Agricultural Restructuring during the Closing Decades of the Twentieth Century: Evidence of Farm Size in South East England
With the benefit of hindsight it is evident the second half of the twentieth century was destined to be a period of considerable change in British agriculture in relation to its role within the national and rural economy, and within the countryside. After several decades of sustained growth and structural adjustment up to the mid 1980s, farmers have been encouraged through economic and political stimuli to diversify their enterprises, to protect the rural environment for its inherent landscape and ecological value and to respond to consumer demand for improved food quality and traceability. This article reports on an analysis of one consistent indicator of agricultural structure over this period (farm size) with reference to four case study counties in South East England using a combination of official agricultural statistics and information from a survey of farmers. It indicates that structural changes in this region have followed those occurring at the national scale and the size profile has become polarised to the extent that the expansionist tendencies of large-scale producers to acquire more land and the continued presence of a bedrock of small producers has continued to squeeze medium-sized agricultural holdings. However, the farmer survey shows that the size of individual holdings fluctuates with gains and losses, even if the overall trend is for enlargement.
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Date: Autumn 2005