As “an immediate and temporary measure” the ploughing grant of £2 an acre was to be extended to grassland laid down for three years or longer, instead of for seven years. It was to be payable on land set to seed mixture in 1943 or earlier and ploughed after February 5, 1946 for cropping for the 1946 harvest. There was to be no change in the present policy of direction to grow specific crops. While prices for wheat and cereals were to be announced “as soon as possible”, reported the News Letter.
Whilst a joint announcement by the Northern Ireland Ministry of Agriculture stated that similar arrangements to the grassland ploughing grant scheme which had been announced by Mr Williams was to be made, “with appropriate modifications”, to Northern Ireland and Scotland.
GREATER WHEAT ACREAGE
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Mr Williams, moving that the House approve the government’s agricultural policy, said that information available in 1945 from the “great wheat growing countries” did not justify issuing instructions early that autumn for growing of more wheat.
He said that contrary to “gloomy prophecies” by the Opposition, that a preliminary estimate had shown that autumn sowing in 1945 had been as large as in 1944. He said: “Britain had shown an increase in wheat production in 1945 over 1938.”
EFFECT ON PRICES
He said that his “most production objection” to restoring the payment was its possible effect on the price structure in the United Kingdom.
He said: “If we start now to tamper with the price fixing scheme it may completely destroy farmers’ faith in the stability of the scheme.”
He said that he had informed the agricultural committees that plans to decrease the acreage in 1946-47 must be postponed. A call would go out to all farmers to put under tillage at least the same area in 1946 as in 1945.
The committees had been authorised to enforce the ploughing up of seed land and grassland to achieve this tillage acreage, even though it meant postponement of livestock increase and “more work and worry for farmers”, said Mr Williams.
He declared: “The present grain shortage is so severe that a high level of tillage in 1947 is essential. I am warning farmers so that they can make plans well ahead.”
PRICES AND COSTS
Later in the debate on the government’s agricultural policy and especially on the matter of prices and costs, Sir Ronald Ross (Conservative, Londonderry) rose to stress the case for Northern Ireland farmers. He said that the province had “tried to do its fair part”, he said: “Her farmers have made remarkable efforts and had succeeded very well.” He added: “I do not think it is appreciated what tremendous efforts had been made to try to get poultry for the benefit of Britain – the same can be said for milk.”
He added: “All the farmers in Northern Ireland are owner-occupiers. The country people to a large extent live on their own eggs and potatoes, but out of every four eggs, three are sent over to England.”
He said that when the flax grower got a fair price and the £10 acreage payment was in place the position for that industry was easier, but that it was now “lamentable”.
He concluded: “I would appeal strongly to the Minister of Agriculture to make a suitable communication to the Minister of Supply on this matter so that it shall be set right.”