12 MAY 1950, Page 16


Featherbed Farmers

SIR,—Much muddled uninformed thinking exists regarding farm profits. Some facts need stating. Wye College statistical department regularly collects the audited accounts of over 200 farms in Kent, varied in size, nature and output, to give a fair cross-section of results from year to year. The evidence shows that in recent years and this year a very large proportion have been actually losing money, and the average profit is very modest indeed. This is not mere hearsay, and can be established. It applies to that part of England where conditions are more favourable than average.

There was a time between the wars when more than 75 per cent. of farmers were quite insolvent, and great areas became derelict ; I saw ten farmers in my district become bankrupt. This must not happen again, because then we had the money abroad to buy imported food at bankrupt prices ; now we have little or none. The fifty millions in these islands will ultimately have to exist on our mainly natural resources of coal and agriculture, and exports through their means. The sooner this is realised the better we shall stave off threatened starvation. It is vital that all land, marginal or otherwise,' shall be tilled efficiently, and for this you must pay economic prices. The land will not give " something for nothing." You can only get what you are prepared to pay for, and offer. The fact that today's prices give high profits to a few highly efficient farmers on good land, most of which goes In taxation, is irrelevant. Incentive to those of average ability on average land must be offered, and is the only way to get your food in greatest supply. Hard times certainly will not increase production ; it is always the other way round. If today's fantastic economic position is realised, the need to encourage, by all means, increasing production as an insur- ance against starvation will be understood.

It should be added that all the world, except our own industrialists, agrees that British agriculture is by far the most efficient in any country on earth ; its crops are the heaviest, the most valuable and nutritious, and its livestock the most virile. But of course, its costs of production are the highest, including its workers' wages. One gets inefficient workers in farming as in. all industries, but they are a small minority and fast being eliminated by persuasion, example and pressure. The standard is rapidly rising. Surely it is fair to accord a reasonable standard of living to the most valuable workers among us, who never strike and often work seven days a week. Sometimes the whole family works when the total income is far below the average standard farm wage, with the nightmare of a bad year always in mind. It is wrong to denounce the farming industry without knowing the facts in detail.—Yours faithfully,

Lower Austin Lodge Farm, Eynsford, Kent. F. C. HYNARD.