THE CASE FOR STRUCTURAL IMPROVEMENT IN BRITISH AGRICULTURE*

Publication Date01 Jun 1965
AuthorGavin McCrone1
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9485.1965.tb00686.x
THE CASE FOR STRUCTURAL IMPROVEMENT IN BRITISH
AGRICULTURE*
GAVIN MCCRONE
THE
purpose of this short article is to argue that measures likely to
promote structural reform should be given
a
higher priority in British
agricultural policy, and
in
particular that Government expenditure
should be
so
adjusted that less emphasis is placed on protection and
more
on
the adaptation required to fit the industry
for
a competitive
international environment. This is a question which has been much
discussed recently, and it is the aim of this article to summarise the
case as it at present appears. British Policy is still too closely tied to
the pattern which was devised to meet the problems of the post-war
years. It is clear to all that the present situation differs fundamentally
from that which existed between
1945
and
1952.
Yet measures which
were designed
in
times of food shortage are still given great emphasis;
and though farmers now realise that maximum output with little
regard to cost is no longer the aim, no new objective has yet been
set. In consequence one sometimes sees a rather confused mixture
of
measures designed to restrain the growth of output imposed
on
top
of those which were originally intended to raise it: price subsidies
are paid with one hand, while quotas or acreage restrictions are
imposed with the other. This climate of confusion and uncertainty
cannot help
in
the task
of
raising the industry’s productivity which
ought to
be
the primary aim. The time seems ripe, therefore, for the
Government to state clearly the objectives which agriculture should
be trying to meet in present circumstances and then to redesign its
policy
so
that priority would be given to measures which are most
likely to assist in their attainment.
The
Importance
of
Structure
The importance
of
farm structure as
a
determinant of agricultural
productivity and efficiency is obvious even from purely
a priori
reasoning.
All
industries as they develop make use
of
technical
innovations which require changes in the size
of
the business unit and
*
This is a slightly altered version
of
a paper delivered
to
a discussion group
at the Agricultural Economio Society Conference, Harrogate,
1964.
The arbcle
was already at
the
printers when certain important changes in agricultural
policy, particularly as regards structure, were made in the
Annual
Review
and
Determination
of
Guarantees
1965.
150

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