In some ways it seems misplaced to talk of a farm crisis in Britain. Agriculture continues to hold a privileged position in the national polity and culture. Through the EEC’s Common Agricultural Policy it enjoys a high degree of protection from the full rigours of world market forces and, even during eight years of Conservative monetarist policies, agriculture has received fairly mild treatment at the hands of a government intent on curbing public expenditure. Moreover few of the more extreme signs of agricultural depression, such as Britain experienced at the end of the last century and between the wars, are yet in evidence. Despite constant speculation about acreages thought surplus to requirements little land has fallen out of production: on the contrary, reclamation continues at an alarming rate. Recent survey work by the Countryside Commission and the Department of the Environment, for example, shows that the annual rate of hedgerow removal in England and Wales accelerated between 1980 and 1985 to 4000 miles a year compared with 2900 miles a year between 1969 and 1980 (Countryside Commission, 1986).
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