14 OCTOBER 1938, Page 3

Farmers and Food Defence To demands for increased rearmament and

improved air defence, the National Farmers' Union, representing 120,000 farmers, has now added the demand for increased assistance to the agricultural industry, " the fourth line of defence." It is true that, as the farmers claim, the industry will be called on for increased production in time of war, and that, despite the Government's pledge that plans are in readiness, such plans have not been revealed and the farmers have been left unprepared. The farmers' immediate proposals combine a policy of " insured prices " with restriction of imports. It is clear that since " insured prices " already apply over a large range of agricultural products, what they really demand is " insurance " at a higher level than at present. Their manifesto will be read with sympathy and interest. Nevertheless, so far as food defence is concerned, the Govern- ment's greatest omission is not to have made any adequate preparation for food-storage and distribution. Further restrictions on food-imports may increase dependence on outside supplies of other commodities, and it would seem wisest, in preparing for increased war-time production, to proceed with a policy of direct subsidies for land reclamation and improvements. Rearmament will be an immense burden on the taxpayer ; it is essential that it should be carried through as economically as possible and with the best possible distribution of resources.

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