. This system now includes more than 50,- good farming practices, including use of larger
000 acres of highly productive soils which are be- amounts of fertilizer and better seed, will do far
ing profitably irrigated on the south coast and more to meet the basic needs of the economy of
about 9,000 acres in the northwestern part of the Puerto Eico than will any development of new
island. Additional acres have been brought into land areas.
productive use by reclaiming some salty and wet Nevertheless, in certain parts of the island there
lands which otherwise would have remained idle. are lands that could be improved by reclamation
But the need for still more land grows and grows and made more productive and of greater benefit
as the population continues to expand sharply and to the whole economy. It is important to make
further intensifies the already acute problem of too sure that such development will result in a net in-
many people on too little land. And so now, crease in agricultural production for the island.
greater attention is being focused on reclamation Otherwise there will be a shift in production from
as a means of bringing more land into condition for land now in use to the newly developed lands, thus
productive use. Under present circumstances, leaving the older land virtually idle or producing
however, reclaiming land for agricultural use is below its capacity. There is no net gain for the
expensive, and, the costs have to be carefully economy in such a situation even though reclama-
weighed against the possible benefits, both public tion has made additional land available for crop-
and private, that may be derived from any such ping.
undertaking. Altogether, there are about 159,900 acres in
Because reclamation is costly, the Puerto Bican Puerto Eico that may be reclaimed (table 33).
Government cannot afford to spend any of its Some of this land is already in the process of
limited funds on a project without first being reclamation. The biggest part, however, remains
certain that doing so will return to the economy for future study and includes about 40,000 acres
more than the cost involved. This practical con- of submerged lands around the seacoast. If all
137
138 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

EXISTING AND PROPOSED RECLAMATION AREAS IN PUERTO RICO


67° 66°

S£9k£9ii|P/$> IRRIGATION SERVICE


TIBURONES DRAI
AGE (5 600

Existing irrigation system 4|||||||H|||| Drainage project under construction

Irrigation project under construction 5^|||] Proposed drainage project


Proposed irrigation project 6§S} Reclamation by drainage to be studied
7 ——— Submerged land along the coast to a maximum

67°

A considerable amount of land in Puerto Rico has already been reclaimed by irrigation and drainage and work is underway to improve
additional areas and make them more productive.

of the area except the submerged lands were re- reclaim a total of about 35,780 acres. This in-
claimed, the total cropland actually available for cludes 5,600 acres to be drained in the Tiburones
agriculture on the island would be increased area, 4,180 acres to be drained in the Loiza-Rio
nearly 10 percent. Grande area, and 26,000 acres to be irrigated and
Work is under way by the Puerto Rico Water drained in the Lajas Valley. The reclamation of
Resources Authority and the Land Authority to about 4,800 acres of dry land in the Coamo area
and about 1,200 acres in the La Regadera swampy
Table 33.—Possible reclamation areas in area has been studied. Also, a study has been
Puerto Rico made of the method of reclaiming about 10,481
acres of salty land in the Lajas Valley which
Area Method of reclamation Acres would be in addition to the land to be irrigated
and drained there.
South coastal plain:
Lajas _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Irrigation and drainage _ 26, 000 Tiburones Drainage Project
Salt leaching with ir- 10, 481
rigation and gypsum. The Tiburones drainage project is in one of the
Coamo_ Irrigation- _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 4,800
Other__ Salt leaching with ir- 26, 619 largest swamp areas of the island. It is located
rigation and gypsum. in the municipalities of Arecibo and Barceloneta
Poorly drained soils Pumping and/or irriga- 52, 028
elsewhere through-
1
tion. along the north coast. The elevation of this area
out the island.
Submerged coastal Pumping and drainage- 40, 000 is low, being mostly from 16 to 40 inches above
areas. mean sea level. The high tide, and the slowness
159, 928 of drainage due to the extremely low grades and
long flow^ distances, make satisfactory drainage
1
An additional 6,784 acres is included in the 26,619 acres listed as "other"
under the south coastal plain item. by gravity impossible. This drainage problem is
DEVELOPING NEW LAND BY RECLAMATION 139
made more difficult by the frequent blocking of around 35 tons of sugarcane per acre, or a total
the mouth of the Arecibo River because of sand of about 147,000 tons from the 4,200 acres.
bars piled up by wave action and by occasional Even though the drainage project has not yet
flooding of the lower river. Occasional overflows been completed, advantages are already being de-
from the Manati River and the runoff from the rived from the work done so far. Drainage has
surrounding watershed also contribute to the flood- been provided for about 200 acres of land in Monte
ing of the area. Grande, Santa Barbara, and Tiburones farms on
The conditions existing in the Cano Tiburones which the planting of sugarcane had been aban-
area indicate that the drainage project already doned because of the high water table. The com-
undertaken should satisfy four fundamental re- bined operation of the pumping station and the
quirements, namely: (1) Diversion, as far as pos- southwest canal lowered the water table in all the
sible, of the runoff from the higher lands; (2) adjacent lands and increased the acreage suitable
protection of the lowlands from the overflows of for sugarcane.
the Arecibo and Manati Rivers; (3) drainage by When the drainage project is completed, it will
gravity of the higher areas of the lowlands that also benefit a few hundred acres of adjoining
may be so drained; and (4) pumping of the drain- lowlands which are now cultivated with more or
age from the rest of the lowlands. It has been less difficulty and reduced efficiency because of
assumed that the water table should be kept nor- their low elevation and poor drainage. The drain-
mally 3 feet below the surface. age of these lands will be improved considerably
Studies for the drainage of the Tiburones area after the water table of Cano Tiburones is lowered.
were started in July 1945. Actual work on the Drainage of the Tiburones area will unques-
project, such as excavation of canals, construction tionably increase land values. The value of the
of dikes, bridges, pumping stations, etc., began in land without drainage is less than $15 per acre.
February 1949. A total of $1,500,000 was appro- The reclaimed lands are expected to have a market
priated for the project and up to the end of June value of $350 per acre. This increased value would
1951 expenditures totaled $864,810. be derived through an investment of about $270 per
Of the 5,600 acres in the Tiburones drainage acre to provide the drainage. In addition, the
project, 5,423 acres belong to the Land Authority drainage of these lowlands will reduce or eliminate
of Puerto Rico and the remainder is in the hands sources of malaria infection and help to improve
of private owners. In addition to its present public health.
holdings, the Land Authority is acquiring, either
by agreements or expropriation, a total of about Loiza-Rio Grande Drainage Project
1,300 acres of land in the same region. This addi- The Loiza-Rio Grande drainage project includes
tional area of land is distributed among 61 pri- the poorly drained soils located in the municipal-
vately owned farms bordering the swampy area. ities of C'anovanas and Rio Grande at the east of
The canals under construction are being excavated the Loiza River. Adequate drainage for this area
through these farms. of about 4,180 acres should satisfy the following
About 90 percent of the total area to be drained requirements: (1) Protection of lowlands from
overflow of the Loiza, Herrera, and Espiritu Santo
is swampland on which ferns, sedges, and cattails
Rivers, and the Lajas Brook; (2) diversion, as
make up the dominant vegetation. About 400
far as possible, of the runoff from the higher lands
acres of the land and about 75 percent of the addi- to prevent flooding of the lowlands; and (3)
tional area to be acquired by the Land Authority pumping of the drainage of the lowlands from
are planted to sugarcane and some minor crops. which drainage by gravity is not possible. The
In general, the soils in this area are fertile. Af- lowlands are to be protected from the overflows of
ter the drainage system is installed, the land will the rivers through repair of existing dikes and
be highly adapted to growing sugarcane. Of the construction of new ones.
5,600 acres, about 4,200 acres could be under culti- Studies for the drainage of the area started in
vation at any one time; the rest would be in fallow July 1948, and construction of the drainage works
or occupied by canals, ditches, and roads. It is began in October 1950. Up to the end of June
estimated that the reclaimed land would average 1951 a little over $50,000 had been spent out of an
140 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

