The Board of Agriculture, which was initially founded by a Royal Charter in 1793, later became the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [MAFF], and was established under the Board of Agriculture Act 1889.
It was hoped that the Board would become a Department of State but it existed more as a private society encouraging improvements in farming and combining all responsibilities for agriculture under the same umbrella.
In 1904 the Board appointed Regional Correspondents who liaised with them to give advice to farmers across the country. Reliance on imported food increased at this time and by 1914 only a third of the country’s food requirements were being met. There was little interruption to food imports during the first two years of the war. This all changed in 1916 with a poor crop harvest resulting in shortages of food.
Many ships carrying food supplies were also sunk, leading to the establishment of the Board of Agriculture; their main job was to boost food production. The Board distributed farm labour, animal feed, fertilizer and machinery to increase crop output. The labour problem was solved by the establishment in 1917 of The Women’s Land Army, the majority of the traditional farm labourers (men) having been conscripted into the Army.
The Corn Production Act 1917 guaranteed a fixed price for wheat and corn and the Agricultural Wages Board established a minimum wage for all agricultural workers.
Voluntary food rationing was attempted in February 1917, but it soon became apparent that any hope of a voluntary scheme was not viable. Compulsory food rationing was introduced early in 1918 on food stuffs such as meat, sugar and butter.
Here are some of the women working on the farms in and around Oswestry: