Looking back to look forward

31 December 1999


Looking back to look forward

ONE thousand years of farming history ends tonight. From the wooden, single-furrow ploughs pulled by oxen recorded in the Domesday Book, to the latest agricultural high technology, British farming has witnessed massive change.

Even the past 100 years have seen breath-taking changes. In 1900 wheat sold for £6.10/t and the average farm worker earned less than £1/week. In the first half of this century two world wars led to rapid expansion in the farming industry and a growing realisation that Britain could not survive without its farmers.

In the second half of the 20th century British farming has become the victim of its own success. Plentiful supplies of cheap food, together with the increasing globalisation of world food markets, has led many consumers to under-value those who produce their food. Also an eager Press, anxious to boost newspaper sales, has fuelled food scares from salmonella in eggs and E coli to the infamous BSE in beef. That, combined with anti-farming prejudices and fear of the latest agricultural technology, has created a poisonous brew which threatens our industry.

Worst of all is the income crisis which now afflicts every sector of farming. Of course it is not the first time this century that agricultural incomes have slumped. Memories of the hard times experienced in the 1930s are hard to forget. Nevertheless, our industry is the most efficient in Europe. Despite present hardships it will emerge in an even stronger position to exploit the world market opportunities that lie ahead.

So, join us now as we look back on the events that have shaped British agriculture over the past 100 years.Edited by Mike Stones

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