4 APRIL 1947, Page 3

Frost, Flood, Farmers and Food

One of the most refreshing contrasts between pre-war and post- war Britain—perhaps it is the only refreshing contrast—is the universal willingness to admit the importance of the farms and to take action to help farmers. A disastrous harvest and a destructive winter, followed by almost equally destructive flooding, have given that willingness the edge of urgency. To the enormous subsidies paid out by the Government must now be added voluntary assistance by all to those farmers who have suffered by the floods. To this in turn must be added the commendable exercise in self-help initiated in the appeal of the National Farmers' Union to the whole of agri- culture and its ancillary industrieeto contribute to a Disaster Fund in aid of the farmers who have been brought low by the weather. Although the acreage target for wheat cannot possibly be reached, every effort, including the diversion of machinery and tractors in- tended for export, is being bent to spring sowing. The increase in the allocation of feeding stuffs to pigs and poultry is the best possible news, since the production of bacon and eggs admits of a more rapid acceleration than most agricultural production, and the special allowance for autumn calvers augurs well for a further increase in winter milk. All the news is of progress in the right direction. The appearance of the countryside and of farm installations is evidence that the trend is not a new one and that the foundation for further progress has been well laid in recent years. Much remains to be done for the improvement of rural housing and the speeding up of the delivery of tractors and other machinery. Scientific research has a still greater contribution to make. But the present handicap is huge, and the effort required in the coming months is correspondingly great. It can be undertaken with confidence. World production and world prices still hold no threat of a break in the markets. In present circumstances the pre-war question— how much agriculture can we afford?—can be put into cold storage. For the time being we can afford all we can get.