How we got here
How we got here1840sFollowing 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 end the decline of UK farming.
After the second World War
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. Bott 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. Much of their foreign policy is about getting rid of the excess food.If we do a UK-US deal, this will dominate the deal. Many will go on about GM, chlorinated chicken hormone beef - and don't forget Ractopamine fed pigs. But the real worry is tonnes of high fructose corn syrup coming in. At present there is a massive EU tariff on it.Watch out, all our foods could be drenched in the stuff.
In the last 1980s, a certain 'milk snatcher', decided to remove parliamentary controls over food and 'leave it to the supermarkets'. In the process she started to sell off our public research, like the famous Plant Breeding Institute to Unilever (who sold it to Monsanto). Since then we have produced less and less of our own food or research.