estimated cost of $865,000 for the project. The in- is properly guided, it will open new employment
vestment per acre drained is expected to be around opportunities for additional thousands of work-
$235. ers, create new living space, encourage new indus-
Approximately half of the land in the drainage try and commerce, raise the general standard of
area is owned by the Land Authority, and the living throughout the area, and result in a more
remainder is privately owned. The Land Author- favorable balance in the general economy of the
ity purchased this land from the Fajardo Sugar island.
Growers Association in 1947, and is contemplating The Lajas Valley area covered by the reclama-
acquisition of the lowlands within the drainage tion project has 479 farmers who have all or part
area which are privately owned. of their farms in the actual area to be irrigated.
About 971 acres in the drainage area are planted These farmers control around 56,100 acres of land,
to sugarcane, and about 486 acres of the lowlands and this includes land which slopes out of the
are planted to sugarcane and are drained by a valley. Most of the land is owned in large blocks
pumping plant, with a capacity of 30,000 gallons by a few farmers. Six percent of the farmers with
per minute, installed by the Fajardo Sugar Grow- farms of 200 or more acres control around 80 per-
ers Association in 1928. cent of the land. The area in farms includes the
The actual area to be drained totals 3,573 acres. Land Authority's farm of 10,195 acres and the
Of this amount, about 2,680 acres could be under Puerto Rican Agricultural Experiment Station
sugarcane cultivation at one time, leaving the substation farm of 485 acres. Within the area
rest for fallow and for drainage canals and ditches. covered by the reclamation project, these farm-
The soils are fertile and it is estimated that sugar- ers along with the Puerto Rican Government own
cane yields on the reclaimed lands would average 27,172 acres. These farmers also control approxi-
around 35 tons per acre, producing (J4,000 addi- mately 36,900 acres of the land which slopes out
tional tons of cane. The drainage of these lands of the Lajas Valley. Those with farms over 200
would also reduce sources of malaria infection acres control 85 percent of this land.
and thus be of benefit to public health. The present pattern of agricultural production
in the Lajas Valley is based primarily on pasture
Lajas Valley Development Project and livestock, with sugarcane being the main crop
The most extensive multiple-purpose reclama- on land already under irrigation. A study made
tion project undertaken in some time in Puerto during the calendar year 1950 showed that of the
Rico is designed to develop a vast area of land in total of around 56,100 acres in and near the rec-
the Lajas Valley and thus open up what virtually lamation area, approximately 18,900 acres were
amounts to a new and important frontier for the cultivated and the remainder was in pasture. The
island. Designated as the Southwestern Puerto acreage under cultivation includes around 7,700
Rico Project by the Water Resources Authority, it acres already under irrigation. This land is
involves a complete development of water re- planted to sugarcane. Most of the land now irri-
sources for irrigation, power, and water supply, gated belongs to the Land Authority. The most
and includes necessary drainage. important crop is sugarcane, of which 10,313
The Lajas Valley proper, located in the south- acres were harvested and 281,000 tons produced in
western corner of the island, covers about 36,481 1950 with a value of around $2,500,000. Approx-
acres of land and has a mean annual rainfall of imately 12,200 of the 18,900 acres of land under
about 31 inches. About 26,000 acres of this land cultivation are in the total of 26,000 acres to be
will be under irrigation. The developmental proj- included as irrigated lands under the reclamation
ect presents a means of rehabilitating, adding to, project. The remaining land to be irrigated is
and preserving agricultural lands of great value. mostly in pasture.
The Lajas Valley is a naturally dry area and pro- The second most important crop of the Lajas
duction is greatly limited by the lack of water. Valley area is corn, 1,500 acres being harvested in
The irrigation and other features of the project 1950. The land to be irrigated produced around
will have a tremendous impact on that compara- 12,500 hundredweight of corn with a value of
tively sparsely populated area by providing the $70,900. Other less important crops were also
means for increasing production. If development harvested. Of the total value of all crops grown
DEVELOPING NEW LAND BY RECLAMATION 141
in 1950 on the lands to be irrigated it is estimated provided; the other half may be reclaimed with
that 96 percent was derived from sugarcane. The gypsum at the rate of 2 tons per acre.
cattle industry is of some significance to the Lajas The plan for the irrigation system provides for
Valley area and some poultry is raised. a main canal heading at the regulating reservoir
On the basis of the 1950 study, the total gross on Rio Loco, about 1 mile upstream from the
income for the 26,000 acres in the Lajas Valley to Yauco-Sabana Grande road crossing, and follow-
be irrigated is estimated at around $3,000,000. Of ing the right bank downstream some 5,000 feet
this amount, 82 percent came from crops, princi- to the northeast entrance of the Lajas Valley,
pally sugarcane, and the rest from livestock prod- thence, westward for a distance of about 25 miles
ucts, especially milk. along the north fringe of the valley, near the base
The lands of the Lajas Valley are mostly deep, of the hills, to Boqueron. The distribution system
fertile, alluvial soils that are benefited by irriga- will consist of various sized laterals branching out
tion, although some need drainage also. With to serve water to lands south of the main canal.
adequate supplies of water from irrigation, and A lateral will cross the valley with a low fill on
the necessary drainage, the area has the possibility the saddle and will irrigate lands on the south side
of becoming perhaps the best agricultural section of the valley. Irrigation canals and laterals on
on the island. the south coastal slopes will be supplied by pump-
While the Lajas Valley proper covers 36,481 ing the irrigation return water from the main
acres, no detailed study has been made to deter- drainage ditch.
mine the exact acres to be deducted from this total The drainage plan essentially provides for two
for other than cultivation. In general, such de- large capacity drainage canals following the low
ductions range from 10 to 20 percent, but in this portion of the valley profile. One canal will ex-
project deductions amounting to 33% percent tend from a point near the divide eastward for a
have been made. This large average deduction distance of about 14 miles, draining the Anegado
has been made arbitrarily because of two impor- and Guanica Lakes, and emptying into Guanica
tant considerations—assured acreage and assured Bay. Another canal will extend from a point near
water supply. the divide westward for a distance of about 5.7
The fresh water supply being brought to the miles, draining the Cartagena Lagoon and empty-
Lajas Valley for irrigation under the Southwest- ing into the Laguna Rincon, which opens into the
ern Puerto Rico Project will be sufficient in the ocean. Secondary drainage will be supplied by
average water year to irrigate 24,000 acres at a small drains located normal to and discharging
rate of 5 acre-feet per acre. Pumping the return into the main drainage canals. Draining the Car-
seepage is estimated to be sufficient to irrigate an tagena Lagoon would be detrimental to the many
kinds of birds and waterfowl found there. For
additional 2,000 acres. Therefore, in order con-
this reason, it should not be drained but rather
servatively to balance the water supply with the
developed as a wildlife refuge.
lands to be irrigated, it was found that the acreage The over-all capital investment in the South-
may be limited by the water supply that is avail- western Puerto Rico Project is estimated, as of
able. On this basis, the total acreage to be irri- July 1, 1950, at $26,789,000. For purposes of
gated is placed at 26,000 acres. constructing and financing, this multiple-purpose
In the future, if it is found that additional project is divided into two main parts. The first
water can be made available through a larger part consists of the power and water source fea-
amount of return seepage than estimated, or by ture, including all facilities from the headwater
some possible extensions of the water source areas, reservoirs through power plant No. 2. The sec-
and there are more good lands than now estimated ond part includes the Rio Loco Dam and Reservoir
as forming the net area for cultivation, then the and the irrigation distribution system and this is
irrigation district may be considerably increased. to be financed by the Puerto Rican Government at
For example, there are 10,481 acres of salty land an estimated cost of $6,307,000. The cost of con-
in the Lajas Valley. About half of this acreage structing the first part, the power and water source
may be reclaimed by washing the salts with 5 acre- feature, is estimated at $20,482,000. Of this
feet of good fresh water if adequate drainage is amount, $11,704,000 is allocated to the power as-
142 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

pects of the project and is to be financed by the economic activity that takes place in the Lajas
Water Resources Authority. The remaining Valley as the result of irrigation will represent a
$8,778,000 is allocated to that portion of the water net increase to the total economy of the island.
source phase which provides water for irrigation It is for this reason that the Puerto Rican Gov-
purposes, and this amount is determined to be ernment should give immediate attention to the
the Government's share of the cost of the first kind of agriculture that is to develop in the Lajas
part of the project. Valley. From past experience in the agriculture
Therefore, the cost of the irrigation feature of of Puerto Rico, the economy of the island cannot
the Southwestern Puerto Rico Project is estimated afford a policy of drift in connection with this im-
at $8,778,000 for the development of the water portant project.
source for irrigation, plus $6,307,000 for the de- As the situation now stands, it is quite certain
velopment of the irrigation system, or a total of that if nothing is done to guide the course of agri-
$15,085,000. Since 26,000 acres of land are to be cultural development on the land to be irrigated in
irrigated, the cost of the irrigation part of the the Lajas Valley, practically all of this land will
project is equivalent to around $580 per acre. be planted to sugarcane. That would be most ex-
The total cost to reclaim an additional 5,000 pedient from the standpoint of the individual
acres of salty land with fresh water and drainage grower, and almost automatic. But if this hap-
is estimated at $340,000, or $68 per acre. Another pens, and with the marketing quotas under the
5,000 acres of salty land requiring also gypsum Sugar Act still in effect, it will merely mean a shift
could be reclaimed at an estimated cost of $720,000, in sugarcone growing from one area to another.
or $144 per acre. Work in reclaiming these salty It is likely that the land on which the sugarcane
lands, however, should be deferred until after had been growing would not be utilized as effec-
the 26,000 acres are brought under irrigation in tively, and it even might be left virtually idle.
order to make sure that the developed water sup- Under such a circumstance, little will have been
ply is ample for all needs. gained for the economy by the expenditure of
On the basis of the plans and the progress being public funds to irrigate the Lajas Valley.
made, it will be at least 4 years before the entire Moreover, Lajas Valley land is not really need-
26,000 acres will have irrigation available. The ed for sugarcane production as long as the good
construction of the Yauco Dam was completed lands in other areas now producing sugarcane on
early in 1952. This dam has a storage capacity the island are capable of growing far more than
of 15,000 acre-feet, and will provide water to the 1952 record tonnage, irrespective of the effect
irrigate about 6,000 acres. The tunnel from the of the sugar marketing quota. The 1952 acreage,
Yauco Dam to Rio Loco was also finished early for example, could be pared down by at least 25
in 1952. percent and still, by improved cultural practices
The studies for the location of the irrigation (including use of considerably more nitrogen and
channels, including the design of the structures, improved varieties of cane) on about 300,000 acres
have been completed. With the necessary funds of the good lands now growing sugarcane, the is-
from the Puerto Rican Government made avail- land could grow as much and even more than the
able on time, it is estimated that the irrigation total already being produced. And this great vol-
system can be completed by the end of 1954 or
ume of sugarcane from a smaller acreage would be
shortly thereafter. In 1955 when the water from
grown more economically, on the average, than
the northern side of the mountain range is col-
lected and diverted, there is expected to be enough is now the case. So the problem in Puerto Rico is
water to irrigate 25,000 acres. not one that requires more land for sugarcane.
The pattern of agricultural production that is Rather, it is a problem that calls for greater pro-
to develop in the Lajas Valley after the necessary duction on fewer acres and the release of extra
irrigation and drainage systems are installed is a land from sugarcane growing for additional pro-
matter of public interest in view of the large ex- ductive uses so as to encourage greater diversifi-
penditure of public funds that is involved in this cation of agriculture and improved land use with-
project. The public has a right to expect that the out any impairment but with benefit to the sugar
higher level of agricultural production and other industry as well as to the rest of the economy.
143

This general view shows a portion of the Lajas Valley, a naturally dry and fertile area, which is being improved by irrigation and drain-
age under a governmental reclamation project. When work is completed 26,000 acres will have irrigation available. What the
future pattern of agriculture will be in the Lajas Valley hinges largely on what the Puerto Rican Government may do to help guide
its development.

With the development of irrigation, the Lajas specific crops, best varieties, agronomic and cul-
Valley becomes ideal for diversified farming and tural requirements, and attainable yields in the
in such a production pattern some sugarcane Lajas Valley must first be available since farmers
could be included to provide one of the cash crops. will not and should not undertake risky experi-
The types of soil found there are suited to a wide ments which they cannot afford. As much as pos-
range of crops, and the fertility of the land assures sible of the information required should be in
high productivity under irrigation. Furthermore, hand and ready for farmers as soon as the Lajas
the very limited rainfall in the area creates an al- Valley project nears completion but before the
most perfect situation for the control of diseases producers start thinking about their cropping
and insects. Sprays or dusts may be applied to a plans.
crop without too much fear of the materials being The store of knowledge needed as a basis for
washed away by the next rain before they have agricultural diversification in the Lajas Valley
had a chance to do their effective work. Altogeth- under the entirely new conditions that will prevail
er, the conditions are such that crop growth vir- there with irrigation and drainage, must be devel-
tually can be regulated by the will of the farmer. oped by the Puerto Rican Government. The basic
There are but few areas in the world where the responsibility for such work should rest with the
combination of factors so favorable for crop pro- Puerto Rican Experiment Station, and that agency
duction exist as in the Lajas Valley. will need all the cooperation and help it can get
But the development of a pattern of agricul- from many other sources, both local and Federal,
tural production for an area cannot proceed on in order to accomplish what is required within
theory alone. Basic information in regard to the the time limit that must be faced. The Experi-
144 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

ment Station will require funds and facilities for grown under irrigation in the Lajas Valley should
this important assignment, and the actual tests do very well. Diversification should also include
with crops will have to be made right in the area. grain crops such as high-yielding hybrid corn and
Fortunately, the Experiment Station already sorghums for livestock and poultry feeding and
has a good farm which is the Lajas Substation, and commercial sale on the island. With grain avail-
the Land Authority has some land already being able, a substantial poultry and egg industry could
irrigated in the Lajas Valley. As much as neces- be developed in the region. The pattern of agri-
sary of all of these agricultural landholdings cultural production in the Lajas Valley area should
should be made available for the practical studies include improved pasture, silage, and soilage
that must be conducted. crops, even in crop rotations on irrigated lands, to
In essence, this amounts to establishing a pilot support a healthy dairy industry. More swine
farm in the Lajas Valley area that will be con- could also be produced by utilizing local sources
cerned with the adaptation and economic produc- of feed. Many other crops should be given con-
tion of commercial crops under irrigation and sideration, including commercial production of
mechanization. Since a considerable amount of paddy rice, pineapple, bananas, citrus, and other
land in the area, mostly the surrounding foothills fruits so as to make the fullest use of the total land
and slopes, will not be under irrigation, attention resources of the area with and without irrigation.
should also be given to dryland farming problems Belated to the problems raised by the pattern of
of the region so that the uses made of irrigated agriculture that should be encouraged in the Lajas
and nonirrigated lands will result in an agricul- Valley is the question of the kind of farm tenancy
tural balance that will be most productive. that should prevail in that area. At present, most
In considering the kinds of crops that may be of the land is in the hands of a few large owners.
produced under irrigation in the Lajas Valley, From the standpoint of the economy as a whole,
the possibility of establishing a commercial vege- and in view of the large investment of public funds
table industry similar to that which exists in the to develop the area by irrigation, drainage, and
southern part of Florida should be thoroughly other means, some change in the farm ownership
explored. This could provide products for con- pattern now existing in the Lajas Valley would be
tinuous fresh market sale on the island and for desirable. If a diversified agricultural industry is
shipment to the States during certain late fall and to be established in that area, then family-type
winter months, as well as provide vegetables for farms should prevail. There is ample experience
local canning and other processing for consump- on the island and elsewhere to show that family-
tion on the island. type farms are best for this purpose. The family-
With a good volume of production concentrated type farms established by the Farmers Home Ad-
in such an area and adequate organization among ministration provide a good illustration of the ex-
the growers, it would be possible to have central tent to which production can be increased com-
facilities for properly preparing the vegetables for pared with what these same lands produced when
fresh market shipment and for processing. This managed as part of a large plantations.
important feature and the unusual control that The Puerto Rican Government should acquire
would be possible over growing conditions would by purchase the land in the Lajas Valley and di-
give rise to some outstanding advantages not now vide this land into family-type farms in a sys-
found in any other section of the island. And tematic layout. The number of acres that should
certainly, with the kind and quality of vegetables be contained in each farm would depend on
that could be marketed from the Lajas Valley, the whether all or part of the land included is irri-
per-acre returns would exceed those from sugar- gated. In any event, great care must be taken to
cane besides providing more continuous employ- make sure that the acreage provided in a family-
ment for a greater number of workers. type farm represents a sound economic unit.
Additional crops that should bo explored in- Under the conditions that probably would prevail,
clude long-staple cotton of varieties superior to it would seem that family-type farms should have
those now grown on the island. Cotton is now perhaps 30 acres of irrigated land or possibly more
produced in Puerto Eico on nonirrigated lands depending upon what the particular farm is to
and the yields are low. The right kind of cotton produce. In family-type farms that would be
DEVELOPING NEW LAND BY RECLAMATION 145
partially served by irrigation, the size probably the owner if desired by making payments from
should be determined by establishing a ratio of surplus farm income. It would have no relation
three acres of nonirrigated land to one acre of ir- to payments for irrigation water. This lien, which
rigated. Thus if one farm layout has only 25 acres would represent the enhanced values of the land,
of irrigated land and it should have the equivalent would remain (unless or until retired) the prop-
of 30 irrigated acres, there should be added to it erty of the Puerto Eican Government. It would
15 acres of adjoining nonirrigated land in order be a real value and asset to the island whether in
to make up for the 5-acre deficiency in irrigated the nature of a joint ownership of the land, or
land. of revenue resulting from the retirement of the
In order for the Puerto Eican Government to lien.
buy the Lajas Valley land for subsequent division If the Lajas Valley land is acquired by the
into family-type farms, some basis of land ap- Government, the responsibility for dividing this
praisal would have to be followed. A reasonable land into family-type farm units should rest with
approach would be to base the appraisals on the the Puerto Rican Department of Agriculture since
average value of $150 per cuerda (0.9712 acre) that agency also administers the land law, especi-
which was paid by the Land Authority for land ally title VI which concerns farm settlement.
in the Lajas Valley purchased from Eussel & However, this Department should enter into a
Co. This is considered as representing a fair mar- working agreement with the Farmers Home Ad-
ket value for the land that was acquired. The ministration so that the resources, experience and
total bought amounted to 10,400 cuerdas which the valuable assistance of the Federal agency may
included 5,572 cuerdas of poor agricultural land be enlisted in establishing family-type farms that
and the Guanica Lagoon, the value of the land will prove successful. In dividing the land, pro-
suitable for irrigation being estimated at $276.75 vision should be made to preserve the family-
per cuerda. If the cost of developing the irriga- farm pattern by safeguarding against the subdi-
tion project is added to the estimated average mar- vision or consolidation of holdings at some future
ket value of the land in the Lajas Valley, the aver- time. This may be done through a stipulation in
age value of land in the whole area increases so each deed which would prohibit subdivision of a
that a 30-acre family-type farm might require an family-type farm, and would permit all or any
investment ranging from around $20,000 to $25,- part of an individual farm in the area to be con-
000 for the land alone, depending upon whether solidated only if this is first approved by the ap-
the entire farm was under irrigation and other propriate agency of the Puerto Eican Govern-
factors. ment from which title to the land was originally
Another procedure that the Puerto Rican Gov- obtained by the initial purchaser.
ernment might follow in purchasing land in the The Puerto Rican Government could finance its
Lajas Valley is to have an official board of ap- purchase of all the land necessary in the Lajas
praisers determine all land values in the area at Valley area for subsequent division into family-
price levels corresponding to present conditions type farms. However, it is not in position to keep
but without reflecting any increase in values due these funds tied up in the mortgages that would
to the proposed irrigation and drainage improve- be required to finance family-type farm owner-
ments, and without adding any speculative values ship. The farm purchase loans would have to be
based on anticipation of future improvements. made by some lending agencies, such as private
Coupled with this there would have to be legisla- banks and governmental credit organizations.
tive action to impose a lien on each tract of land The Farmers Home Administration could, in all
benefited by the improvements; the amount of the probability, do the necessary financing of family-
lien to be in direct proportion to the difference in type farm purchases in the Lajas Valley after the
value of the land before and after the drainage irrigation project is completed. However, in view
and irrigation facilities are provided, this en- of the large amount of money required, arrange-
hancement value to be determined by the official ments would have to be made to interest private
board of appraisers. There would be no interest lenders such as banks and insurance companies in
charges and no requirement for retiring the lien making the loans which would be fully insured
at any specified time, but it could be retired by and in every way serviced by the Farmers Home
146 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Administration. This should be an attractive in- The La Regadera drainage project covers the
vestment for these private lending agencies since swampy area called "La Regadera" which is lo-
the loans would not only be insured, and therefore cated in the municipalities of Vega Baja, Vega
safe, but they would also help advance the economy Alta, and Dorado. It consists of about 1,200 acres,
of the island to the benefit of all business. Of of which 1,150 acres belong to the Pueblo del Nina
course, in addition to a loan for purchasing a fam- (Boy's Town) institution. Since the swampy area
ily-type farm, the owner probably would also lies at an elevation of about two meters above sea
need credit for equipping the place and also to level, the system that is proposed would provide
finance production. Various loan agencies, includ- drainage by gravity. The whole area for which
ing private banks, the Farmers Home Adminis- drainage is contemplated is swampland on which
tration, and the Production Credit Association in cattails and sedges are the most noticeable kinds
Puerto Eico, extend this form of credit. of vegetation. The soils are rather fertile.
The success of the family-type farms in the The LaRegadera project would involve an esti-
Lajas Valley area will depend not only on the mated cost of $156,000, or $130 per acre for the
availability of credit, but also on the amount of drainage. The studies and investigations for this
self-help that these farmers are able to develop project were started in February 1951 and by the
both through individual and combined effort. Co- end of June 1951 they were 80 percent completed
operatives can be of great assistance in such a at a cost of slightly over $3,600.
situation and they should be encouraged. Central When the excavation of the necessary canals
facilities for packing, processing, and marketing and building of the miscellaneous structures are
products that would be produced on the farms of finished, the reclaimed land will be ready for use.
the area could very well be provided by coopera- The soils are suitable for sugarcane and there are
tive action. also some soils adapted for the production of pine-
Another valuable organization would be a farm apples and citrus. The Land Authority intends
machinery and service cooperative that would to subdivide the reclaimed area into proportional
make it unnecessary for the individual farmers to benefit farms for the growing of sugarcane. The
invest large amounts of money in heavy agricul- acreage to be planted in cane in the reclaimed area
tural machinery and expensive equipment. The will permit the Land Authority to reduce sugar-
cooperative, for example, would have the heavy cane production on other lands which could then
tractors needed for plowing and would be able to be planted to pineapples. The La Regadera
meet the high cost of spraying or dusting ma- drainage project should be completed as soon as
chines, and could provide both the equipment and possible in order to enable the Land Authority to
the operators on a fee basis to cover actual cost. carry out its plans for the use of the land that will
In this way, the high overhead of owning costly become available.
farm machinery and equipment could be held The Coamo irrigation project, which would be
down, and the operating expense would be lower just above lands now irrigated on the south coast,
since the machinery and equipment would be given proposes to irrigate an area located in the munici-
many more hours of use than if owned on a single palities of Coamo, Juana Diaz, and Santa Isabel.
family-type farm. The individual farmer would, It also includes some development of power out of
of course, have to purchase for himself all of the the source that would supply water for irrigation.
other lighter machinery and equipment needed on While the whole area consists of 15,900 acres, only
his farm, including probably a small or medium about one-third can be readily irrigated.
size tractor for cultivating crops and doing other The mean annual precipitation in this area is
work around the place. very low, only about 37 inches. The drier period
extends from December to April, inclusive. The
La Regadera and Coamo Projects underground water supply is very deficient, and
About 6,000 acres are involved in two land de- most efforts to obtain water from wells have failed.
velopment projects which as yet have not gone The average flow of water that would be available
beyond the study stage. These are the La Rega- for irrigation from distant sources of supply is
dera drainage project and the Coamo irrigation estimated at 27,350 acre-feet per year, or 37.7 cubic
project. feet per second. Assuming the duty of water at
DEVELOPING NEW LAND BY RECLAMATION 147

5 acre-feet (net) per year, after deducting 12 per- cows. The milch cows average only around 2.8
cent for conveyance losses, the flow is estimated quarts of milk a day, and the annual output of
to be sufficient for the irrigation of 4,800 acres of milk is valued at $135,000. The production of
land. other animals and animal products is estimated
There are 4,431 acres of fertile land with a mean at around $60,000 a year. Some poultry is kept in
slope of 8 percent suitable for irrigation. This the area, there being about 5,900 chickens.
area may be extended to 7,025 acres if some ad- With irrigation, the income from both crops
joining land suitable for pumping could be in- and livestock could be increased. The irrigated
cluded in the proposed irrigation district. Fur- land could produce sugarcane, vegetables, soilage
ther studies may add nearly 1,000 acres more if and silage crops, millet, and various crops for
they are found suitable for irrigation. But engi- feed. Crop value would probably be increased to
neering surveys already made indicate that there li/2 million dollars for the area that could be irri-
actually is sufficient water to supply only the 4,437 gated. Dairy cattle and other livestock would
acres of land fit for irrigation within the irriga- benefit by irrigation and the value of livestock
tion district proposed by the Water Resources Au- and livestock products would probably increase
thority. This does not include about 400 acres to $380,000. The lands outside of the irrigated
which could be irrigated by pumping. area could be used for such crops as possibly cotton,
The remaining lands, which total 11,063 acres, guineagrass, sesame, sunflower, improved pastures,
could not be irrigated either because of lack of and some fruits like papaya, avocado, and mango.
water or because they are unsuitable for reasons Livestock such as beef cattle and work oxen and
of topography, soils, or other limiting factors. poultry could also be kept on these lands outside
Most of these lands are not suitable for dry-land the irrigated area.
farming because they lack effective depth to store The capital outlay required for developing the
water from one season to another. engineering works, such as the water source and
Most of the land in the area of the proposed the necessary canals and ditches, is estimated at
Coamo irrigation project is held in large blocks. $8,073,000. Over $5,400,000 must be borne entirely
Of the 491 farms, 374 are about 3 acres or less in by the irrigation feature of the project, and the
size. These small farms make up 74 percent of rest of the capital required can be allotted to the
the total number of farms but they occupy only 2 power feature.
percent of the land in the region. About 13 per- Considering the fact that at best irrigation
cent of the area is occupied by 84 farms ranging in would be available for only 4,800 acres of land,
size from 3 to 70 acres, while the remaining 85 per- the share of the total cost of the project that would
cent of the total land area is occupied by only 33 have to be borne by the irrigation feature raises a
farms. About half of the land in these 33 farms serious question as to whether the proposed under-
is contained in 5 farms exceeding 500 acres in taking is economically sound. The repayment
size. Of the total number of farms in the area, ability of an irrigation system is contingent upon
54 percent of those larger than 70 acres, 47 percent
what the irrigator can afford to pay, and the rate
of the farms smaller than 70 acres and larger than
varies widely in different irrigation systems. The
3 acres, and 94 percent of the farms smaller than
principal factors influencing ability to pay are
3 acres are operated by their owners.
Because of lack of rainfall or other adequate (a) the type of crop to be irrigated (b) the crop
supplies of water, crop production in the area is yield and gross revenues, (c) the cost of producing
limited. Most of the land, 83 percent, is devoted the crop, (d) the consumptive use of water, (e)
to pasture, and 13 percent is in corn, with 4 percent the duty of water, and (f) the methods of financ-
growing minor crops, vegetables, sugarcane, and ing the project works. Many of these factors,
tobacco. The value of crops for a recent 12-month along with other minor considerations, are not
period was estimated at $107,960, of which $79,540 subject to ready or accurate evaluation because of
was attributed to the harvest of corn. the indeterminable elements which may have con-
The amount of land in pasture makes this a siderable economic influence. For instance, a
cattle area. The number of animals kept approxi- sharp drop in market returns from a crop or an
mates 3,400 head, of which about 2,300 are milch unpredictable change in the cost of production will
148 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

obviously affect the amount which the irrigator 4,800 acres brought under irrigation at a cost of
can afford to pay for irrigation water. around $1,125 per acre, the prospect of such a
The Public Irrigation Law, under which land balance is very doubtful. Despite the fact that the
already under irrigation in the south coast was land proposed for irrigation in the Coamo area
first developed, provides a maximum water tax of would be well suited for crop production, the fact
$15 per acre per year for the lands included in is that the cost of providing the water would be far
the irrigation district. Studies made in connec- too high. Present circumstances do not warrant
tion with the irrigation feature of the South- the Puerto Eican Government putting in the
western Puerto Rico Project indicate that the irri- amount of the subsidy that would be required.
gator can afford to pay $28.75 per acre per year on The proposed Coamo irrigation project should be
lands planted to sugarcane. This is based on a held in abeyance until such time as the cost can be
duty of water of 5 acre-feet per acre per year. brought into reasonable balance with the benefits
However, with other good lands already avail- that would be derived from irrigating these lands.
able to produce even more sugarcane than is now
being grown on the island, and with quota limi- Other Areas for Study
tations on the marketing of sugar, it is question- From the standpoint of meeting Puerto Eico's
able whether this crop should be produced on land future needs for more land, no opportunity should
that may come under irrigation in the Coamo be overlooked to reclaim areas that may be made
area. Yet, unless other crops that will result in more productive at a reasonable cost in relation
a high per acre return are grown on this land, to the possible benefits that may be derived. Al-
the irrigator's ability to pay for water may be together, there remain slightly over 107,200 acres
decreased. which should be studied for possible reclamation.
Taking into consideration all of the elements These include poorly drained soils, salty soils, and
that influence the economics of agriculture, it submerged land under the sea around the coast.
seems appropriate to consider a maximum water The area of land reclaimed by drainage in
tax of $20 per acre per year for the lands to be ir- Puerto Eico up to 1951 totaled slightly over 7,340
rigated in the Coamo area. On this basis, the esti- acres at a total cost of $484,776. The area of
mated gross annual revenue from the service of poorly drained soils which already has been
irrigation water would be $96,000 for the 4,800 studied is about 15,590 acres. A survey is needed
acres. The operation and maintenance of the irri- to determine the feasibility of reclaiming about
gation system is estimated to cost about $36,000 32,400 acres of poorly drained soils. These in-
per year, leaving a balance of $60,000 for the pay- clude soils in an area of about 5,000 acres in the
ment of fixed capital charges. Capitalizing this center of the Western Soil Conservation District
amount at 4 percent for amortization and interest just north of the Anasco Eiver, 5,000 acres both
charges gives a total of $1,500,000 which is the west and east of the Loiza Eiver, 400 acres of
estimated capital investment that could be repaid swamps at Colonia Santa Eita, Fajardo, 600 acres
from irrigation revenues. between Ceiba and Naguabo, and 2,000 acres at
Obviously, a substantial subsidy would be re- El Blandito, near Tortuguero, Vega Baja.
quired from the Puerto Eican Government in or- The 5,000 acres in the Afiasco Eiver area involve
der to operate the irrigation system proposed for a serious drainage problem which embraces all
the Coamo area. Out of the $8,073,000 total capital phases of conservation work. In this section
investment that the project would require, an esti- about 4,000 acres of valuable sugarcane lands are
mated $4,110,000 could be repaid from the tangible becoming less productive each year because of
benefits to be obtained from the irrigation and flooding and sedimentation from 1,000 acres of
power features. The balance of $3,913,000 would surrounding steep mountains. The mountains are
have to be supplied by the Government in the form almost without vegetation. All the topsoil has
of a subsidy and would have to be recovered from disappeared and the soils left are loose and very
the public through taxation. This would not be erosive. Each rain washes such large quantities of
too bad if the irrigation feature of the project re- soil and rocks down the slopes that it is impossible
sulted in benefits that at least equalled the cost of to keep open the poorly located and poorly con-
this subsidy. But in this particular case, with only structed drainage ditches on the cultivated flat-
DEVELOPING NEW LAND BY RECLAMATION 149
land. The main outlet for the drainage to the tion, especially where birds use them as feeding
sea is through artificial ditches and swamps which and breeding areas.
are constantly filled with soil. The mouth of this The Guanica Lagoon with an estimated area of
outlet is entirely blocked by sand deposited by 1,123 acres and the Cartagena Lagoon with 251
the sea. This whole area deserves early attention acres, a total of 1,374 acres, are scheduled to be
and treatment by reclamation and soil conserva- drained in connection with the Lajas Valley irri-
tion measures. gation and development project. Drainage of the
There are about 37,100 acres in Puerto Rico that Cartagena Lagoon would be especially detrimen-
have a salinity problem (table 34). Excluding tal to wildlife since that lagoon and the surround-
the 10,481 acres of salty land in the Lajas Valley ing area serve as the most important breeding
that have already been examined, about 26,619 ground for resident waterfowl and refuge for mi-
acres of salty land should be studied to determine grant water birds in all of Puerto Rico. This is
the possibilities of reclaiming them for agricul- definitely one area that should not be drained.
tural use. Instead, it should be further developed as a bird
refuge, preferably by the Puerto Rican Govern-
Table 34.—Area of saline soils in Puerto Rico that ment.
may be reclaimed Other lagoons that might be developed pri-
marily for real estate purposes are located in the
Soil series Location Acres northern part of the island along the seacoast.
These are the San Jose, Torrecilla, and Pinones
Cintrona__ _ Ponce to Santa Isabel 5, 120 lagoons which are to the north of Rio Piedras and
Serrano _ South Coast 9, 644
Teresa. Ponce to Aguirre 3, 968 Carolina, and cover 144, 78, and 30 acres, repec-
Ursula __ South Coast _ _ 1,088 tively, or a total of 252 acres. Engineering studies
Aquirre and Guanica Lajas Valley 10, 481
Do _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 4, 623 made by the Puerto Rico Transportation Author-
Guamani. ity place the cost of reclaiming these lagoons at
Fe__.___._____ __ North Central Aguirre 2, 176
an estimated $464,678, or $1,804 per acre. The real
Total._________ 37, 100 estate value of this land when reclaimed is esti-
mated at $10,000 an acre, or $2,520,000 for all of
The salty lands could be reclaimed by treatment the 252 acres for real estate purposes.
such as washing the salts out with fresh water Some time in the future Puerto Rico may be
where irrigation is available with proper drain- faced with the necessity of reclaiming those areas
age, or by applying gypsum. Most of these salty where it is not now economically feasible to do so.
lands have very fertile soils and are located in In any event, arrangements should be made and
areas where irrigation would be available for adequate funds provided by the Puerto Rican
growing crops on them. Government for a study that may well start soon
There are about 40,000 acres of land submerged to determine what portions of the areas that are
to a maximum depth of 15 feet along the coast of now poorly drained, salty, or submerged lands
Puerto Rico. This submerged area offers a chal- could be reclaimed and at what cost. Since spe-
lenge in view of the fact that such land has been cial equipment and experienced personnel are
reclaimed successfully in other countries where needed to collect soil samples from lands covered
land is scarce. For example, the Netherlands has by sea water, the Insular Government should enlist
extended by around 10 percent its cultivated area the cooperation of the Bureau of Reclamation of
by reclaiming land from the bottom of the Zuider the United States Department of the Interior in
Zee from depths of 20 feet or less. The agronomic, making a survey of the possibility of reclaiming
engineering, and economic phases of reclaiming agricultural land submerged in the shallow sea
the submerged coastal lands of Puerto Rico de- bottom around the coast of the island.
serve some study. In reclamation projects undertaken with public
Puerto Rico has several lagoons that could be funds to develop new land or provide irrigation
drained either for agricultural or real estate pur- water and drainage services that are publicly
poses. Drainage of some of these lagoons, how- financed, a problem of land speculation usually
ever, would be detrimental to wildlife preserva- appears as a result of the enhanced values arising
239284—53———11
150 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

