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Farm Organization

Cooperative and state farms were the two primary types of farm organization, although a significant number of small private farms continued to exist in the 1980s. State farms accounted for more than 17 percent and cooperatives nearly 75 percent of all arable land. In 1982 cooperatives employed 2.2 million farmers, while state and private farms employed about 400,000 each.

The formation of state farms, which were intended to be the rural equivalent of socialist industrial enterprises, had begun as early as 1945. These ideologically favored farms received the best lands expropriated in 1949 and during the major collectivization campaign of the 1958-62 period, and they had priority access to machinery, chemicals, and irrigation water. Because of these advantages, state farms reported higher crop yields than did cooperative farms. Like other state enterprises, state farms operated according to the directives of the central government. Workers received a fixed wage in return for their labor on the farm and had no private plot rights. Their incomes in the 1980s approached those of urban workers.

Although cooperative farms owned their land and certain basic equipment, they had little more autonomy than the state farms. Their directors routinely accepted production directives from Bucharest with little objection. The cooperatives were told what crops to grow, how to grow them, and how much to deliver to the state. Many smaller cooperatives were ordered to combine into associations during the 1970s and 1980s to pool their assets. According to a decree issued by the Council of State, cooperative farmers were required to work at least 300 days per year on the cooperative, and they were subject to transfer to other farms or even to construction and lumber work sites if their own cooperative had no work for them. Between 40 and 60 percent of the average cooperative farm income was derived from the sale of products from private plots. Despite this supplementary income, cooperative farmers earned only about 60 percent as much as their counterparts on state farms in the 1980s. Cooperative farmers also had much smaller pension benefits.

As late as 1988 almost 9.5 percent of the country's 15 million hectares of agricultural land remained in private hands. As a rule, this land was located in relatively inaccessible mountainous regions, where use of heavy machinery was impractical. In addition, in 1988 cooperative farms reserved some 922,000 hectares (about 6 percent of all arable land) for private plots, which were cultivated by families working on the cooperatives. These plots averaged 1,500 square meters in area, but in rugged terrain they could be considerably larger. Thus in the late 1980s, the private sector was still cultivating more than 15 percent of the country's agricultural land--the highest total in Eastern Europe after Poland and Yugoslavia. Privately owned land could not be sold, nor could it be inherited by persons unable to tend it adequately.

Even official government statistics revealed that private agriculture was more than four times as productive as socialized agriculture in the cultivation of fruit; twice as productive in grain growing and poultry raising, and 60 percent more efficient in milk, beef, pork, and vegetable production. In 1987 the private sector produced half the sheep, 40 percent of the beef, 28 percent of the pork, and 63 percent of the fruit output.

Despite the higher productivity of private agriculture and its major contribution to total farm output, the Ceausescu regime systematically penalized the nonsocialist sector. At the very time most of the communist world was beginning to permit peasants to lease larger tracts for longer periods, Romania was actually reducing the area under private cultivation--from 967,500 hectares in 1965 to 922,841 in 1985. Beginning in 1987, an area of at least 500 square meters (or one-third) of each private plot was required to be sown in wheat, and the harvest was to be traded to the state for the yield from an equivalent amount of land cultivated by the cooperative farm. This policy was designed to discourage peasants from spending an inordinate amount of time cultivating their private plots instead of working for the cooperative. Its effect, however, was to further demoralize the farm population and thus make it less productive.

In the late 1980s, the systematization program aimed to subordinate privately owned land and private plots on cooperative farms to the regional agro-industrial councils and thereby tighten central control of private farming (see Administration and Control , this ch.). Systematization would eliminate many of the plots, as villages were levelled to create vast fields for socialized farming. This policy directly contradicted the government's mandate in the 1980s that the population essentially feed itself by cultivating small plots (even lawns and public parks had been converted to vegetable gardens) and breeding poultry and rabbits.

Data as of July 1989

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