The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
AGRICULTURE AND THE LAND

Political parties prolific in agricultural policies—The farmer as an instinctive protectionist—But no party dare give him protection—Why a tariff on foodstuffs is impossible—The economics of British wheat-growing— Reactions of higher prices on rents—Forms of protection without a tariff —Proposals to stabilise prices by the control of imports—Bulk purchase schemes considered and approved—But will they benefit the farmer?— They are more likely to lower prices than to raise them—Agricultural production can be increased only if more can be produced at an economic cost—It is therefore necessary to concentrate on improving the efficiency of production and marketing of home produce—Wheat the least hopeful field for experiment—Imports of foodstuffs analysed—Cost of imported meat, butter, cheese, eggs, vegetables, and milk—We could produce far more of these at home—The case for an extension of small holdings for market-gardening, poultry-keeping, dairying, etc.—Access to the land— The British land system and its breakdown—The case for land nationalisation—The method proposed—Urban land values should be taxed— And the revenue given to the Local Authorities—Sitting tenants should usually be left undisturbed—The State directly, as well as the County Councils, to provide small holdings—A State Agricultural Commission —The provision of capital for the farmer—And of long-term credit—The creation of co-operative agencies for short-term credit—A National Agricultural Bank—The reasons for the slow growth of agricultural co- operation—In what forms it can best be developed—Co-operative bacon factories and their problems—The function of co-operation in reducing swollen marketing costs—Need for State action to stimulate and co- ordinate local co-operative effort—Progress bound to be gradual—Immediate steps summarised—The position of the agricultural labourer— Effect of Family Allowances on his standard of life—Agricultural wages and their regulation—Small holdings and the labourer—Do the unemployed want to go back to the land?—How far should Britain feed herself? —The idea of self-sufficiency abroad—But the position of our export trades does indicate the need for greater food production at home.

All political parties are prolific in schemes for the restoration of British agriculture. Conservative land policies, Liberal land

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