BYGONE DAYS: Ulster MPs urge bonus for province embattled producers

The question of Ulster wool prices were before the Ulster House of Commons during this week in 1951 reported the News Letter when Mr Nathaniel Minford (Unionist, Antrim) proposed a motion asking the Minister of Agriculture to make representations to the Wool Marketing Board to grant a bonus to Northern Ireland producers.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 11:00 am
Judging of silage on the farm of Dunleath Estates, Ballywalter, Co Down, in February 1982, which was to go into the final of the British Grassland Society's UK competition. The judges were Mr Alan Kyle, the winner in 1981, Mr Ken Nelson of ICI, and Mrs Alan Edwards, East of Scotland Agricultural College. Picture: Farming Life archives
Judging of silage on the farm of Dunleath Estates, Ballywalter, Co Down, in February 1982, which was to go into the final of the British Grassland Society's UK competition. The judges were Mr Alan Kyle, the winner in 1981, Mr Ken Nelson of ICI, and Mrs Alan Edwards, East of Scotland Agricultural College. Picture: Farming Life archives

The motion stated that producers had sold their wool in 1950 at approximately 2s a pound, and the board had obtained prices ranging from 5s to 8s pound.

After the Reverend Robert Moore, Minister of Agriculture had pointed out that neither he nor the House had any control over the board, Mr Minford withdrew his motion.

Mr Minford said that his motion was not directed against the minister or the ministry. That he had wanted to find out the reason for the discrepancy between the prices paid to the farmer and the prices charged by the Wool Board.

Lord Dunleath with farm manager, Jack Harris, who was also the newly elected president of the Ulster Grassland Society on the farm of Dunleath Estates, Ballywalter, Co Down, in February 1982. Picture: Farming Life archives

He said that he understood that the board had a surplus £14,000,000 and that he did not see why a small measure of bonus should not be given to the farmers.

Mr Minford told the House: “Sheep farmers have suffered a severe blow in a terribly hard winter.”

Mr Minford said that the board had the authority to grant a bonus of 10 per cent if they thought it was fit.

Mr Thomas Lyons (Unionist, North Tyrone) seconded Mr Minford’s motion.

Bertie Hanna from Saintfield pictured giving a horse ploughing demonstration at the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra, Holywood, Co Down, in February 1982. Picture: News Letter archives

APPROVED BY PRODUCERS

Mr Moore, Minister of Agriculture, asked the House to reject the motion.

He said: “The British Wool Marketing Board has been established by the British Wool Marketing Scheme which was approved by that House in June 1950. Subsequently it was voted on and approved by wool producers throughout the United Kingdom.

“When a marketing scheme was brought into operation the board, to operate the scheme, became an independent organisation over which neither I nor the House has any control. It is a matter for the wool producers to make their own representations to the Wool Board, either directly or through the Northern Ireland Regional Committee.”

Katharine Kinney, a librarian at the Ulster Folk Museum at Cultra, Holywood, Co Down, holds Rob and Dick during Bertie Hanna's ploughing demonstration at the museum in February 1982. Picture: News Letter archives

The minister continued: “I do not think the House should pay much heed to a motion requesting, say, the Minister of Commerce to make representations to the Board of Harland and Wolff to pay shareholders a higher dividend.”

Mr Moore pointed out that the price of wool for the 1951 crop would be the subject of decisions made by the British Government in the light of the agricultural price review which were at that time proceeding in London.

The Rev Moore said: “At that price review Northern Ireland is represented by the Ulster Farmers’ Union. Here again representatives of the Ulster farming community are able to make their views known directly to the British government and it would be quite inappropriate for the House to instruct me to make representations on any matter coming within the scope of the price review.”

CROPS DECLINE IN ULSTER

Further declines in crop production in Northern Ireland had been shown agricultural statistics for 1950, which had been published this week in March 1951.

In some areas, however, the number of acres under crop were higher then in 1949, but the yield was lower, “a reflection of the disastrous weather during the latter half of 1950”, noted the News Letter.

Thus the total hay acreage in 1950 was 435,849, compared with in 1949, whereas total production fell from 690,000 tons to 602,000 tons. Allowance was made in the figures for the quantity lost due to the wet season, but not for the loss in feeding value of the hay saved.