Farm technology is generally higher but Europe as a whole is a surplus area for temperate produce. British farmers occupy much larger units than most of their counterparts in Europe and arc relatively more efficient. On the other hand the problem of these small farms is a fundamental one and the process of amalgamation is slow. There is evidence from some of the popular recreational areas like south-west England that sources of tourist revenue can be very important to farmers.
One study in Cornwall showed that on farms under 50 acres, revenue from tourism was more than half of total farm revenue, in other words more important than the agricultural component.
It has been said that a crop of caravans was the most profitable crop farmers could grow. One estimate is that an unregistered site can provide a farmer with an annual income of £200 which would make a useful contribution to farm revenue, and this was from a site for only three caravans. In encouraging crofters to provide tourist accommodation, the Crofters' Com- mission has made grants towards the erection of tourist accommodation.
How extensively used is this scheme of paying grants to crofters?
The grants to encourage amalgamation apply to all agricul- tural holdings where there is a possibility of creating economic units. Crofts are subject to special legislation where any change of occupation has to be agreed to by the Crofters' Commission.
The grants scheme is an attempt to encourage a trend towards farm amalgamation which is already quite well established.
This trend has been most noticed in the areas where it is least important, in the areas of arable farms which are already large.
It has been least marked in the areas of marginal farming in the uplands, The problem of small holdings is exaggerated as these are largely areas of prolonged migration where occupiers tend to be elderly, and conservative in their attitudes to farm-·
ing. The legislation to provide either a retirement grant or a retirement annuity came in 1967 and so far the response has been quite small, partly because people arc suspicious. There is a restraint over subsequent subdivision. The area must not be subdivided for another 15 years. This was originally 25 years but was reduced to encourage farmers to accept the scheme.
Assuming the farmer is permitted to retain the home- stead, would the balance be leased, sold privately or sold to the Crown?
Not the Crown. There was a proposal to create a number of mral development boards which would acquire land and recast it in larger units and make them available to farmers.
These boards were to promote the integration of forestry, agriculture and recreation over these marginal areas. Only one was created, the North Pennines Rural Development Board, but the present Government abolished this when it came to power. There is no longer any question of State acquisition but there is encouragement to amalgamate. The nature of transfer depends on the status of the land. Much of this is individually owned by their occupiers and this would largely be a matter of freehold sale. There has been no real analysis of the effect of the scheme but I do know the response has been disappointing.
I believe that fewer than 27,000 of Scotland's 56,000 holdings are large enough to support one labour unit per holding and there are about 15,000 crofters who need to supplement their farm incomes by other employment.
What number of small holdings are there in the total of Great Britain?
There are about 300,000 holdings in Great Britain and only about half of these are really full-time farms. Quite a lot of holdings are parcels of agricultural land, some of which are occupied by business men and others for spare time occupation, some are accommodation fields for butchers and the like.
Why then did the North Pennines Rural Development Board fail?
In part because there was opposition from farmers. There was a proposal in Wales to have a central Wales development board but people were fearful this meant land nationalisation.
The Government's decision to abolish the North Pennines Board is, I think, a matter of political philosophy. The Con- servative Government did not feel this was an appropriate
role for an official agency.
Opposite: Crofts, Broadford, Island of Skye, North West Scotland. Crofts are agricultural holdings in one of the seven crofting counties and ore under the jurisdiction of the Crofters Commission. They have less than SO acres of improved land and access to common rough grazing.
Dwellings often line a coastal road with their parallel strip of improved land extending at right angles to the road.
Photo: J. T. Coppock from a transparency.
Do you think similar provisions will be re-instated? Whatever the machinery the problem exists, the problem of inadequate rural income, the problem of effective multiple use of much of this poor land. With our limited resources we can't afford to designate large areas for one use while much of it is capable of multiple use, that is, of combining recreation with sheep grazing without detriment to either, although this may require restraint from both. I think that promotion of this kind of development is essential and whatever machinery is devised, the need for such machinery and the need for such multiple use will remain.
WOOL IS EVERYBODY'S CONCERN
If overnight wool was squeezed out of our lives we could expect to cut our living standards, not by 20 percent because of wool, but by another 20 percent as well because of mutton. In New Zealand wool st:rnds second in earning power behind meat. However, mutton comprises about 60 percent of all meats exported and mutton and wool together account for about 4-0 percent of export earnings. These insepar·
ables fetch the highest cash returns from much of our farmland and particularly so from the large areas of low arability. The only real challenge 10 wool and munon is from beef in the short term and possibly venison, recreation and forestry in the long term - fruit, cro,p and dairy expansion over this area would suffer for efficiency and for the want of markets.
Even so, with munon prices down, along with wool, and also dairy prices barely viable, now is the time for extensive commodity and market research, coupled with resource analysis for the eventual production of selected commodities. It is hoped that on-the-farm extension services are intensified this year, that recently announced finance.aid policies prove effective, and that the Agriculturol Production Council can pinpoint specific means for diversification. The operative ques1ion is - whal agricultural produce do overseas people want?
Meanwhile there is a lot of wool to be sold efficiently and the Wool Board has the solution in recommending the corporation. The mechanics of future wool disposal is not clear in detail as there is much to be decided by the corporation when it comes to power. However, the power will be real, a monopoly, with a $200 million cash Oow at stake.
New Zealand farmers produced more wool in 1970-71 than any other year, with 736.1 m lb (greasy) grown - contributing 12.2 percent to world supplies - and holding easy third place behind the U.S.S.R. with 915 m lb and Australia 1,944 m lb and trailed by Argentina with 386 m lb. The average auction price per lb greasy was 24.2c, two cents down on the four years or 7.3c down on the ten years preceding.
This decline is attributed to competition from synthetic fibres, an increase in the quantity of wool grown, and an increase in per capita income of consumers able to have short-life garments alternative to woolJens. Our marketing system has never risen to the competition from synthetic fibres. These derive from by-product chemicals of production fuels and it is the interdependence of the petroleum and man-made fibre industries which has strengthened their position against wool.
The Battelle report says how deficient wool is from an end-users view- point. JI says how to sell raw wool, but is relatively mute on what could be done with it in New Zealand. The symptoms so clearly spelled out indicate that the long term problem is to tum wool into a
supreme product for the convenience of the end-user. Already there is
an (ironic} demand for New Zealand carpet yarn in Australia and Japanese yarn in Russia. But what processing by New Zealand spinners can most do, besides presenting a good front for wool, is to elevate the raw wool price by competitive buying against overseas spinners. This may presuppose temporary subsidisation of the processing industry, or the alteraa·tive of foreign investment in New Zealand spinning, less risk, lower return.
The Wool Commission has shown that wool on a greasy basis has been disposed of in 1970/71 in 1he following form:
Greasy Scoured .•
Stipe On sldns
Thousand metric tons 270.3
11.5 52.2 1.5 335.5 1.5
80.6 3.4 15.5 .5 100.0
Although many people are talking wool, the one sector that js not comprise the yaro and fabric manufacturers that potentially have the power to secure a footing for our wool even if it had to work around 1he clock for ten years to do it. In 1960-70 it used 30 m lb of greasy wool or 4 percent of the clip and is estimated to have exported one-fifth of this, mainly as yarn and carpets. The sale of carpets is unlikely to save the industry but the sale of yarn (and bulk staple) could - basic•
ally by removing most of the deficiencies the end-user objects to, and through the auto-dynamics of the trade, create demand.-Ed.