from the anticipated or actual improvements. Government was seriously hampered by specula-
These increases represent more or less of a wind- tive transactions in lands to be brought under
fall to the landowners since they probably would irrigation or otherwise improved. This has since
not occur without the expenditure of public funds been overcome to a considerable extent by legisla-
for the particular project. That speculative tion that applies only to Federal reclamation
transactions in unimproved land may exist when projects.
irrigation is to be provided, is indicated by the If the publicly financed reclamation projects
experience of the Federal Reclamation Service undertaken by the Puerto Rican Government are
whose records disclose that on 25 projects aggre- to be protected against land speculation, it will be
gating 2,200,000 acres of land, the average increase necessary for Puerto Rico to have its own law for
in land values amounted to 750 percent. Some this purpose. The possibility of enacting such a
of the projects show increases up to 25 times the law should be given immediate attention, espe-
original land values. cially in view of the scope and importance of the
The values of unimproved lands in Puerto Rico Southwestern Puerto Rico Project which has
have also been increased by reclamation projects already been started to develop the lands of the
and the development of irrigation and drainage Lajas Valley. The land enhancement values to be
services that are publicly financed. The South- obtained by the development of those unimproved
western Puerto Rico Project, for example, had a lands which constitute the net acreage of the ir-
marked influence on land values in the area to be rigation district alone is estimated to amount to
developed even before actual work was started. more than 7 million dollars. Since the Puerto
It is possible that as the project nears completion
Rican Government is contributing to the develop-
some of the unimproved lands of the Lajas Valley
ment of the sources of water, and thus making, the
may increase from $20 to $600 per acre, or 30 times
irrigation project feasible, it follows that added
their value before the fact that the Puerto Rican
Government would undertake the project became values accruing from the land enhancement fea-
known. Where such a situation develops, it ture, so far as possible, should be returned to the
creates an unhealthy condition that could have a Government, irrespective of land ownership.
seriously adverse effect on the economics of the Certainly the public is entitled to this sort of pro-
project and may even lead to harmful inflationary tection ; otherwise it will have to bear a burden of
reaction throughout the project area. In early cost that results in the enrichment of a few at the
years the reclamation program of the Federal expense of many.
Chapter IX

Agricultural Credit and Finance


Sometime the established money-lending in- Only about 30 percent of the farmers of Puerto
stitutions in Puerto Rico will fully wake up to the Rico are able to obtain production credit from es-
fact that there is more to agriculture on the island tablished lending agencies at reasonable rates of
than the growing of sugarcane. When that hap- interest. About two-thirds of this volume of
pens they will realize what a large volume of good credit is supplied directly or indirectly by gov-
business has been either overlooked or neglected ernmental agencies, and the remainder is fur-
by them each year. Eight now these lenders— nished mostly by private banks. Another 30 per-
private banks and Government-sponsored agen- cent of the farmers obtain their production fi-
cies—are meeting less than half of the agricul- nancing from such sources as merchants and deal-
tural production credit needs of the island. The ers, and the terms on which this credit is made
big bulk of the credit that is available goes for the available generally are unreasonable. The re-
production of sugar. This situation exists even maining 40 percent of the farmers do not have
though the growing of sugarcane, as important credit available to them from existing sources.
as it is to the economy of Puerto Rico, supplies The lack of adequate credit has been tradition-
little more than half of the total value of farm ally one of the basic problems confronting the
production. And the great potential for further farmers of Puerto Rico. Credit for agricultural
increasing that total lies in improving and ex- production, processing, and marketing has been
panding the production of other crops and of deficient from the earliest days of the island's
livestock and livestock products. economic development even though some improve-
The lack of credit for almost any agricultural ment has taken place since the 1920's.
enterprise other than sugarcane has kept farmers
When the growing of sugarcane was being pro-
from expanding existing farm operations or en-
moted on the island during the 16th century, the
gaging in new production. For the most part, the
legitimate lending agencies have not been inter- Spanish Government encouraged development of
ested in financing any of these other enterprises, this crop by offering some monetary assistance for
largely because they knew more about the sugar its cultivation. The chief measure employed for
industry than they did about any other phase of stimulating expansion at that time, however, was
agriculture on the island. And lending money for the importation of slave labor. Credit was not
the production of cane was traditional business. available.
This long-standing lack of adequate sources of Early attempts to establish formal financial in-
credit has forced many farmers to obtain their stitutions started with the opening of an office by
financing from merchants through advances of the London Colonial Bank in 1850. This bank
goods and materials. It has tied them to dealer- supposedly discontinued business within 3 years.
lenders and sugar mills or centrals. Some farm- No records are available of its operations. Other
ers even have been driven into the hands of loan attempts were made around 1847 to get a formal
sharks. And the cost of credit from these sources banking institution established on the island, but
generally adds up to an inordinately high price. these met with failure because of the pressure of

