How we got here
How we got here
1840sFollowing the Repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, we built more ships to import more food. So many left the land to work in the factories and mills.
WW1 We produced only a quarter of our own food as we went into WW1. We nearly learned the lesson but didn't do anything until the late 1920s when Marketing Boards for important food items, like milk and potatoes, were set up to stabilise prices and reward farmers better.
During WW2 we did realise how vulnerable our nation was by relying on so much from abroad, and so decided to Dig for Victory . We learned the lesson this time.
The Labour government introduced Agriculture Act in 1948? that helped farmers bring their land into increased production.
Farmers vote for Brexit. Understanding UK farmers’ Brexit voting decision: A behavioural approach’, showed dairy farmers were the most pro-Brexit, with 58 per cent of respondents reporting they voted leave, compared to 38 per cent voting remain and 4 per cent not voting.
World after World War 2
In agreement with the Hot Springs Conference (that led to the formation of the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), all countries agreed to produce as much food as they could which meant political parties here agreed to produce as much of our food as we could here in the UK. There were parliamentary debates each year to decide the guaranteed minimum prices for key foods like bread and milk, so that farmers would then know what reward they would get for producing these basic food commodities. They were not left to the whims of the market.
This process went when we joined the EEC Their belief was in favour of 'free markets' to determine production. However by the 1970s it was apparent that Europe was producing too much food. Various attempts were made - by Mansholt to take farms out of production, but that went donw like a lead balloon over the fields.So in the 1980s Europe started to the stockpile food - off the market - to keep market prices artificially high. The 'wine lakes' and butter mountains became infamous. Overproduction of food is the underlying problem of food production that most commentators ignore. Both the EU and US overproduce food so much that farmers have to be paid 50 billion euros or dollars to subsidise their living.
The US are the great overproducers of farm goods on the planet. After the war they supplied foodstuffs to Europe in the MArshall Plan They realised the political power of food, so their foreign policy has been modelled on that. They can get rid of the excess food, while using the XS to seek influence across the world - especially when the other country is hungry.
If we do a UK-US deal, this will dominate the deal. The US go on about how the EU standards get in the way of their food exports. Many in the farm sector in the EU are worried that the US will do a deal with UK, as a stepping stone to challenging the EU. Many will go on about GM, chlorinated chicken hormone beef - and don't forget Ractopamine fed pigs. But the real worry is tonnes of soya and corn syrup coming in. At present there is a massive EU tariff on HFCS - but that may change in UK Watch out, all our foods could be drenched in the stuff.
Let the markets rule
The post war consensus in this country between Labour and Conservatives to provide guaranteed payments for many farmers came to an end, partly due to entry into the EU - who wanted markets to rule, and to Mrs Thatcher, who certainly did. She started selling off all the science research stations, starting with the Plant Breeding Institute (to Unilever (who sold it to Monsanto) but this continued under other governments - including New Labour who allowed shuting of most of Wellesbourne.
Since then we have produced less and less of our own food, and have gone from importing only about 1/4 of our food in late 1980s' to importing nearly half now. Food import costs amount to $66 BILLION. Imagine what we could do with that money! They also cost the earth in terms of the environment. Other peoples land and labour pay the price for our cheap food imports.
In April 1994, with deregulation of the milk market in Britain, the Agriculture Act 1993 also did away with the Potato Marketing Board - introduced before WW2 to stabilise potato prices. A farmer near here (rural Lancashire) here told me that the worst thing that happened to farming in this area was the removal of the Milk Marketing Board - that guaranteed prices. Many have since gone out of dairy.
Forest creation has declined dramatically since the late 1980s.
In April 2016, National Farmers Union voted 'overwhelmingly' to remain in the EU. "The union - which has 55,000 members in England and Wales (70% of full-time farmers in England and Wales are members) - announced its position after a vote by its council. However, the NFU said it would not be actively campaigning in the referendum."It said its council members looked at a number of issues, including the impact leaving the EU would have on agricultural trade and the availability of labour." Unbelievably - and disgracefully - the NFU then decided not to actively campaign in the referendum. The resolution came after the NFU in Scotland and the Tenant Farmers' Association both expressed support for remaining in the EU.
I was under the impression the NFU was undecided as some farmers - big ones in the East wanted Brexit, while others especially in West wanted to Remain, so did not campaign as felt that their membership were split. I hadn't realised that they ignored this important vote of their own council.
Brexit is mutton dressed as lamb..