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Farming and the Agriculture Acts

The Agriculture Act of 1947

There was a significant increase in the prosperity of the agricultural sector during the war, particularly in the arable region of eastern England. The coalition government had committed itself to the permanent cultivation of fertile land, the upkeep of farms and economic stability in agriculture.

The Agriculture Act of 1947 was an important piece of legislation which conditioned post-war policy. The government's aim was to maintain high levels of agricultural production through a system of guaranteed prices negotiated annually by the Ministry of Agriculture and the <<National Farmers' Union>>. The government subsidised shortfalls between market prices for food and the income requirements of farmers. It actively promoted the marketing of foodstuffs through the marketing boards, which had been set up before the war.

Arable and pastoral farming

Arable farming emerged as the most profitable sector of agriculture, but the government also assisted pastoral farming. The Hill Farming Act of 1946 was aimed at the expansion of pastoral farming and made available grants for improving upland farms. The government sustained a drive to use marginal land for stock farming into the 1950s, resulting in a substantial increase in the upland acreage used for farming into the 1950s.

Food rationing

The Agriculture Acts of the 1940s laid the foundation for the large-scale expansion of agricultural production over the next 30 years. Nevertheless, rationing was extended to bread between 1946 and 1948 and potatoes over the winter of 1946-47, and rationing of some foodstuffs, particularly meat, continued into the 1950s.

Agriculture in the post-war period was marked by substantial social change. This legislation tended to improve the lot of farmers against landlords, but did little to directly assist agricultural labourers. The Agricultural Wages Act of 1947 established the Agricultural Wages Board on a permanent basis to engage in an annual review of wages.