AGRICULTURE. Agriculture is the leading in dustry of the State, but it is not keeping pace = with the other rapidly developing industries or with the increase of population. Agriculture re ceived a decided setback from the Civil War, and has not yet completely adjusted itself to the new industrial re'gime. The acreage of farm land and the percentage of improved land (about 40 per cent.) are but little larger than they were in 1S60, while the valuation of farm land and the value of almost every kind of farm property and produce is less than it was in 1860. The old plantation system of large farms, whose cultivation was carried on under the direction of the owner, has given way to a system of small rented farms. The average size of farms, which was 347 acres, in 1860, has decreased about 60 per cent.. and the rented farms constitute almost half of the entire number—both methods of rent ing, that for a fixed money payment and that for a share of the product, being equally in vogue. The farm land is still held by a comparatively few individuals, a considerable proportion of whom arc representative of the merchant class. The holdings are divided into convenient por tions, and the negro renter receives a mea gre supply of farm equipments, upon which, as also upon the prospective crop, the merchant holds a lien. The negro becomes the customer of the merchant and can seldom catch up with his obligations. The merchant finds his rent most certain and his sale of provisions greatest when the renter confines himself largely to the cultivation of cotton, which he willingly does, and thus cotton remains king. The continu ous planting of this crop before the war, as well as since that .time, has resulted in the ex haustion of a naturally fertile soil. While cot ton is grown in most parts of the State, much the greater portion is raised in the "cotton belt," a narrow strip of black prairie land extending east and west across the State in the latitude of Montgomery. Alabama usually ranks fourth
in the value of her cotton product. Corn is next in importance, and its acreage is almost equal to that of cotton, but the product is of much less value. Oats are the only crop that has experienced a remarkable increase in culti vation—an increase about commensurate with the decrease in the cultivation of wheat, which has become relatively unimportant, though the past decade has witnessed a revival. These and small quantities of other cereals are grown most extensively in the "cereal belt," or the valley of the Tennessee River in the northern part of the State. This valley is also very favorable for the raising of apples and other fruits, the mountains on either side giving protection from the heat of the south and the winds of the north. Peanuts are raised in the southeast. The State takes a high rank in the production of peaches as well as melons. Cowpease, sweet potatoes, and sugar cane are extensively grown throughout the State. Most of the sugar cane in recent years is manufactured into molasses. There is much barren waste land in the mountain regions of the north, while forests still cover the greater portion of the southern end of the State. Cotton being the predominant crop. the conditions are not favor able for the extensive raising of stock. Such as is raised goes to supply the local needs. The following tables indicate the trend of the agri cultural industry: There is to-day evidence of a growing senti ment in favor of diversified farming and an in creasing tendency toward the raising of pease, alfalfa, and other leguminous plants which are of special value to the soil, and there is in gen eral a more hopeful view of the agricultural future, and a belief that it, is sharing in the general industrial awakening of the South.