UFU laments poor weather conditions and potato harvest (1926)
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The general secretary submitted the report of the executive committee, which contained the following: “Your executive take the opportunity of expressing their sympathy with members of the union and farmers generally on the deplorable weather conditions that have been experienced during the harvest.
“Many farmers have suffered serious losses whilst all have had great difficulties and anxieties. The desperate plight to which agriculture is now reduced, following on the disastrous potato season of last year, is surely sufficient ground for commending it to the serious consideration of the government of the country and of the community generally.
“Notwithstanding, however, that disaster follows depression, and that agriculture is now reduced to an economic condition worse even than during the pre-war period, having regard to the higher cost of production, it would appear that there is not sufficient courage amongst our statesmen to enunciate a broad general policy that would ensure the stabilisation of the basic industry of the country.
“Your executive committee, however, are not without hope that something tangible and concrete by way of a policy for agriculture within the Empire may be evolved at the present Imperial Economic Conference.
“Unless something is done, and done soon, action will have to be taken by farmers themselves to evolve an agricultural policy which will ensure them at least against a portion of the losses they are now so steadily and continuously sustaining by tillage.
“It cannot be expected that farmers will continue to grow produce year after year for the sale of which they do not receive even their cost of production on no country in the world has agriculture been so much neglected as at home, and one of the reasons for that neglect undoubtedly is the lack of sufficiently powerful organisation of farmers to secure that through parliamentary and other public representatives effective expression is given to the condition and needs of their industry.”
The report continued: “Your committee are gratified to be able to report that the Agricultural Aid Committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Pirrie, has unanimously recommended that the sum set aside by the Northern Government for the relief of agriculture should go entirely in reduction of rates on land.
“Your committee have not yet been able to get an official decision as to the basis of allocation of the grant; but only recently they urged that there should be placed, at the earliest moment, to the credit of each county council the amount to which each is entitled.
“Your committee cannot but express their appreciation of the report that has been issued by Lord Pirrie and the other members of his committee, and they gratefully acknowledge the careful, painstaking and impartial manner in which his lordship and the committee carried out their duties.
“Your executive in all modesty claim that had it not been for the activities of the Farmers' Union every penny of this grant would have been diverted to purposes other than rates; whereas, as it stands, an whatever way the money may be allocated to each county, it will result in every farmer in Northern Ireland - large and small - receiving a substantial relief of his burden of rates.
“With the other recommendations of the Pirrie Committee your executive are, in the main, in hearty agreement - such as specialised production, where that is possible; the application of the Loans Guarantee Act to agriculture, the inspection, grading, and standardisation of produce for export; reduction in railway and steamship rates, and the provision of further money by the Northern Government for the promotion of the various schemes submitted to the committee by the secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture.”
The report also referred to the flax water inquiry and the valuation of real property in Northern Ireland, on which evidence was given on behalf of the Ulster Farmers' Union by Mr John M Mark, MP, and a protest was made against the regulations which were imposed by the Imperial Government on a recent shipment of Irish cattle.
The report expressed the hope that, “as a result of the mass meeting held in Perth some time ago, the Imperial Government may be induced to revoke its former decision against the licensing of the importation of potatoes, and so help to stabilise the market in the interests of producers, without in any way penalising consumers”.
Other subjects which had been considered by the executive committee included the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, Belfast milk prices, inspection of potatoes, railway and steamship rates, the Gibson Trust Fund, tar spraying of roads, daylight saving, and motor taxation
The report was adopted, on the motion of Major McCormack, seconded by Mr A J Pilkington, JP.