Without food there can be no life. Without adequate and wholesome food there can be no health. Good Government must ensure sufficient wholesome food for the health of the people. This is an overcrowded island, with only two-thirds of an acre of farmland per person. World population is expanding far more rapidly than the means of feeding it. It is simple common sense to make the fullest possible use of all our agricultural resources.
Yet this plain fact has been criminally ignored by our party politicians. Despite the facts to the contrary, they still behave as if we could restore world conditions of the past and rely on the export of manufactures and services to pay for imported food and raw materials. We are still told that we must “Export or Die”. But with competition increasing in world markets and with the industries of other countries growing more efficient, our very existence is threatened if we continue to depend upon the export drive. We cannot in future rely on exporting sufficient to buy even half the food we need. We dare no longer risk the food of the people depending on world trade. The full expansion of our home agriculture must now come first in our economy.
Union Movement has always recognised this reality. Union Movement would therefore concentrate on home food production, using imports only as supplements and in no ease allowing any undercutting by imported food. Union Movement would establish the confidence needed to enable the farmer to plan his crops for years ahead by guaranteeing the home market to the home producer, by assuring steady prices according to quality and by providing attractive wages and living conditions to farm workers. Only when this becomes the settled policy of the country can agriculture be expected to expand to full productivity.
Food and Farming Union Movement would ensure the food of the people by the vigorous expansion of home agriculture and by the full development of our African resources, along the following lines:
1. Fertility The fertility of the soil, the health of the crops and tile livestock it bears, the skill of the farming population, those are priceless national assets and must he conserved and developed as our only insurance against hunger and privation. The land must not be mined lor quick profits but well fanned for the futu.e as well as the present.
2. Land Use While all interests must be considered priority must be given to food, water and forestry. Land once built on can seldom be restored to agriculture. Such developments must therefore be confined as far as possible to areas of low natural fertility. Open-cast mining must stop immediately. It is criminal to destroy farmland in order to export coal with which to buy food.
3. Land Hunger Access to land must be available to all who are prepared to serve it faithfully on behalf of the community. Land-hunger, now a growing social problem, must be transformed into a social asset and used to infuse new vigour into agriculture. Special attention must he given to apprenticeship and training schemes, in which the guiding principle will be the husbandry of the soil for future generations — and to small-holdings, land-settlement and the improvement of rural housing and living conditions. Multiple farming will be discouraged, so that only men of outstanding ability farm large acreages.
4. Nationalisation There is no case for nationalization, but security of tenure must be made conditional on good management for landowner, tenant and owner-occupier alike. The man who neglects the land will bo unhesitatingly dispossessed, subject to the Right of Appeal in the Court of Law. Rents should be adjusted according to the potential productivity of the farm.
5. Prices and Wages Prices must be fixed by agreement between Government and producers. Consumer subsidies must be abolished (a) by reducing distribution costs, and (b) by raising wages, pensions and allowances throughout every industry and so ensuring that every household has sufficient income for a good adequate diet. Wages in agriculture will be comparable with those in other industries. But it is even more important that the farm worker and his family should have good housing and living conditions, adequate transport facilities for those in remote areas and the opportunity to gain independence if so desired.
6. Marginal Land and Forestry There are great opportunities for expanding food production on marginal land, particularly of meat. Both capital and confidence will be needed. The Government must be, prepared to give a bold and generous lead, by assisting private enterprise, and where this is not forthcoming, by direct action. In all cases, however, the work will be entrusted to practical experts. The ultimate aim will to the establishment of individual farmers on such terms as will enable them to make as good a living as that derived from better land. Union Movement policy of advancing adequate credit at low rates of interest, through a special Agricultural Bank, will particularly benefit marginal and hill fanners. Some land unsuitable for farming will remain, and it is Union Movement policy to afforest this. Shelter-belts must also be planted in exposed areas, to benefit surrounding fields, and existing woodlands must be improved and replanted as’ national assets.
7. Food and Health Home produced food, properly grown and delivered to the consumers in a fresh and wholesome condition, is the nation’s first line of defence against debility and disease. Distributors and processors will he required to work to this end, through their own organisations but in conformity with the highest possible standards of nutrition. This must also be a subject for popular education. Unavoidable surpluses will be preserved by the highest-quality methods.
8. Self-Government In conformity with the Self-Governing principle of Union Movement, the Minister of Agriculture will be a farmer of wide, experience risen in public life by the support and votes of the farming community. In addition, agriculturists of all classes will be encouraged to work together for the management of their own affairs, and Union Movement intends to place full responsibility for good farming squarely on their shoulders. As the necessary organisations are formed they will be given increasing responsibility, until only overall guidance and co-ordination remain as the functions of central Government. Marketing, the planning of agricultural land-use and home-grown food supplies will be outstanding responsibilities of Agricultural Self-Government. Imported food, however, since its supply must be adjusted to home production, will remain under direct control, though much can be done by encouraging mutual agreements between producers of different countries through European and other organizations.
9. European and African Co-Ordination A European and African Co-ordinating Authority must be set up with powers to regulate the production, distribution and storage of the food and raw materials within the Euro-African area. Both European and African agriculture must be self-governing and controlled by all actively-engaged therein.
10. Africa It is the aim of Union Movement to develop Africa as a great estate for the white man but with full protection of the native against exploitation. Besides supplementing home production of food, Africa will provide living-space for overcrowded populations of Europe and opportunities to farm for those with a spirit of adventure for whom land cannot be found at home.
Yet Union Movement intends that Africa shall be developed on a sound and practical basis and with respect for the soil and vegetation. Water, that highly important factor in Africa, will be carefully conserved and utilized by the protection of watersheds, the proper control of the great lakes and rivers and by irrigation schemes wherever these are feasible. With this water policy will go a great campaign to arrest soil-erosion and to rebuild fertility. The training of natives in better farming methods and the eradication of pests and diseases will be further obligations. Though native populations must always be allotted sufficient land for their own requirements, in areas best suited for native life, European experts must exercise control of land-use for many years to come in the interests of African and European alike.
Africa can be the source of many raw materials needed by Britain and the rest of Europe, thus ensuring independence from America and the Soviet. This will in turn bring a balanced economy, and so a settled home agriculture. British farming in particular will benefit when Africa, supplies high-protein feeding stuffs, thus increasing the stock-carrying capacity of British farms and consequently the fertility of our soil.
BRITISH FOOD FOR BRITISH PEOPLE
Robert Row – October, 1950.