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:FEBRUARY COMPETITION.

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-_._-.; The Farmers' Part.

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The Farmers' Part. Mr Lloyd George on the New Policy. IMPORTANT AND FAR-REACHING STEPS. Mr Lloyd George, in his grave speech in the House of Commons on Friday last regarding restricted imports and increase in the production of home-grown foods, outlined a new and highly important agricultural policy. He said: Now I come to the third and most important item, the food tippl)- of the country. Twenty years after the Corn Laws were abolished in this country we produced twice as much wheat as be- fore. Since. then 4,000.000 or 5,000,000 acres of land had gone out of cultivation, and a great part of the agricultural population had emigrated. No doubt the- State showed lamentable indifference to the importance of the agricultural industry-( cheers)— as the very life of the nation. It is a mistake they never again will make. (Cheers.) No civilised country in the world spent less on agriculture or even as little directly or indirectly a;s we did. Between 70. and 80 per cent of our food supplies have been imported each year. .\t the present moment our food stocks are low, alarmingly low. They are lower than they have been iil recollection. That is very largely due to bad harvest. It is not al- together due to submarines. It is essential therefore for the safety, maintenance, and life of the nation that we should put forward every effort to increase production for this year, and do it immediately. The immediate consideration is this year's harvest. It would have been easier to have done that if we had done it some time ago. (Cheers.) But some of the measures we have had to take have been crowded into a few weeks, and I do 1bk that some measure of in- dulgence should he given to my colleague, the Presi- dent of the Board of Agriculture, who has been work- ing under great difficulties—(cheers)—and crowded into six weeks' work, work that ought to have been done two years ago. (Cheers.) There are only a few weeks in which to ow the spring wheat, oats, barley and potatoes. The winter wheat season has gone, and it is urgently necessary that the farmers should be induced to increase the area under cultivation at once, otherwise the nation may have to choose between diminishing its military effort- and that would be a disaster—and under-feeding its population. That is the. choice which Germany has taken. That is a choice we wish to avoid, if we possibly can. in this country. (Cheers.) Lack of Labour. The obs.tacie to inducing the farmer to increase culti. vation is partly lack of labour. In some counties under the voluntary system labourers flocked to the standard. and farmers were left deserted. Some of those were the most important corn-producing farms in this country. There was no system. When the labourer chose to go there was no one to stop him; and there is no doubr the farms were left deserted owing to the zeal and patriotism of the labourerers themselves. (Cheers.) Since the Derby scheme there has been discrimination. and may I say, with regard to the 30,000 men called up out of 60,000 when the tribunals were dispensed with, only 10,000 were taken. Travel across France, and you will find no able-bodied men of military age employed anywhere. All the cul- tivators of the soil are engaged in defending the soil, and there the farmer is dependent almost entirely on men over and not under military age, and women work- ing on the farms, and on substitutes. But the greatest obstacle to their taking this action is the timidity of the farmer when he begins to break up his farm. He has been caught twice with too much arable land-one" in 1880 and once in 1890, both years of agricultural depression. His ssvingvs were absorbed, and in many cases he himself for ye :s was water- logged. There is no memory so tenae: IUS as that of the tiller of the soil, and the furrow in the agricultural mind is still there. Those years have given the British farmer a fright of the plough. It is no use arguing with him. You must give him confidence, otherwise he will refuse to go between the shafts now the plough is our hope. You must cure the farmer of his plough fright, otherwise he will not break up his land. A Minimum Price. I do not believe myself prices are going down imme- diately after the war. I believe the farmer is looking 1 at distorted facts. Germany, after the war, will be a great purchaser, because her land has been let down. and it is the same with all the .land in Europe. It will take years to work it into as good a hardest-raising soil as it was before the devastations of the war. So IHT demand will be greater than ever after the war. Then, there is the demobilisation of the Army and the use of shipping, and all that must mean high pricb for some, time after the war. But you cannot persuade the fanner of that, and it is essential that he should be persuaded, and persuaded in the next few days, and it is