MINISTER OF Agriculture Michael Jopling fought a successful rearguard action against treasury demands for a cut of some £50m in agricultural grants, this week 25 years ago.

As a result, only about £36m net was to go. Details were to come in orders to be laid before Parliament which would reduce drainage grants and subsidies by about £50m but would provide an extra £20m in aid for hill farmers and beef producers.

But the cost of storing grain in intervention from the year’s record harvest was set to go up by £189m, although this would be repaid by the EEC and out of exports.

On the same day as Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson announced these changes in mini-autumn budget, the Finance Ministers of the EEC reached agreement in Brussels on a plan to curb agricultural expenditure.

Under the plan, spending on the Common Agricultural Policy would have to be kept below the increase in EEC income. This would mean setting a ceiling on agricultural expenditure beyond which the agricultural ministers could not go.

25 years ago

Plans were in hand for the Sunday opening of the 1985 Royal Highland Show. In addition to the inter-city team sports competition which was introduced at the 1984 show, the programme was to include a ‘Champion of Champions’ sheep dog competition, and agility demonstration by the Scottish Kennel Club and the judging of heavy horse turnouts. Negotiations to bring the Barbados Police Ban to Ingliston were also underway.

n A tractor which was more than 60 years old, in 1984, and still earning its keep in Ontario, Canada, was the winner of Massey-Ferguson’s world-wide search to find the oldest working tractor. The machine, a Massey-Harris No 2 circa 1918, was still working on Orland Nicholson’s 40-hectare (100acre) farm in Cameron, Ontario. The world-wide competition to find the oldest working MF tractor was organised by the company to celebrate the centenary on November 4 of Harry Ferguson, commonly regarded as “father of the modern farm tractor”. The competition received nearly 10,000 entries world-wide.

n Quota restrictions took their toll, knocking £127 off the heifer average at the annual Ayrshire cattle sale held at Ayr market. The 153 heifers cashed – only three less than the previous year – for an average of £516.57, against £643.66 for 1983. Bulls were a better trade, though numbers were well back on the previous year, with only 49 finding new homes, 16 down, for an average of £1113. This was up £32 on 1983.

50 years ago

Opened at a time when there was a sharp controversy raging in the Republic of Eire over the merits if properly established auction markets as against the old form of fairs selling, a new £30,000 attested market of Irish Attested Sales, at Maynooth represented an important step forwards towards the target of full attestation. On the boards of directors was Lord Brocket, the well-known Hereford and Ayrshire breeder, and Mr WJ Johnston, managing director of Ulster Farmers Mart, Belfast and Enniskillen.

n It seemed fated that the year would pass from one marketing crisis to take another, from eggs and sheep and on to bacon pigs. During the then past few weeks the price of bacon pigs had been drastically reduced, not because of a glut of numbers but owning to bacon curers being unable to purchase their supplies at a price which would not entail them in a loss. The trade for bacon and pork pigs was, as it were, out of balance.

n The overall entry for the year’s Smithfield Fatstock Show, to be held at Earls Court, London, was 1520, compared with 1702 the previous year. The reduction was spread over all sections. Total entries in the cattle section, in which Dairy Shorthorns, British Friesians and Sussex were the only breeds showing improved figures, dropped from the previous year’s 466 to 410.