151
152 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

prominent Spanish merchants who were the prin- attempt was made in 1929 when another resolution
cipal moneylenders at the time. was introduced, but it was not adopted.
Later, attempts to establish formal banking in-
stitutions resulted in the chartering of the "La Sources of Agricultural Financing
Sociedad Anonima de Credito Mercantil" in 1877. Up to 1921 the farmers of Puerto Eico de-
.This bank was the forerunner of the Spanish pended almost wholly on individual lenders and
Bank of Puerto Eico, established in 1888, and in merchants for their credit. The local banks dealt
1913 it became the Commercial Bank of Puerto mainly with commercial concerns and paid scant
Eico. Other banking institutions that opened attention to the credit needs of farmers. That
were the Banco Territorial y Agricola in 1894, year the United States Congress amended the Fed-
Banco Popular in 1894, and Credito y Ahorro eral Farm Loan Act to include Puerto Eico, thus
Ponceno in 1895. linking the island to the Federal agricultural
These banking institutions were, however, un- credit system which was started in 1916. This
able to supply credit to farmers. The sugarcane, authorization enabled the Federal Land Bank of
tobacco, and coffee growers had to resort to the Baltimore to establish an office in Puerto Eico in
financing offered by merchants who provided the October 1922. It brought to the island lower-cost
consumer goods needed by the farmers and their and longer-term financing for farmers who could
tenants. This later led to the financing of farmers qualify, and represented a very significant step
by traders in farm products. The loans were se- in meeting the acute credit situation for those en-
cured by liens on the crops and, in some cases, by gaged in agriculture.
mortgages on the farms. The grower was obliged From the time this office opened until the end
to deliver his products to the trader-lender. This of June 1951, a total of 7,361 loans amounting to
often gave rise to usurious interest rates and abuses $32,606,700 has been made in Puerto Eico. In
of the farmer. In many instances, foreclosure of addition, 1947 Land Bank Commissioner loans to-
these mortgages resulted in a shift of the land taled $4,843,300. At the end of December 1951,
from the hands of farmers to those of traders. the Federal Land Bank had outstanding in Puerto
Merchants in the interior of the island became Eico 2,900 loans totaling $13,143,557. Land Bank
owners of most of the best coffee farms in Puerto Commissioner loans outstanding at the same time
Eico. Tobacco dealers also gradually increased totaled 1,025 and amounted to $1,210,575. The
their farm holdings with the result that many of services and facilities originally provided by the
them became the leading producers of tobacco in Federal Land Bank on the island are now handled
the areas where they operated. The same was by the National Farm Loan Association of San
true to some extent of sugar centrals. Juan, organized in March 1950 following passage
In 1919, about 50 percent of the outstanding by Congress of an amendment to the Federal Farm
rural mortgage debt in Puerto Eico was owed to Loan Act.
The second governmental agricultural credit fa-
private individuals. Usually the amount of the
cility that became available in Puerto Eico was
loan was determined by the borrower's needs and
the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank of Balti-
the lender's willingness to offer the loan. No sci- more, w^hich established an office on the island in
entific appraisal of the property was made. In 1925. This brought rediscounting facilities for
many cases, the earning capacity of the farm was short- and intermediate-term agricultural loans
overestimated. In other cases, the terms of the made by commercial banks, production credit as-
loan were too short for repayment from the farm. sociations, and cooperatives. From 1925 to 1950
One of the early attempts to establish a bank discounts made by this bank totaled $152,945,731.
for serving agriculture was the passing of a law In 1934 the provisions of the Federal Farm
in 1913 providing for the establishment of a rural Credit Act of 1933 was extended to Puerto Eico
credit bank called the "Banco Insular de Puerto by the Congress. Under this legislation the Pro-
Eico." This bank was never organized in spite duction Credit Corporation of Baltimore started
of the fact that subsequent legislatures (in 1916 to set up production credit associations on the is-
and 1921) passed joint resolutions urging action land. Nine local associations were established to
in establishing this rural credit agency. The last make available to farmers short-term credit
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND FINANCE 153
through the rediscount-ing of their obligations able for farm purchases, extended loans for farm
with the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank. By production, and helped start and finance several
August 1935, these nine associations were consoli- cooperatives. The program of this agency was
dated into one, the Puerto Eico Production Credit halted in 1941, and since then it has been in liqui-
Association. This association has been a major dation, with around 4 million dollars still to be
factor in awakening local commercial banks to the collected as of the beginning of 1951. Of this
fact that certain types of short-term agricultural amount, somewhat less than 3 million dollars was
credit constitute sound lending. Without doubt owed by cooperatives.
it has had a big influence in the improvement of In March of 1935, a regional office of the Farm
credit for sugarcane growers. Many farmers who Credit Administration's Emergency Crop and
previously obtained their production credit from Feed Loan Office was opened in Puerto Eico. The
sugar centrals now rely on this association which purpose was to make credit available to low-income
is owned and controlled by the farmers themselves. farmers of the island who were not eligible for
The volume of loans handled by the Puerto Eico loans from the Production Credit Association or
Production Credit Association recently has ranged other sources at reasonable rates of interest. This
between 8 million and slightly over 10 million dol- agency was abolished in November 1946, and its
lars annually. In the 5-year period 1946-47 functions were taken over by the Farmers Home
through 1950-51, this association lent approxi- Administration. From March 1935 to November
mately $46,877,400, or slightly more than $9,375,- 1946, the Emergency Crop and Feed Loan Office
000 on an average of about 1,525 loans annually. made 50,499 loans amounting to $12,656,740. Its
Of the total amount of money supplied during collection record was good. Of the loans made,
this 5-year period, 89.5 percent was in loans for 6,756 totaling $3,078,963 were for coffee produc-
sugarcane production, 2.25 percent for coffee, 5.5 tion, 17,664 totaling $5,268,477 for sugarcane
percent for tobacco, 2 percent for livestock pro- growing, 23,816 totaling $3,427,025 for tobacco
duction, and 0.75 percent for other crops. production, and 2,460 loans amounting to $882,-
The Puerto Eico Production Credit Associa- 275 were for miscellaneous crops.
tion has since its organization and up to the end The Farmers Home Administration came into
of July 1951 made loans aggregating slightly more existence in August of 1946 when Congress abol-
than $83,451,000, and has sustained losses of only ished the Farm Security Administration and the
about $2,000 in this entire period. This is a rec- Emergency Crop and Feed Loan Office and trans-
ord worthy of the attention of the most conserva- ferred all the assets, funds, contracts, property,
tive lenders. records, and all liabilities of these two agencies
Also in 1934, the Baltimore Bank for Cooper- to this new agency. The Farm Security Admin-
atives opened an office in Puerto Eico, bringing istration had been actively operating in Puerto
to the island an important source of credit to Eico since 1941, providing credit and other assist-
farmer cooperative associations. This made ance to low-income farm families. Up to October
available to cooperatives loans for operating cap- 1946, it had lent $6,194,413 to these farm people.
ital, commodity loans, and facility loans. Up to When the work of the Farm Security Adminis-
the end of June 1951, the Bank for Cooperatives tration and the Emergency Crop and Feed Loan
had made net commitments exceeding $36,125,000, Office was turned over to the Farmers Home Ad-
made advances totaling $33,510,000, received re- ministration, this new agency was to continue to
payments and credits totaling a little more than provide the services in Puerto Eico that had been
$32,239,000, and had current loans outstanding of received by a combined total of more than 20,000
slightly over $1,270,000. low-income farm families.
Another Federal agency, the Puerto Eico Ee- The aim of the Farmers Home Administration
construction Administration, was established on is to provide supervised credit to eligible farmers
the island in 1935. While this was an emergency for the acquisition, development, and operation of
agency for the reconstruction of the island follow- their farms when such credit is not available in
ing the disastrous effects of the 1932 depression, the community on reasonable terms. Field super-
it exerted an influence on the agricultural economy visors of the agency work closely with the borrow-
in various ways. This agency made credit avail- ers so as to help farm families become established
154 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Small farms dot the Puerto Rican landscape. Many of them have so little land that their operators require additional employment.
For all these small producers getting enough credit to grow a crop is a real problem.

on a basis that will allow them to make more ef- who cannot obtain from other established local
fective use of their land and their labor. The sources credit necessary to continue farming.
supervisors assist borrowers in developing sound Under the operating-loan program, production
farm-and-home management plans. These chart and subsistence loans are made to farm operators
the course along which the individual farm is to for the purchase of livestock, equipment and farm
be operated and set the goals that are to be supplies, for farm and home operating expenses,
achieved. The supervisors also provide on-the- for land improvement and the adoption of agri-
farm guidance. Borrowers are encouraged to cultural conservation practices. Repayment
adopt farming practices aimed at increased ef- schedules are generally consistent with expected
ficiency and a better utilization and conservation income. Operating loans cannot exceed $7,000,
of land resources. In this connection, borrowers with a ceiling of $10,000 on the indebtedness out-
are stimulated to produce the highest amounts of standing at any one time. The maximum repay-
subsistence crops for home use that can be pro- ment period for such loans is 7 years.
duced without affecting their commercial cash Most of the production and subsistence loans
enterprises. made to farmers in Puerto Rico are relatively
Four credit programs are carried on by the small. In 1948-49, there were a total of 4,089 op-
Farmers Home Administration. These are the erating loans made by the Farmers Home Admin-
operating-loan program, the farm ownership pro- istration on the island and these amounted to $1,-
gram, the insured farm mortgage program, and 654,290. The number of loans in 1949-50 totaled
the farm housing program. In addition, the 4,268 and these amounted to $1,941,585. In 1950-
agency can make disaster loans to farmers who 51 there were 4,972 'loans and these totaled $2,-
suffer serious production losses because of flood, 241,732. Altogether, from 1946 to the end of June
storm, drought, or some other natural disaster, and 1951, the Farmers Home Administration ad-
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND FINANCE 155

vanced in Puerto Rico $8,394,740 in production The insured farm mortgage program operates
and subsistence loans. Of this total, $5,842,204 in addition to the direct loans for family-type
has matured and this amount has been paid up to farm purchases. This insurance authority was
the extent of 99.7 percent plus $319,795 in paid provided to the Farmers Home Administration by
interest. Considering the fact that these produc- legislation enacted in 1947. Insured farm mort-
tion and subsistence loans are regarded in finan- gage loans are made to qualified applicants who
cial circles as "soft credit" and therefore very have the necessary experience in farming to help
risky, this excellent record of repayment becomes them buy and improve family-type farms, or to
all the more striking. buy additional land to enlarge their farms. Such
During 1950-51, the entire island of Puerto Rico loans are made only to eligible farmers who are
was declared a disaster area as far as tobacco unable to obtain necessary financing from private
and coffee crops were concerned. A total of $557,- sources such as banks or insurance companies on
420 was made available for disaster loans. The such terms and at such interest rates as they may
regular funds available for the operating-loan pro- reasonably be expected to repay. The borrower is
gram in Puerto Kico totaled $1,740,000 for the required to make a 10 percent down payment from
1950-51 fiscal year. The amount of money allo- his own funds if he buys a farm, or to have a 10
cated to the island for operating loans is far below percent equity in a farm that he already owns.
the actual needs of farmers who otherwise can- Thus, the loan which is insured cannot exceed 90
not obtain credit on a reasonable basis. Many percent of the value of the farm as improved.
more farmers could be soundly helped with their The Farmers Home Administration's county
credit requirements if the Farmers Home Admin- committee which passes on all loan applications,
istration office in Puerto Kico had the money avail- must also pass upon the eligibility and respon-
able to lend. And in making more operating loans, sibility of the applicant for an insured loan and
the agency would be taking no greater risk than it upon the adequacy and value of the farm. The
now assumes since all of the loans necessarily security must be appraised by a qualified appraiser
would be on the same basis. of the Farmers Home Administration. The value
Under the farm ownership program, the Farm- of the security is based on the earning capacity
ers Home Administration makes loans for the pur- of the farm, figured on long-time average prices
chase, enlargement, or development of family-type for farm commodities and on average yields.
farms. The number of such loans made in Puerto Final approval of the loan is the responsibility
Kico in recent years has been quite limited, mainly of the Farmers Home Administration.
because of restrictions brought about by a pref er- The borrower under an insured loan pays annu-
ence-for-veterans requirement. In 1948-49 there ally 3 percent interest on the unpaid amount of
were 25 farm ownership loans made and these the principal. In addition, the borrower pays a
totaled $144,606. Farm ownership loans in 1949- 1 percent annual mortgage-insurance charge to the
50 totaled 41 and amounted to $316,797. The num- Farmers Home Administration. Loans are amor-
tized over a 40-year period. Borrowers have the
ber of loans dropped to nine in 1950-51 and
privilege of repaying the loans under a variable
amounted to only $48,822 in s]pite of the fact that
payment plan which permits them to build up
the total sum of money available for such loans on reserves in years of good income to keep their
the island was $525,894 for that year. Since 1937, loans in good standing during years of low in-
when these farm ownership loans were first author- come. Loans must be refinanced whenever the
ized under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act, borrower achieves sufficient equity to enable him
the amount lent in Puerto Rico from Federal funds to obtain satisfactory credit without the benefit of
through the end of June 1951 totaled $4,174,032. insurance.
Payments on the principal totaled $1,503,979 and The loans under this program are fully insured
interest paid on the loan advances amounted to by the Federal Government both as to the prin-
$673,604. Of the total of $2,177,583 in principal cipal and interest. If an installment is not paid
and interest payments, $960,748 represented extra by the borrower, the Farmers Home Administra-
payments or refunds made by borrowers up to the tion promptly pays the lender the amount due.
end of June 1951. If foreclosure appears necessary, the Farmers
156 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