no good to argue with him. There is only one way of assuring the farmer, and that is by guaranteeing a minimum price for the crop he Before I come to the actual price we guarantee. I must say there are two or three corollaries to a guaran- teed price. The first is that if the Government guaran- tees a price, wages must also be guaranteed. I do not believe that any farmer looking at the prospects will fail to see that the old wages have gone—and a good thing not only for the labourer but for the farmer. The best farms in a district pay the best wages, and a guarantee of a minimum wage would not, for instance, touch Scotland. There is no doubt that the Scotch farmer i- the be-st in the world. Another fact is that under Mr Neville Chamberlain's scheme a. minimum wage of 25/- has been fixed, and we have decided to take that figure. A wage of 25/- a week will be guaranteed to every able-bodied male between the ages indicated in Mr Neville Chamberlain's speech, and exceptional cases where men were taken on in charity, and who could be dispensed with, will he de- cided under the rough-and-ready machinery set up for the war. The guaranteed wage, of course, is only during the period of the guaranteed price. Another corollary to the guaranteeing of price is that there must be a guarantee that if the State is going to put up a, minimum price it shall not inure to the ad- vantage of any individual or any class of individuals. We must not have the sort of thing that liappened in the Boer War. that when there had been an increase of prices rents were doubled. Fixity of Rents. But when the House of Commons is asked to guaran- te.e prices, it is entitled to a guarantee that rents shall not be raised in consequence of this guarantee fund Tilde are some cases where rents have been raised even in peace an old tenant has been al. lowed to remain for 40 or 50 years at a very low rent. | That is just and fair. In those cases there is not going to be interference. It is obvious the landlord ought to have the right to adjust the rent in consequence of rise in prices which bring better profits to the farmer him. self. We propose that the landlord shall not be al- lowed to raise his rent except with the consent of the Board of Agriculture. Now I come to the powers to be given to the Board of Agriculture of interference with cultivation. It is un- just that a man should be allowed to sit on land that is esential for the production of food and refuse to do any- thing. (Chee-rs.) The Government must have the right through the proper departments to enforce cultivation in these cases. (Cheers.) Next, the question of prices. The price of wheat in 1915 was 52/10 per quarter; 1916. 58/5; and in the last quarter it went up to 68/2. It is now 76/3. A Member: What was it before the war? Mr Lloyd George: 34/11. But let me say this, the price of everything has gone up, and the farmer has had to pav very much higher wages. Oats in 1915 were ?)/ in 1916, 33/5, for the last quarter 38/4, and for the week ending February 17, 47/3. Barley ha. gone up, and potatoes—well, the House knows fairh well about them. (Laughter.) Potato Prices. A Member: Where are they? (Laughter.) Mr Lloyd George: I can assure, the House that I know fairly well. (Cheers and laughter). But let me say a word about that, because there has been a good deal of talk about the price of potatoes. If we could have avoided it we would not have interfere with the price of potatoes at all. The moment you begin to in- terfore you find it is a very difficult thing. If we had not interfered the price would have gone, up to £21) a ton. They have been Old at £ 20 a ton. Were we to allow that to be done? There is a shrrtagtl of potatoes, That has nothing to do with submarines. This is the guarantee we propose to give: We propose in the present year to guarantee for wheat 60/- per quarter—that is the minimum—for 1918 and 1919, ;'5/ for 1920-21-22. 45/ Then the guarantee comes to an end. In the case of oats we guarantee 38-/S for 3361b. That is higher than the minimum price we arranged with Ire- land some months ago, without a minimum wage guar- ant-ee. In 1918-19 the price will be 32/ and for the next three, years 24/ Potatoes we simply propose to guarantee for this coming season it t6 a ton. The only guarantee of a maximum we have given is this, that if the State, commandeers either potatoes or cereals the price will not be fixed without the consent of the Boards of Agriculture in England, Scotland and Ireland, and that therefore there will be an opportunity for consul- tation before the price is fixed. Although it is now very late, the farmers can in- crease, even now, by hundreds of thousands of tons, the food of this country this year, and thus they can help to defeat the grimmest menace that has ejer threatened this country. (Cheers.) I do not believe they will fail us. (Hear, hear.)

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ASTONISHING MEMORY.

GIVE THE FOOD PROVIDER A CHANCE.

DRINK AND THE WAR. !

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