Mechanization Can Be the Saviour of British Agriculture
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THE year which is nearly past is one which will not readily be forgotten, either by the farmer or by those whose business it is to supply him with machinery. For many in each camp, it has been the worst year in their memory. The early months of the year were remarkable for the forwardness of the work on arable land, due to unusually long spells of fine weather.
It was no uncommon thing to find that reasonably well-equipped men were no less than two months ahead with many of their jobs. In consequence, there was a comparatively small demand for new tractors and implements, such as may be experienced in a difficult season, when farmers are behindhand and will seek any, means which will help them to catch up.
Iniplentent Trade Disappointing.
Thus the implement trade, in the spring, was disappointing for the trader and, in fact, as things turned out, ' many farmers were .extremely worried over their spring-sown corn crops when no rain came to -promote growth. By early May it became apparent that unless something in the nature of a miracle occurred there would be but the smallest of hay crops. Long-continued drought not only parched the mowing grass, but so affected grazing land that, in many places, it was burnt nearly white.
The position as regards stockfeeding became so serious that many people had to turn their animals into the fields which had been reserved for hay, to secure what little grass there was to be had. In worse cases, people were even cutting their corn B42 crops green and feeding them to their animals.
At the early summer shows, where normally there is a considerable amount of buying of hay-making machinery and sales of some tractors on this account, hardly a machine was moved. Not only was there no grass in prospect, but most farmers had already been so hard hit as to feel little disposed towards spending.
The haying, naturally, was very late, but over the whole country the final output did not appear to be as low as was anticipated. When grain came to harvest, it turned out quite well, and in the south was harvested with little difficulty.
In Scotland, however, much was never harvested, as the crops were beaten down by continuous rains which persisted throughout the
harvest period and which have rendered -much of the crop a total loss.
Yet, in spite of the vicissitudes of the farmer and the general poor trade in machinery, some concerns have no complaints to make. These are the manufacturers the machines of which are "plus a little something the others haven't got" In other words, the season has accentuated the ten, dency, which has been noticeably growing, for the farmer to be critical of the tractors and equipment which are offered to him.
Whilst most agriculturists are alive to the advantages of the tractor over the horse, the former now has to be good even among tractors. Farmers are studying fuel consumption much more carefully than previously. They are investigating such matters as suitability and range of gear ratios. They find out from their friends about rate of wear and they study accessibility. Ideas on values are taking fresh shape.
All this is to the general good, but, like all trends towards improvement, it is not without undesirable reactions. The tractor trade is passing through a time which is going to be difficult both for the farmer and the dealer. The increasing competition, due to the advent of new types, is bringing into the tractor business that bugbear of the private-car trade, the over-allowance for trade-ins.
We hear, to-day, of utterly ridiculous values being placed, by the short-sighted class of dealer, on many machines which are of little worth except for the scrap-heap. There is also a tendency, on the part of the equally short-sighted type of farmer, to hawk his old machine around a number of dealers to get the biggest allowance.
Nothing but evil to the industry can come from this practice. If a farmer is to receive the after-sales service, which he needs for successful operation of his machine, he cannot expect to get it from the man who has already thrown away the margin which is allowed him, by the manufacturer, to cover such attention.
It is equally unlikely that some other farmer will be able to rely upon purchasing a reliable used machine, from such a dealer, at anything like a reasonable price. He has left himself no cover on the deal for reconditioning. Yet the good used tractor is the only proposition for many of the smaller farmers whose holdings are too small to justify the cost of a new machine.
In matters of this kind appeals to the individual are seldom of little effect, and if is a more pressing need that trade organizations concerned should exert themselves to put down practices of this kind.
Two important advances in tractor practice have, during this year, been made in the U.S.A., and one type of machine has arrived here and is
selling in large numbers. This is the first tractor specifically designed to operate exclusively on pneumatic tyres—the Allis-Chalmers Model B, which weighs under a -Um and sells in this country at under £150. This machine embodies a-number of new ideas and is capable of doing a great variety of jobs, including row-crop work, for which it has high clearance.
The other departure from standard practice of past years is the production of a de luxe model of the Minneapolis-Moline tractor. It has been developed to meet the demands of those United States farmers who drive, often_ for many hours at a
stretch, in lonely territory and under• severe climatic conditions. This tractor has a steel cab, the interior accommodation of which is as well finished as a car and includes radio, heater, upholstered seats,
lighter, and so on.
On rubber tyres, this machine can do its 40 m.p.h. on the highway and is, in every respect, a generalpurpose outfit with which the farmer can do his haulage, on the road and in the furrow. It is true that the de luxe type may not spread very rapidly in America or in this country, although in certain States it will undoubtedly be popular. The lesson to be learned, however, is important, and I feel sure that we shall not for much longer leave the driver unprotected from the elements. For the sake of improving output of work, if for no other reason, the driver's cab has got to come.
One of the most welcome pieces of news of the year is that import duties on track-laying tractors are reduced, by the new trade agreement with the United States, to 25 per cent, in respect of machines sold to the farmer. Ever since they were raised to 33+ per cent., in• face of all the opposition that could be brought to bear, the duties have been the subject of protests from various farming bodies.
The Tractor Users Association recently pointed out, to the Ministry of Agriculture, how necessary is a supply of these machines as a preparation for national defence. In addition, the Association indicated, to the Board of Trade, that the new agreement would be an opportune time to give effect to a reduction of duty. Apparently this agitation has duly impressed the powers-that-be, at any rate to the extent of an 8 per cent. redaction.
The year 1938 has also proved to be one of emancipation for the pneumatic-tyred farm tractor. At the time of the 1937 Smithfield Show a user was prosecuted for using his tractor without a speed indicator, although his machine was incapable of reaching the 20 m.p.h. which it was allowed. The Association also took up this matter, and after negotiations with the Ministry of Transport, has succeeded in obtaining an amendment to the regulations exempting the farm tractor from this