Home Administration takes an assignment of the struction of new farmhouses, and for remodeling
note and mortgage and pays the lender the value or repairing existing dwellings. The loans are
of the mortgage at the time the assignment is also available for the construction or repair of
made. All loan-making and loan-servicing func- farm buildings. All construction work must meet
tions are handled by the Farmers Home Admin- minimum standards set by the agency. This par-
istration. ticular program was authorized by the Housing
The insured mortgages are readily negotiable; Act of 1949. In Puerto Eico 85 loans, totaling
they can easily be assigned by one lender to an- $314,735, were made under the program in 1949-50.
other at any time. Whereas the loans are made There were 86 loans amounting to $345,151 made
for 40 years, at the end of the seventh year the in 1950-51.
lender may assign the mortgage to the Federal An additional source of credit for farmers in
Government and receive in cash its full value, or Puerto Eico is provided by the Commodity Credit
the lender may enter into an agreement with the Corporation, which makes commodity loans in
Government for an additional fixed period or connection with price-support operations of the
keep this investment until such time as the bor- Production and Marketing Administration. This
rower can refinance or pay the loan in full. agency has been extremely helpful to tobacco
In many parts of the United States, the insured growers on the island, making loans on this com-
farm mortgage loans are proving attractive as a modity beginning with the 1946-47 crop with
safe investment for private lenders. Some States tobacco pledged as collateral for the price-support
found it was necessary to enact enabling legisla- loans. Up to the end of June 1951 the Commodity
tion to permit investors, such as banks, insurance Credit Corporation had made price-support loans
companies, and others, to make investments in to growers in Puerto Eico on 42,478,511 pounds of
this kind of security. One of these was New York tobacco, green-weight basis. The money lent on
State, where the necessary legislation was enacted this tobacco amounted to $15,353,705.75. The in-
in 1949. Federal law already provides that these ventory of tobacco held at the end of June 1951
insured mortgages are eligible investments for totaled 2,829,081 pounds, dry weight, and out-
national banks. In the 4 years since the begin- standing loans amounted to $1,057,918.04. Most
ning of the farm mortgage insurance program in of the tobacco loans are made to growers through
1947, loans approximating 45 million dollars were cooperatives. The availability of the loan from
insured by the Farmers Home Administration. the Commodity Credit Corporation enables par-
These loans were made by 652 banks, 44 insurance ticipating growers to market their tobacco in a
companies, and various other types of investors. more orderly fashion. Before the loan program
The largest amount of insured mortgage loans was available many of these growers were forced
held by one investor, an insurance company, to sell their crop soon after harvest in order to
amounted to over 7 million dollars; the largest get some cash with which to pay their bills.
held by a single bank was $1,300,000. Despite the various sources of credit for agri-
Banks and other private lending institutions culture made available by the Federal Govern-
operating in Puerto Eico have been slow to par- ment, a big gap remains to be filled. These Fed-
ticipate in the farm mortgage insurance program. eral agencies, as helpful as they are, only partly
One obstacle in the way until the early part of meet the agricultural credit needs in Puerto Eico.
1951 was that the laws of the Puerto Eican Gov- Eecognizing the existence of this situation, the
ernment made investments in these mortgages on Puerto Eican Government has attempted to pro-
the island unattractive to lending agencies. In vide some help in financing farmers.
May 1951 the local Legislature amended the stat- One measure that has been taken is designed
utes so as to exempt from income tax the interest to assist the small producers to increase food pro-
earned on mortgages insured by the Farmers duction and improve its distribution. This food
Home Administration. This should provide an production and distribution program is sponsored
incentive for private banks and other lenders to by the Puerto Eican Department of Agriculture.
invest in this kind of loan. Although this program operates with very limited
Under the farm housing program the Farmers funds, it provides credit in kind to the type of
Home Administration makes loans for the con- farmers in most need of it, those engaged in the
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND FINANCE 157
production of food crops. For the most part, the than sugarcane. In some cases the loans are made
program operates through cooperatives. Equip- to sugar centrals, which in turn make loans to
ment and supplies are sold on credit to farmer their colonos, or growers. Part of this credit is
cooperatives and these participating organiza- used by the centrals to finance growing of their
tions lend them out to farmer members. The pro- own cane. Quite recently two of the banks have
gram also provides for purchases of farm products opened branches in several agricultral areas and
produced by members of cooperatives. In addi- are making short-term production loans. They
tion,, provision is made for the sale on credit of are performing a good short-term credit service
equipment necessary for grading and packing for sugarcane producers, and are even financing
certain food products. Technical assistance is some small producers. On the whole, however,
also provided to cooperatives and individual credit is still very limited for farmers other than
farmers. sugarcane producers.
The most important action yet taken by the But the fact that the private banks of Puerto
Puerto Rican Government in providing agricul- Rico are paying more attention to the credit needs
tural credit was in 1951, when the Puerto Rico of farmers is encouraging for future agricultural
Bank for Cooperatives was established. This development. However, this change is not coming
bank was authorized by the local law to make the along rapidly enough. For years the agencies of
following types of loans to cooperatives: (1) the Federal Government have been the major
Operating capital loans for terms up to 2 years; source of credit for agriculture in Puerto Rico
(2) crop production loans for terms not exceed- when much of this business could have been profit-
ing 2 years to be made to cooperatives for financ- ably handled by the locally established credit in-
ing their members' crops; (3) middle-term loans stitutions if they had only been willing to take
for equipment for periods up to 5 years; and (4) it on. Even today the Federal credit agencies
loans for land and buildings for terms up to 10 would welcome losing this business to the private
years. banks and other established lenders if this meant
The Puerto Rico Bank for Cooperatives oper- improved service to farmers. In any event, the
ates as an instrumentality of the local Govern- Federal agricultural credit agencies are limited
ment. It is capitalized at 1 million dollars, Under in the funds at their disposal, and they have not
the original provisions of law not more than 10 been able to meet all of the demand for loans
percent of the bank's capital and surplus may be from sound credit risks on the island. In such
lent to any one cooperative. This restriction on a situation the private lending establishments have
loans and the limited capital structure may need a broad field in which to operate for the benefit
to be modified in order to permit the bank to func- of themselves as well as of the individual farm
tion more effectively. Nevertheless, the existence borrower and the economy of which they are a
of this bank offers a good opportunity for further part.
improving the agricultural credit situation in Government sponsored credit agencies such as
Puerto Rico. the Production Credit Association, and especially
Governmental credit agencies, especially those the Farmers Home Administration with its highly
sponsored by the Federal Government, have diversified lending program, have done much to
played a major role in improving the credit situ- pave the way for sound agricultural financing in
ation for farmers since they first began operating Puerto Rico. Their collection experience with
in Puerto Rico in 1922. These institutions pio- loans to farmers on the island has been so good
neered in a field virtually untouched by private that it is hard to understand why private lend-
banks and other established credit agencies. Only ing establishments such as banks have not been
in relatively recent years have these private lend- more aggressive in making loans to local farmers.
ing agencies engaged in making agricultural loans Admittedly, agricultural credit is more or less a
in any significant amounts. The volume of crop specialized field which requires some knowledge
production loans made by 10 banks operating in of the nature of the risks to be taken. But this
Puerto Rico rose to a level estimated at 25 mil- requirement is not insurmountable, as is demon-
lion to 30 million dollars a year. A very small strated by the experience of banks operating in
percentage of this money is lent for crops other agricultural communities on the mainland.
239284—53- -12
158 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

The old and the new: A farm housing loan made the difference,

Through efforts in the last few years, some credit, and the financing merchants advanced
progress is being made in broadening the interest goods and money to the growers on the promise
bankers in Puerto Rico have in the agriculture of their future crop. The goods given to coffee
of the island. For example, a bankers' agricul- farmers were charged at exceedingly high prices
tural committee was first organized in 1950. This and the money was advanced at very high interest.
group includes representatives of all the banks There is some evidence of interest rates having
operating on the island and provides opportuni- been as high as 30 percent. That the interest was
ties for the discussion of agricultural problems high can be substantiated in part at least by the
and developing a better understanding of the great number of foreclosures and the shift of the
important farm segment of the economy. As a re- land into the hands of big merchants. What was
sult, there has been some increase in loans made true of merchants was also true of dealers who
by banks to farmers other than sugarcane growers. financed production. Much of this form of
But still the surface has hardly been scratched, financing still prevails.
despite the opportunity that exists for rendering A similar situation existed in tobacco. The
greater service to the agriculture of Puerto Rico dealers financed the tobacco crop of the farmers
while making a reasonable profit in the process. on the security of both the crop and the farm.
The fact that lack of credit has been and still is Many tobacco dealers eventually became big land-
a major factor retarding the development of agri- holders. Large numbers of tobacco growers still
culture in Puerto Rico is now being generally are at the mercy of the dealer-lenders. When the
recognized. Action is needed to make more credit farmer brings his crop to such a dealer, there is
available at reasonable cost for the many agricul- no bargaining. The farmer lost his bargaining
tural enterprises that should be encouraged on an power when he became indebted to the dealer by
economically sound basis. If the existing credit the advance of money with which to make the
agencies, both private and government sponsored, crop. In most cases the grower gets a lower re-
do not become more aggressive in meeting the turn for the crop, with resultant usurious rates
sound financing needs of Puerto Rican agriculture, of interest for the credit obtained.
then the farmers will have no choice but to develop And growers of sugarcane also were tied down
other sources of credit with still more govern- by the loans they obtained for production. For a
mental help and by the pooling of their own re- long time the centrals and the large colonos were
sources. the only sources of credit. Despite the improve-
ment that has taken place during the last three
Interest Rates and Credit Costs decades in the availability of financing for sugar-
Historically, Puerto Rico has been a high-inter- cane production, they still are the only sources of
est-rate area. Before the agricultural credit credit for many of the growers.
agencies of the Federal Government were made The Federal agricultural lending agencies oper-
available to the island, coffee growers and other ating in Puerto Rico since 1922 have been a most
farmers depended almost exclusively on store important factor in bringing interest rates down.
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND FINANCE 159
They set the pace in providing credit on reason- by sugar centrals was 8.35 percent. Large col-
able terms, and demonstrated that farmers gen- onos, which at this time constituted the second
erally were good credit risks. Gradually the banks most important source of credit, charged 16.52 per-
became interested in the farm credit business, thus cent. The cost of credit for sugarcane farmers
increasing sources of credit for farmers. The in- charged by the Production Credit Association was
terest rates charged by the banks tended to follow 9.72 percent. The lowest interest rate was charged
the pattern set by the Federal lending agencies. by the Emergency Crop and Feed Loan Office,
And while all these developments meant a lower that being 5.1 percent. Even though the nominal
cost of credit for farmers who could borrow from interest rate was lower in all cases, legal and
these sources, the number of producers served was supervisory fees increased these costs to the figures
comparatively few at the start although the total found to prevail.
has been rising in more recent years. Neverthe- The study covering tobacco farms revealed that
less, there are still many tobacco, coffee, sugar- the credit costs on tobacco loans involved direct
cane producers, and other farmers paying usuri- interest costs, and indirect interest costs. The
ous interest rates for the credit they are able to direct costs included interest, legal expenses, and
get only from other than established lending agen- other credit expenses which could be charged
cies. Moreover, most farmers are unable to get clearly to the .farmer in his liquidation papers.
credit from any source for farm improvements or Indirect costs could come in many ways, especially
diversified production that could be made profit- in the form of a lower price for the tobacco
able. For these farmers the lack of credit is costly, or higher price for fertilizer and other materials
indeed, not only to themselves, but also to the included in the loan.
economy. This study showed that the direct costs of loans
Financial institutions subject to the jurisdiction from the Puerto Rico Tobacco Marketing Coop-
of the Puerto Rican Government are limited by erative Association totaled 5.44 percent and those
law as to the amount of interest they can charge from dealer-lenders amounted to 7.04 percent.
on loans. The lawful rate that may be charged Problems encountered in analyzing the data of this
on a loan or upon any variety of obligation or study made it impossible to arrive at definite con-
contract, in the absence of a written agreement, clusions on the indirect costs of credit. The study
is 6 percent. Where a written agreement does ex- revealed, however, that there were indications that
ist, the interest rate cannot go beyond 9 percent higher prices for materials were charged to the
when the amount of the loan is not over $3,000,
and 8 percent when the amount exceeds that figure.
Legislation enacted in 1948 provides penalties for
violations of lawful rates of interest by all classes
of moneylenders.
While no detailed study of the cost of credit has
been made since the beginning of World War II,
an indication of the conditions that have prevailed
is available from two credit studies made in 1939-
40 by the Puerto Rican Agricultural Experiment
Station, one covering sugarcane farms and the
other tobacco farms.
The study on sugarcane farms revealed that
sugar centrals were by far the most important
source of sugarcane production credit. Even with
the expansion of credit facilities by Federal agen-
cies and local banks, these sugar mills still sup-
ply a big part of the credit for growing sugarcane
on the island.
At the time of the study made by the Experi- Stripping tobacco is a hand operation that provides employment
ment Station, the effective interest rate charged for a large number of Puerto Rican women.
160 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

