THE NECESSITY OF AGRICULTURE Farmers' Lack Of Opportunity
From Our WeLsh Correspondent "The agriculture of our country is decaying, a large proportion of farmers tare failing to pay their way and many others ?nerdy live from hand to mouth. The farm.s are rotting and the people have not the heart to cultivate the land properly nor to spend money on the improvements which it demands."
This is the melancholy picture drawn by Mr. Moses Gruffydd in a recently published pamphlet on Welsh Agriculture (Ainaethyddiaeth Cymru). But while he finds no difficulty in proving that Welsh agriculture is suffering from a rapid consumption, Mr. Gruffydd is not merely concerned to make political capital out of the ineptitude of the present policy of the English Government. He makes a most convincing plea for a realistic policy which shall restore agriculture to the place it holds in a properly balanced society.
There Must be Agriculture The first need is to insist on the necessity of agriculture. The cultivation of the land is not an industry that can be taken up or abandoned at the beck of trade booms or depressions. And in Wales, where town-life has invariably meant the destruction of Welsh culture, a concentration on coal and heavy industries has not merely left Wales destitute when export trade declined: it has mined the traditional character of a nation and has created in its stead a hybrid approximation to the least desirable qualities of its invaders.
But our concern is not with what may appear a. sentimental back-to-the-landism. In any case Fr. Thomas Gilby's article in the current Blackfriars, in which he reduces ad absurdum the more extravagant of distributist claims, would be a handy corrective.
Mr. Gruffydd is entirely practical. He insists that Welsh agriculture should have the first claim on the home market. If this principle were put into practice, there would be immediate improvement. For it would be a tragedy to plant thousands of men on the land "without first ensuring that the farmers of today can make a living and pay good wages to their workmen."
A beginning must be made with allotments, placed on the outskirts of towns and worked co-operatively, to provide much of the vegetables required. There should be small-holdings further out, concentrating on poultry, pigs and orchards, these again being worked co-operatively to ensure a sensible system of buying and marketing. Lastly, there should be the farms proper, concerned with milk, cattle, horses, sheep; these in their turn to use the methods of co-operation rather than extravagant and destructive competition.
Such are the immediate developments needed. But soon the problem of " new land " would have to be faced.
Drainage of such areas as Tregaron Marsh would be undertaken, Land could be reclaimed from the sea in such places as the Dovey estuary.
These are not matters for private enterprise. They should be a national undertaking. providing ample work for many of the unemployed. But the reclamation of land that has been left fallow, and the restoration of mountainous tracts to sheep pastures—these can be attempted at once.
Banks the Obstacle
The usury of the banks is the chief obstacle to agricultural progress. In Ireland and Denmark, farmers can borrow money at 3 per cent. In Wales, hundreds of farmers are still paying 5 or 6 per cent. interest on the farms they bought during the War. There should. Mr. Gruffydd argues, be special provision for agricul ture in view of its national importance. There should be long-term loans at a low rate of interest to enable farmers to buy their property and short-term loans to assist in the purchase of seeds or the carrying out of urgent repairs. Local associations for agricultural credit, on the lines of the German Raffeisen, should be established.
Forestry, fisheries, electricity—these have been scarcely touched in Wales. And yet Wales is well able to supply most of her own needs in these respects. As Mr. Gruffydd ironically observes, the electric cables pass over the Welsh villages that need them: their objective is England.
Farmers to Work Together
Co-operation is essential to a sane agricultural economy. Farmers must combine, not only for purchasing and marketing; they must also establish their own factories for butter-making and bacon-curing. By having an active interest in the factories (farmers would have shares corresponding to the extent of contribution of produce) they would obviously help themselves as well as agriculture as a whole. But co-operation must be taught. The urban and bourgeois ethos of education must be done away. Country schools must be related to their environment and encourage, rather than dissuade, the children to consider the farm as the natural and necessary centre of Welsh life.
Idealistic? Mr. Gruffydd answers the objection as it deserves: " The prosperity of agriculture and the development of rural industries arc essential if the Welsh nation is to live." He goes on to say that this aim can only be properly realised when Wales has her own government, when she is no longer tied to the financial and economic interests of England.
Welsh Children's Message
Last Sunday, for the sixteenth year in succession, the Welsh Children's Message
of Goodwill was broadcast, Last year over 50 nations sent replies to this plea for peace. "Science has made us neighbours," says the message. "Let goodwill keep us friends." In the words of Y Brython, "Wales spoke to Europe in the Middle Ages through the Mabinogion; today Wales speaks to the whole world through the annual message of her children."
A SIMPLE CORRESPONDENT!
Last week we published statistics of claims made by the Reds in Spain, issued by Salamanca. They included the capture of territory three times greater than the whole of Spain!
Our correspondent writes: May I also refer to another message from Salamanca given prominence in your issue of last week. It states that the Valencia and Madrid reports have claimed to have brought down over
56,000 Nationalist 'planes. The Civil War has so far lasted approximately three hundred days, so that Government reports must have claimed to have brought down 186 'planes on every day. Analysis of other figures given in the Salamanca report produces equally fantastic results. May 1 suggest that arithmetic is not the " strong suit" of 'Franco's Press Department, nor of your worthy sub-editor, who has accepted the report so uncritically.
Strange to say, we also noticed that they were fantastic--and that's why we published them.