The British Way to Recovery: Plans and Policies in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada

By Herbert Heaton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
THE REDISCOVERY OF THE FARMER

FREE TRADE LEFT ALL FORMS OF ENTERPRISE -- AGRICULture, industry, mining, and shipping -- to work out their own salvation. When it was first enthroned as a policy that work was easy, even for the farmer, since the agricultural exploitation of the new world and the development of cheap ocean transport had scarcely begun in earnest. But the golden age of English agriculture came to an end in the seventies, when the flood of cheap grain, meat, and dairy produce began to flow in from Russia and the distant continents.

Continental farmers met this invasion from the new world by securing protection or by turning to new products, e.g., butter and bacon in Denmark. British farmers got no protection; there were not enough of them to exercise political pressure as did the swarms of peasant proprietors on the continent. They did, however, as the decades went by, obtain concessions of various kinds, and Dr. Venn, a leading British agricultural economist, calculated in 1933 that direct grants, relief from central and local taxation, and indirect assistance comprised a total public aid to agriculture of over £45,000,000 a year. Slowly and painfully they cut their costs, changed their production programs, and specialized on goods which met with less intense external competition, such as high-grade meats, milk, dairy produce, poultry, fruit, and vegetables.

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