5. County Council Services
DESPITE continual development, the agricultural industry still flourishes in many parts of the County, and very large capital sums are invested, not only in the freehold of farm lands, but also in buildings, glasshouses, heating plant, irrigation and other equipment essential to an intensively worked industry. The scientific skill and intensive methods which have been developed by many generations of farmers and market gardeners in Middlesex are widely referred to as examples of the most advanced husbandry.
The Small Holdings Committee, in assisting in the solution of agricultural problems, always gives consideration to any matter affecting the welfare of the agricultural interests in the County, dealing with matters within the powers entrusted to it, or communicating with an appropriate authority which is in a position to render advice and assistance. The administrative powers and duties of the Committee may be briefly summarized as follows.
Fertilizers and Feeding Stuffs Act, 1926
The County Council is responsible for enforcing, in Middlesex, the provisions of this Act which deals with the sale and purchase of solid and liquid fertilizers and of feeding-stuffs for horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. Protection is afforded to sellers, to ensure fair competition, as well as to purchasers. Implied definitions of origin and contents are contained in the Act in respect of all fertilizers and feeding-stuffs named therein; in addition, it is required that the seller must supply the analysis of the main constituents on every sale of these materials, and must declare the fact, should feeding-stuffs contain an excess of such matter as fibre.
With the information contained in the analysis, the discriminating purchaser is, in the case of fertilizers, able to remedy deficiencies in his soil or to meet the demands of his particular crop, and in the case of feeding-stuffs, to mix a balanced ration.
Sellers’ premises are visited from time to time by inspectors to ensure that information of the type required is being given, and samples are taken and checked by the County agricultural analyst. Materials found to be defective are traced back to the original seller, who, if in Middlesex, is warned or prosecuted by the County Council according to circumstances. In cases where the materials are traced to another county or county borough, particulars are forwarded to that authority for any necessary action.
Inspectors and official samplers visit the premises of farmers, market gardeners and other purchasers of fertilizers and feeding-stuffs, when called in for advice or sampling; this may happen particularly where livestock are not making satisfactory progress or have died, and the food is suspected, or where a bulk purchase has been made which appears not to be up to the standard indicated by the implied definition and the stated analysis.
The County Council owns over 1,436 acres of agricultural land which is let out to 134 smallholders. The holdings vary from just over half an acre to 75 acres. With few exceptions the smaller holdings produce fruit and vegetables, pigs, poultry and eggs, whilst the larger holdings are used for dairy farming.
All possible assistance and encouragement is given to the tenants to enable them to become successful smallholders, in return for which a high standard of production is required.
A waiting list of approved applicants is kept and whenever a vacancy occurs prospective tenants are interviewed by a special sub-committee.
Regulations have been made by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries governing the selection of tenants. These regulations provide that preference must be given to agricultural workers with at least five years’ experience on the land and, generally, tenancies must not be granted to applicants under 25 or over 50. In making the final selection the subcommittee is guided by qualities of character, physical fitness, industry and experience.
The duty of providing allotments is imposed primarily on borough and urban district councils, and generally this is done by amicable arrangement between these bodies and the owners and occupiers of the land secured for allotments. Where compulsory powers are required, borough and urban district councils have the power to make the necessary Orders. In recent years there has been a great increase in the demand for and the supply of allotments in the County and the important contribution made by allotment holders to the nation’s food supplies has been generally recognized.
Diseases of Animals
Many Orders are made by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries by which the County Council is required to take vigorous measures to deal with various diseases of animals, such as swine fever, foot and mouth disease and fowl pest. The Orders aim not only at the control of movement of animals during an epidemic but also at the prevention of disease. Control of movement is achieved by a system of licensing and for this purpose inspectors are employed who are qualified veterinary surgeons.