One More Cow, One More Sow, One More Acre under the Plough

For better or worse the treaty between the Free State and Britain was accepted and the terms were presented to Dail Eireann on the 14 December 1921 and the final vote was taken on the second session on 7 January 1922. The Dail under  W.T. Cosgrave as Taoiseach, Patrick Hogan was appointed Minister for Agriculture in the provisional government, which was ratified by Dail Eireann on 28 February 1922. Hogan was born in Kilrick, Co. Galway, the son of a prominent farmer, who was a senior inspector with the Land Commission.  He qualified as a solicitor, but had always a great interest in Agriculture and had read many of the leaflets issued by DATI.  He was more in sympathy with the larger commercial farmers who produced the bulk of the exports, than with the small farmers. This was to the annoyance of Eamon de Valera’s party, who withdrew from the Dail until the Autumn of 1927. Hogan told the Dail that the Agricultural Credit Corporation (ACC) was not intended to help ‘down and outs’ but those with security. Hogan, according to Daly succeeded in getting his message across because he closely followed the path DATI had mapped beginning prior to 1914. Dail Eireann and the Irish government gave priority to legislation relating to agriculture. Like Plunkett, Hogan believed strongly in co-operation rather than direct state aid and during his time as Minister, the Department provided substantial funding for the co-operative movement. Hogan wished to help the farmer to help himself, an objective almost identical with the one set out by Plunkett in the first annual report of DATI.   During 1921 and 1922 agricultural prices continued to fall.
In Britain the price of wheat was halved in six months and farmers in both countries began to cut costs, reducing the area under cultivation and shedding workers in their thousands. Without the benefit of price supports, agriculture was once more at the mercy of market forces. The depression returned once more. A British government White Paper in 1926 was to reaffirm free trade and to urge farmers once more to switch from cereals to livestock and dairy production, taking advantage of the cheaper cereals now available because of low cereal prices. Following the ‘Great Crash’ of 1929, economic depression was to hit the whole of the Western world. Price guarantees were re-introduced under the Wheat Act of 1932, and the Cattle Industry  (Emergency Provision) Act 1934. Marketing boards were put in place after Agricultural Marketing Act 1933. Agricultural prices had declined by 20 per cent between 1929 and 1930, and then by a further 16 per cent between 1931 and 1933. This time it affected the livestock farmer as well as the cereal grower.
Our own Minister for Agriculture set out priorities under four headings:
·         Establishing standards and a national brand for butter, bacon and eggs export;
·         Developing a livestock policy that would produce milch cows and pigs of quality equal to or better than the best Danish animals, while giving ‘fair play’ to the beef trade;
·         Improving the facilities for agricultural education; and
·         Reorganizing the Department of agriculture so as to make it an efficient instrument to administer these programmes.
Assessments of Hogan’s contribution to Irish Agriculture have benefited by his early death and the fact that his term in office covered a period of civil war, land wars, the IAOS debacle, farmers financial difficulties after the hyped prices during the First world War, and finally the Great Crash of 1929. The Sugar factories were set up during his time in office, which proved to be quite a good source of employment as well as farm earnings for the following seven decades that they survived. Notwithstanding, the slogan – one more cow, one more sow, one acre under the plough, there was no increase in the number of cows, while area under crops decreased by one fifth between 1922 and 1932. The urging of British farmers to switch to livestock farming and dairying cannot have helped because they would have taken over increased markets for those products. According to Professor Daly ‘Agriculture sic under Hogan, seemed to have had very few difficulties with Finance during these years because Hogan’s economic policy was close to the Finance position. Both Departments believed that Ireland was essentially an agricultural country, that the well-being of the Irish economy was dependent on agriculture; and in turn the best prospects for agriculture lay in increased exports to Britain. By 1931, however, these assumptions were being challenged by the collapse of agricultural prices and by Britain’s decision to abandon free trade in favour of protecting its agriculture’ after 1931.  Irish agriculture relied heavily on exports, with Britain being the major market.

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