Land Ownership and Agricultural Success in Russia

The editorial "Why Russia Can't Feed Itself," Nov. 5, puts its finger on the crux of the food problem in the USSR - ownership of land. Vladimir Plotnikov sounds like many of the Soviet family farmers from St. Petersburg and other Soviet regions that I met last spring.Around Moscow, and in that richest of our Earth's soils, the Russian and Ukrainian chernozem (black-earth regions), local authorities are not giving up the land. In places where the soil is poor, roads are bad, and state and collective farms have gone bankrupt, private farming is finally starting - even without full ownership. In Armenia, much land has been redistributed. Private property, guaranteed by the government, will serve not only as a basis for feeding the people but, as United States history shows, for long-term freedom and democracy. C. Grant Pendill, Jr., Washington, Soviet Family Farm Project

The editorial suggests that turning land over to private ownership in Russia and other former Soviet republics will be crucial to solving the problem of food production there. Facts cited in the editorial, however, indicate that it is not so much the lack of land ownership that is the problem, but rather the continued control by local party chiefs over land leases. Land ownership is not essential for inducing efficient production, while security of tenure is. To work properly, a market system needs to encourage labor and capital investment. But it does not need a class of people who by mere ownership of land and other scarce natural resources become enriched at the expense of the community. A streamlined and rational reform of the land-leasing system would avoid this problem if it collected, for the community, the value of the services that the community provides to the owner. Wendell Fitzgerald, San Francisco

Corporate criticism The article "Soviet Swords into Plowshares? Not Quite Yet," Nov. 7, reports that seven leading American industrialists were in Moscow to create joint markets in weapons. Are we under the illusion that American lethal weapons are somehow kinder and gentler? Does the corporate profitmaking mentality of these seven Americans carry no constructive expertise? Why not a "swords into plowshares" drive to create jobs and careers everywhere in a world of peace-yearning peoples? Beatrice Newby, Gold Hill, Ore.

Minding the US store Regarding the editorial "Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy," Nov. 7: The significance of an integrated approach to foreign and domestic policy is paramount to the US, and will be more so in the next century. Now that the world is depolarized, America should strengthen itself domestically, as well as internationally. "A US in economic or cultural crisis will not help the rest of the world." And the rest of the world will not necessarily help a weak US. On the international front, the US is no longer the only country to be listened to in the world arena. As bonds between nations are formed and grow stronger, such as with the European Community, the US would be wise to jump on the wagon of world affairs. David T. Culkin, Enterprise, Ala.

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