World War II

A state of emergency was declared on the outbreak of the Second World War and the government adopted emergency legislation giving itself significantly enhanced powers.  Due to limited supplies, almost total self-sufficiency in agriculture was required.

The Emergency Powers Act 1939 enabled the government to make emergency orders on almost any matter with the effect of legislation.  Emergency orders were made, providing for  the detailed regulation and compulsory organisation and rationing of agriculture and agricultural products.

Compulsory Tillage

The government introduced requirements for compulsory tillage employing over 200 tillage inspectors by the end of World War II.

Production of wheat was essential for bread.  The import of wheat was greatly restricted.  The production of wheat tripled during the emergency periods.  A guaranteed price for wheat was enhanced when the compulsory tillage order was introduced.

A percentage of all arable land greater than a certain area was required to be devoted to tillage.  The compulsory tillage order area was extended to a greater percentage of arable land.  This was necessitated as grain imports became more difficult during the middle of World War II.

Restrictions were placed on the production of Barley and Oats for animal feed and in order to maintain supply.  Compulsory sugar production was required.

Non-compliance with the tillage orders was an offence. The  Department could prosecute and to take over holdings if necessary.

Restrictions were introduced on emigration to prevent those engaged in farm labouring from emigrating without consent.  Restrictions were later extended to those living in towns with a population of 5,000.

Butter and Bacon

The Dairy Produce Amendment Act 1941 was introduced to stop exports of butter in order to build up reserves to protect against butter shortages.

All Pigs and Bacon industry was rigidly controlled during the emergency.  Quotas were fixed for Bacon ensuring plants and the stock were shared equitably.  Curers were forced to produce a certain quantity in order to prevent price rises.

Issues of restructuring arose in the Bacon industry.  There was an over-capacity relative to the supply of pigs and many had to close temporarily.

Post-War Period

Most of the emergency orders introduced during World War II remained in place until the late 1940s.  Acute shortages remained as countries gave priority to their own needs. Much of the emergency legislation in the area of agriculture was not in fact, ended until the early to mid-1950.

The Marshall Aid Plan provided a grant and loan that enabled the Irish government to purchase essential imports.£4,000,000 was used towards the fertilizer scheme.  The State suffered a shortage of fertilizer during the war and the compulsory tillage had degraded the soil quality.

The Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement of 1948 encouraged live cattle exports and discouraged meat exports.  It limited exports to continental Europe as Britain sought to purchase most Irish agricultural exports.  It limited shipments of carcass meat to 3000 to 4000 tons per annum.

Land Improvement

£2,000,000  of Ireland’s Marshall  Aid Programme was used for the land Reclamation Programme. The Land Reclamation Legislation allowed for reclamation, improvement of watercourses, repairing and renewal of fences as necessary, improving grazing, draining and reclaiming marshland.

There were two methods of land reclamation.  Under one, the farmer could carry out the work or hire a contractor with part of the costs met by a grant.  Under the other, the work would be carried out by the Department and farmers would make a contribution to the cost either by way of cash or annuity charged on the land.

By 1953, 72000 applications relating to 336,000 acres had been approved.  After 1951 the entire cost had to be met by the exchequer after the termination of Marshall Aid.  This scheme was eventually wound up in 1974 and was succeeded by the Farm Modernization Scheme.

Horticulture & Fertilisers

The Department of Agriculture established a horticultural school at Johnstown Castle in 1951.  A new technical group was formed with responsibility for research and advisory services on soils and grassland.

The Department of Agriculture operated a number of schemes to encourage the use of fertilizers, including a loan and grant scheme.  Land rehabilitation, soil testing and fertilizer schemes were some of the major initiatives undertaken by the Department in the decade after World War II.


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