Many hedgerows have been removed How has farming changed since 1940? Farms are larger Field sizes are larger Less people work on the farm Crop yields have improved Artificial fertilizers and pesticides are used More machines, such as tractors, are used Not all animals are free-range
Farming declined during the period 1870 to 1939 and the countryside was largely neglected and uncared for. During and after the Second World War, there was a need for the UK to become more self-sufficient with regards to its food production. Efforts were made to increase the amount of land under production and to improve crop yields .
Why was it important to be self-sufficient in food production after the Second World War?
In 1973, the UK joined the EU. The EU has encouraged farmers to alter their production, by the use of grants and quotas . It has also encouraged farmers to ‘ set aside ’ land to reduce the overproduction of certain crops.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) When Britain joined the Common Market in 1973, it adopted the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The Common Agricultural Policy is a system of subsidies paid to EU farmers. Its main purposes were to guarantee minimum levels of production, so that Europeans have enough food to eat, and ensure a fair standard of living for those dependent on agriculture . CAP AIMS Create a single market in which agricultural products could move freely. Make the community more self-sufficient by giving preference to EU produce and restrict imports from elsewhere. Increase agricultural production through payments to farmers (subsidies). Under the CAP farmers are guaranteed fixed prices for their farm products within the EU, whatever the world market prices. Increase the average field size, farm size and farmer’s income.
Was the CAP successful? The policy was very successful. By the 1970’s the EEC was self-sufficient in most types of food that could be grown in Europe’s climate. Wetlands were drained and many hedges removed to allow for the costly combine harvesters and other machines, which required large regular shaped fields in order to be economic. Between 1980 and 1995 average farms increased from 70 –95 hectares.
PROBLEMS OF THE CAP: 1. OVERPRODUCTION The CAP was so successful that by the mid 1980’s there were large surpluses of most foods, the so called cereal, butter and beef ‘mountains’ and the wine and milk ‘lakes’ which were costly to store and dispose of. However, farmers had great political power in many EEC countries. Politicians would not risk upsetting them, because they might lose votes. So the CAP continued to pay farmers to produce food that no one wanted. The EEC spent more on CAP than anything else. Something had to be done.
PROBLEMS OF THE CAP: 2. LOW INVESTEMENT Farmers could not be sure of getting a good price so it was not worth modernising their farm as this could lead to debt problems for them
Recent changes in farming 1. DIVERSIFICATION Diversification is the name given to the process where farmers seek alternative income, other than from growing food crops or conventional livestock keeping. There are many reasons why farmers seek this alternative income. One reason might be the decline of subsidies for their traditional produce from the government or EU. This may lead them to develop the farmhouse or outbuildings for bed and breakfast accommodation or to convert another building into a farm shop. In the 1990’s changes were made to bring the CAP under control.
Other recent changes: Milk Quotas: Farmers were allowed to produce only a set amount of milk. If they produced more than this they were fined. This cut over-production of milk Set-aside: Subsidies were paid to farmers who took land out of production. This was aimed at cutting the wheat mountains, and also at leaving some land untouched so that wild flowers, insects, birds and small mammals would find homes there. Support for Conservation Schemes: e.g. Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA’s). These are areas which have a delicate ecosystem. In these areas farmers were paid to maintain the traditional ecosystems.