farmers dealing with the dealer-lenders. And need each year between 90 million and 100 million
these farmers who delivered their tobacco to the dollars for production credit alone. This repre-
dealer-lenders received a lower return from their sents the volume of credit that could be extended
crop. by recognized lending agencies for sound invest-
Dealer-lenders supply the tobacco production ments in agricultural production.
credit needs of the largest number of farmers on Out of the total estimated as needed, the amount
the island. It is obvious that the system utilized of production credit now being supplied by these
by them lends itself to the charging of very high lending agencies such as private banks, the Pro-
interest rates. Many of the dealer-lenders are in duction Credit Association, and various govern-
fact what might be termed credit retailers. They mental sources is around 44 million dollars. This
borrow money from local banks and retail the leaves a gap of at least 46 million dollars for the
money to farmers. In their retail of credit, they legitimate lending institutions to fill. While part
charge 3 to 4 percent additional interest. This is of this 46 million dollars is now being supplied by
only the nominal interest rate since they make a merchants, dealers, and other such lenders, it
number of additional charges, both direct and in- nevertheless represents business that could very
direct. well be taken up by the regular credit agencies with
There are a number of coffee dealer-lenders who profit to themselves and substantial savings to
operate on a different basis. Since coffee prices are the farmers who now must depend on miscellane-
fixed by the Puerto Rican Government, they have ous sources. The balance remaining in this credit
devised other means of making additional charges. gap that should be filled by the recognized lending
One group of coffee dealers, for example, charges agencies would represent entirely new business
8 to 9 percent nominal interest on the loans made simply because the needs are not now being satis-
to growers. In addition, these dealers charge a fied.
commission of 5 percent for the sale of the coffee, Breaking down the estimated total production
plus a charge of $1 for each 100 pounds of coffee credit requirements and the part of those needs
handled. In most cases, charges are made for that is being met, the situation existing in the ma-
redrying the coffee. Coffee dealer-lenders in this jor agricultural enterprises appears as follows:
class borrow their money from local banks on the In the case of sugarcane production, it is esti-
security of crop liens and coffee crop insurance mated that total credit needs for growing this
endorsements handed to them by their farmer crop approximates 52 million dollars. Even
clients. Most of the farmers who do business with though there are many small growers who are not
this type of dealer-lender lack information and getting enough credit, thus reducing their effi-
education. Many of them could get their credit ciency, credit for sugarcane production is, for all
directly from banks if they knew where to go and practical purposes, fairly well covered. There is
what to do. Others are small growers and most need, however, for a shift in sources of credit that
banks would not be interested in them. growers could make with savings in cost.
Amount of Credit Required Of the 52 million dollars estimated as being
required to meet the credit needs of sugarcane
There is no doubt that the farmers of Puerto producers, slightly more than 36 million dollars
Rico are handicapped by the lack of adequate
is being supplied by established lending agencies,
credit from sources that are in position to make
financing available at a reasonable cost. However, mostly by the private banks. In 1949-50, for ex-
the width of the gap that exists between the ample, 10 banks made loans totaling 26 million
amount of credit these farmers need and what they dollars for sugarcane production. Part of tlifs
are actually able to get is not so clear cut. But credit went to sugar centrals which reloaned the
there are certain known factors relating to pro- money to their colonos. The sugar mills are pres-
duction, farm income, and credit already being ently the most important sources of credit to their
extended that make it possible to do some reason- producers. Another important source of financ-
able estimating without going into a detailed and ing for sugarcane growers is the Production Credit
exhaustive study of the subject. An estimate on Association with around 9 million dollars. The
this basis indicates that the farmers of the island Farmers Home Administration covers the needs
AGRICULTURAL CREDIT AND FINANCE 161
of some of the small growers to an estimated made toward conserving soil resources and in-
amount of $1,250,000. creasing production through the adoption of im-
A more recent lending source is a credit co- proved management and cultural practices. This
operative organized among the producer members activity is made possible by the cooperation of
of Cooperative Azucarera Los Canos at Arecibo, the various agricultural agencies of the Puerto
a cooperatively owned sugar mill, which supplies Rican and Federal Governments. In this unified
around $200,000 in loans to small growers. The program for the rehabilitation of the coffee indus-
rest of the credit supplied for sugarcane is at pres- try, growers receive payments from Puerto Rican
ent being covered by sugar mills, large colonos* and Federal funds for the application of certain
fertilizer dealers, and others. The cost of the approved practices such as the building of neces-
credit from these sources is usually higher than sary terraces around the coffee trees to provide
from established lending agencies. Growers needed protection against runoff, use of fertilizer,
would benefit considerably if these institutions and some others. These payments help reimburse
would handle this business directly with them. the grower for part of his cash expenditure and
Tobacco presents a different picture. Most of provide an incentive for undertaking work which
the tobacco growers need credit for the produc- he otherwise could not afford to do in view of
tion of their crop, but very few of them are the low production from unimproved plantations.
able to get it from established lending sources. These payments are to be discontinued when the
The total amount of credit needed by these farm- plantations are improved and production is up to
ers is estimated at between 6 million and 7 million a point where the grower is able to follow the
dollars, depending upon the acreage to be grown desirable practices without any Government pay-
in any one year. Only 25 percent of the credit is ments. An estimated 10,000 coffee growers are
obtained at a reasonable cost and this comes from participating in this program, and payments dur-
banks, governmental agencies, and cooperatives. ing 1950-51 totaled slightly in excess of 1 million
The balance is furnished largely by tobacco dealers dollars, of which a little over half came from Fed-
at an extremely high cost which in many cases eral funds supplied under the Agricultural
constitutes a usurious rate of interest. Conservation Program of the United States
Coffee is the most poorly financed of the major Department of Agriculture. Most of the coffee
crops in Puerto Rico at the present time. Yet this producers are small farmers.
crop is vital to the economic and physical welfare The payments under the unified coffee program
of a large area of the interior mountainous region. are of real help, since they provide funds which
The present situation, although it is improving, most growers could not obtain because of the lack
stems from earlier credit experience in which not of credit. With this money in view, participating
too much care was taken in making the loans. farmers have been able to buy more nearly the
In the past, coffee farmers were heavily financed quantities of fertilizer required for the acreage
with long-term loans, especially after the hurri- included under the program. These farmers apply
cane of 1928 when much credit was extended by for the payment to the Production and Marketing
the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Commission. Administration and this agency issues a purchase
A large number of coffee growers received long- order for the amount of fertilizer needed in which
term credit and in many cases the loans were over it guarantees the sellers of the fertilizer the
and above the ability of the borrower to repay. amount of the payment represented on the order.
There were some cases where the loans were not With these purchase orders farmers are able to
entirely invested in the improvement of the farms. get credit from their fertilizer suppliers. Actual
The unhappy experiences with these past loans payment on the orders and for other practices is
were due primarily to poor selection of credit made by the Production and Marketing Admin-
risks, the failure to make sure that the borrowers istration after an inspection to determine per-
understood the purpose of the loans, and the lack formance of the practices and the application of
of supervision. the fertilizer on the acreage included under the
The coffee growers have recently been engaged program by the participating farmers. During
in a program for the rehabilitation of their coffee 1950-51 fertilizer purchase orders issued amounted
plantations, and considerable progress is being to $449,000.
162 A COMPREHENSIVE AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM FOR PUERTO RICO

With the material improvement being made in


the plantations under the unified coffee program
and the substantial effect this is having on increas-
ing yields, it is estimated that coffee growers need
9 million dollars in production credit in order to
realize the present potential of their industry. Of
this amount, they are getting only about
$§,500,000 in loans from established credit sources
and in payments under the unified coffee program.
Part of the remaining needs is no doubt supplied
by dealer-lenders, merchants, large growers, and
other such sources from which credit is usually
costly to the farmer. It is a fact, however, that
the largest number of coffee farmers are unable to
obtain production credit, and only a very few
get enough to meet their requirements. That
credit to coffee growers is wholly inadequate is
evidenced by the fact that during the harvest sea-
son many growers are compelled to sell their coffee
half dry and at a sacrifice price in order to obtain
money to continue harvesting their crop.
Private banks, the Production Credit Associa-
tion, and Federal lending agencies are making far
more credit available to coffee growers than they
have in many years. During 1950-51 these insti-
tutions advanced around $2,000,000, or between Dairy cattle relish green cut grass, especially when sprinkled with
three and four times the average lendings in the a little molasses which is readily available in Puerto Rico and
previous 51 years. One factor contributing to this also adds to the nutritional value.

increase in credit has, of course, been the unified


culture has depended on oxen for cultivation and
coffee program which is bringing about a consid-
hauling. Cattle have been kept mainly for rais-
erable improvement in both the plantations and
ing the oxen. Large landholders grew their
yields. Another and very important factor, how-
sugarcane in the lowlands and also used the hilly
ever, is the coffee-crop insurance program which
land as pasture for their livestock. Some of the
is operated by the Puerto Rican Government. All
large landholders of the southern coast also kept
of the growers who obtained loans from the estab-