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28 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

'.AGRICULTURE.

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Rhannu

AGRICULTURE. 11 Government's Policy of Protection., THE PREMIER S SPEECH. i The Prime Minister yesterday delivered his promised speech to agriculturists, at the Caxton Hall, Westminster, and placed before a representative gathering of the industry the Government's policy. The farmer, he said, stood in need of protection, and he wnuld get it. The first was security to the cultivator against ruin from the violent fluctuations of- foreign agriculture. The land was increasingly pe66ing into the market, and the farmer conse- quently stood in need of special protection. It was proposed tenancy should not be affected by notice to quit for the purpose of raising the rent, but that the new ren: should be fixed either by mutual agreement or arbitration. Regarding the question of credit Mr. Lloyd George said he was looking to the great banking coooerns to be helpful, but. the Government were determined to leave nothing undone to put the industry upon a satisfactory basis, and credit facilities were a neceseity. With reference to transport, it vae h oped to arrange rates so as not to handi- cap farmers. 1 Lord Leo of Fareham presided, and Mr. Lloyd George, who had a most enthu- siastic reception, said although agricul- ( ture was the greatest industry in the State very little bad been done in recent & generations to foster it in this country. 1 He hoped now that a new era was be- ginning in the relations of the State with agriculture. We discovered during the war that neglect of this essential indus- try had brought the nation to the verge of a great disaster. If Germany had pur- « sued the same agricultural policy as we I" had pursued, and neglected agriculture as we had done, Germany would have col- ■y lapsed within a year. It was because Germany had pursued a different policy that, in spite of the blockade, and with much, poorer soil than ours, she was able to hold out for four years. Giving comparative figures to show how much more per acre Germany had been able to produce from the soil than Great Britain, the Prime Minister also referred to the case of Denmark as an example of r what can be done if there was a real partnership between the State and Agri- culture. ADVERSE TRADE BALANCE. I This country, he said, was now suffer-, ing from an adverse balance of traae, I and there was only one way to put that ? right. Every industry had to increase ? production, and, as agriculture was the I greatest of all industries, it must have l the greatest share in that increase. It was computed that we could raise in this country in food commodities £ 15U,000,000 worth which was now brought from abroad. If we could do that the sovereign I would look up. ¡ As the result of the special effort in 1917 the production of the United King- dom was increased by one and three- quarter million acres. That made an enormous difference, not merely in the I price of food, but in freeing shipping for the conveyance of war materials for the men who were fighting for our lives. Be- ¡ tor the war three-fifths of the grain con3mued in this country was imported. After the war three-fifths was produced here, and only two-fifths imported. That I, was the result of the Corn Production Act, which gave security to the farmer. The State had not lost money by the guarantee. Not a single penny had passed from the pockets of the general tax- payers to that of any agricultural inter- est. (Cheers). The Act had kept the price of the loaf from going up, and it had enabled the farmer to pay higher wages, with reduced hours of labou r, and had stimulated the employment of lab- our-saving machinery. This had been done without the loss of a single penny to the State. RESTORATION OF AGRICULTURE. We needed to go further yet in the re- storation of agriculture. Since 1870, 4,600,000 acres of arable land had gone out of cultivation. We had restored 1,750,000. If we are to go forward we must have a settled policy with regard to agricul- i tare. (Cheers). The first c<)ndition wa, security to the cultivator against nun from the violent fluctuations of foreign agriculture. The farmer, who was aslrer! to take a risk, demanded a guarantee from the State that he would not be J dragged into the ehaem as he was in 1879. He argued that if prices abroad were not likely to fall to the pre-war prices the guarantee oould not be given without risk. The Prime Minister agre-d that all the elements that make prices indicated dearly that we were not going to get from abroad the cheap grain we bad be- fore the war, and he thought it war, es- eential that a guarantee should be given. The amount and the period of the guar- antee were the subject of examination by I a commission, and, as to the period, he would only say that it must cover a sufficient number of years to make the I farmer feel it was worth his while to break up land. There were other elements which were disturbing cultivation. Land in increas- iug quantities was passing into the mar- ket. Before this ye-ar ended over a mil- lion acres would have changed hands. The Board said severe things about landowners -(laughter)-but at any rate they had not been a profiteering class, and their patriotism during the war had been an inspiration and an example. Their bur- dens had enormously increased, and he was afraid they would find it impossible to maintain their positions without part- ing with a good deal of their land. I SPECIAL PROTECTION. I In these circumstances the farmer stood in need of special protection, and it was proposed that he should be secured in his tenancy, unless the land was sold either for public purposes, or a case could be made for his beng a bad cultivator. In case where notiee to quit was given in order to raise the rent, it was proposed that the tenancy should not be affected, hut the new rent should be fixed, either by agreement between the parties, or, failing agreement, by an arbitrator ap- pointed in the usual way. Therp would. therefore, be a guarantee of the State and guarantee of the land- lords. and the farmer himself must give a guarantee that he would do his best to increase the maximum production. Under the Corn Production Act there was power to deal with the slack farmer. There was nl) room for h:m in this country. In regard to the agricultural labourer he had the guarantee of a maximum wage, and he wa. all for his getting a good minimum w age. The agricultural I labourer would, however, make a mis- take if he were to take advantage of the present labour shortage to drive too hard a bargain—(cheers)—and to insist upon conditions which would make national production impossible in this country. there must be co-operation among all classes to make this a success. THE QUESTION OF CREDIT. There was also the question of credit, j He was looking to the great banking concerns to be helpful in this respect, but the Government were determined to leave nothing undone to put the industry upon a satisfactory basis, and they re- giirded credit facilities as a necessity, if this object was to be secured. The development of transport facili- ties was another essential to a revival in agricultural prosperity, and he hoped it would be possible to arrange rates so as not to handicap the farmer. In conclusion, he said he would like to see strong and J*Sld steps taken to lure the population back to the land. There was much to be done for the re- generation of rural life in England. They wanted more cottages with land at- tached, and a development of rural in- dntries. Tbeir object must be to make England a garden ringing with cheerful and contented life. ( Cheers.)

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