Bygones Days: Fury at farm minister’s ‘back sliding’ remarks about farmers (1951)
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The minister had said that the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland, which had been “lifted up” to a standard beyond all knowing, following years of difficult times, was slipping back, definitely in output, due to the backsliding and shortcomings of certain members the farming community.
He said that he had been assured that the removal of the compulsory element in regard to tillage would mean that more land would be tilled as result, but the tendency to go back to normal splendid wartime effort had, he feared, “gone a little too far”.
He said: “In doing the industry is throwing itself open to serious and new dangers and difficulties.
“The agricultural output in the province could not maintained - the nation’s need is nothing less than the very highest levels of production.”
A new measure of stability had been brought to the industry with the introduction of guaranteed prices, said the farm minister, “but that stability had to paid for”, and part of the price was the farmers’ readiness to adapt production, “even at short notice to suit the current needs of the nation that guaranteed those was”.
Mr Moore continued: “There is a limit to what can be handled in the autumn months, but it is a strange state of affairs that even with a rationing system we are still unable to supply the actual meat wants of the people of Northern Ireland.
“The tendency to swing away from the plough and take the easy way of farming is showing itself in various ways. There is the high cost feeding-stuffs - last spring the prices for milk were deliberately modified.”
He said that he appreciated the difficulties that faced farmers, “but there is still room to give and take, and, at any rate, difficulties are made to be overcome”.
Speaking at the same event at Portstewart Mr A G Algeo, president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said that the present position was not a case back-sliding, but was due to the “lack of tools to do the job owing to lack liquid capital”.
He suggested that one of the new factories which the government proposed to build the following year should be one for slaughtering livestock.
He said: “This and the by-products will create employment for Ulster people and will obviate the inconvenience caused to Ulster farmers at times through limited shipping facilities.”
The minister’s comments were strongly criticised by the The Ulster Farmers’ Association, at a meeting held during this week in December 1951, during which they protested against “the irresponsible” statements made by the Reverend Moore.
The association, in a statement, said: “Agriculture in Ulster, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, is following the trend dictated by financial stringency.
“Farmers are much too astute to be either induced or directed into financial suicide merely to satisfy the whims and fancies of government planners with empty pockets.
“The minister’s reference to Ulster farmers being unable to supply even the meagre meat requirements of the province will provide strange reading to the thousands producers who for months have suffered inconvenience and financial loss by reason of the fact that ships could not be found to convey across the channel the tens thousands of surplus fat stock which accumulated in the province weekly.’’
No big change in price expected in Ulster turkeys: Mr A S Ringer-Hewett, chairman the Northern Ireland Poultry, Rabbit and Game Exporters’ Association, had addressed concerns on the position of turkey availability in Northern Ireland leading up to Christmas.
In a statement issued during this week in 1951 Mr Ringer-Hewett said: “The marketing of Ulster turkeys is proceeding gradually at prices ranging from 3s 9d to 4s per lb. live weight at the packing stations, but there is still an inclination on the part of some producers to hold back their flocks . . .There is nothing to indicate that there will be any spectacular change in price one way the other, and the market should remain steady at today’s live weight buying prices, providing turkeys are not held back until the last moment.”