Goal should be food self-reliance
Greg Sachno (M Star September 30) is correct that food security is too important to be left to the free market and that a planned strategy is needed “where the state plays a central role.” However, I take issue with some of his points.
First, food self-sufficiency does not guarantee food security. The goal should be food self-reliance in which a country has the means to acquire food from abroad should there be a harvest failure for whatever reason.
Second, while it is a reasonable aim to be as self-sufficient as possible in foods capable of being produced here and to foster agricultural policies with that aim in mind, it would make no sense to grow crops that can be grown more efficiently elsewhere.
Third, past experience suggests that the common ownership or state ownership of land does not ensure the optimal use of land. Far better would be to introduce an annual levy or tax on land according to its value and reducing other taxes, so that the unearned income or rent from land would become public property. The big landed estates would quickly disappear.
The only point of owning land would be to use it as efficiently as possible, subject to planning regulations.
Furthermore, the evidence is that land is used most efficiently if farmed on a relatively small scale, with farmers forming co-operatives to market and process their produce, as in Denmark, for example.
Finally, as long as consumers are unwilling or unable to buy food at its value, agricultural subsidies of some sort and tariffs on imports will be needed in order to protect farmers’ incomes and stimulate production.
For this, Britain would have to leave the EU. So be it.