Wartime agricultural policy in Canada : an analysis of agricultural adjustment to wartime demand with particular reference to state intervention and control in the Second World War
Chesney, Charles Moray
In this study an attempt is made to outline the most important ways in which the Canadian agricultural economy adjusted to changing patterns of domestic and export demand during the Second World War. At the end of a decade of depression, the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 seemed to promise that high levels of Allied demand would at last relieve this country of troublesome food surpluses. Although it was originally expected that Canadian wheat would be among the vital weapons of war, the capitulation of a number of European Allies to the Axis Powers in 1940 meant that the United Kingdom would be the only significant wartime export market for Canadian wheat. A near-record yield of 540 million bushels of wheat glutted Canadian markets in 1940, making imperative a drastic reduction in wheat acreage in the succeeding years of the war. At the same time, the United Kingdom was cut off from former continental sources of livestock and dairy products, and Canada became the nearest alternative source of food imports for the British people. Because the state played a significant role in effecting a major wartime shift from wheat to animal products and in channelling Canadian food into domestic and export markets, a large part of the analysis in each Chapter is concerned with the techniques and effectiveness of state intervention in the agricultural economy. Chapter I outlines briefly the state of Canadian agriculture on the eve of the war, including the effects of the depression on farm production, prices and incomes. Chapters II to IV deal almost exclusively with agricultural adjustment to wartime conditions and with the related activities of the state. Finally, the temporary and permanent impact of altered wartime demand on the agricultural economy is analyzed in Chapter V with a view to placing the decade of the nineteen-forties into a long-run context.