Modern farming

During the Second World War, close supervision by the Government had pulled agriculture away from the severe depression it had suffered in the 1920s and 1930s. Farmers provided maximum levels of home grown food, while the Government guaranteed agricultural prices.

However, even before Britain returned to peacetime conditions, it was clear that measures would be needed to promote the long term stability of agriculture.

The Agriculture Act of 1947 was drafted with the close involvement of farmers and their representatives. It proved to be a far reaching measure and set the trend for British farming for the next 50 years.

Guaranteeing minimum prices

In encouraging increased production, the Act protected farmers and their workers against the fluctuations of the market by guaranteeing minimum prices for key agricultural products. This was achieved through annual price reviews in which farmers were directly consulted by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Pricing was therefore maintained at sufficient levels to provide farmers and their workers with adequate pay and living conditions, and to enable them to invest in equipment.

Security of tenure

Parliament also assisted farmers in the issue of tenure. In a separate measure, the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1948, all existing and future tenant farmers were given security of tenure for life. This provision was eventually extended in 1976 to allow close relatives of a deceased tenant to take over the holding on the same terms.

More recent legislation has given landlords and tenants freedom to negotiate what are called business tenancies that suit the needs of both parties.

Over the long term, the greater sense of security afforded by the 1947 and 1948 Acts, and by later legislation, encouraged a movement towards owner-occupier farms.

Did you know?

Britain had the most highly mechanised agriculture in Europe during the Second World War, with over £100 million of investment in machinery

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Historic Hansard

The House of Lords debates the Third Reading of the Agriculture Bill