9 November 2001

Beckett admits tenancy oversight

DEFRA Secretary Margaret Beckett has been forced to admit that the government has overlooked the plight of tenant farmers. Welsh farmer Julie Thomas told Mrs Beckett that the government had failed to heed the special needs of tenants. Mrs Thomas said her farm had diversified but the situation was so bad that her husband would have to look for another source of off-farm income.

Like many tenant farmers, if that happens, the tenancy agreement means that her family could be forced to give up the farm. Mrs Thomas asked the minister at the Womens Food and Farming Union AGM last Thursday (Nov 1): "What do I tell them tonight, what hoop do I now have to jump through?"

Mrs Beckett replied by acknowledging that many tenant farmers are in a different position to owner-occupied farmers. Tenants have been "overlooked," she conceded, before insisting: "It is not our intention to contribute to some sort of arbitrary decline."

Mrs Beckett said Mrs Thomas had done "everything right" but that her problems had been created as "a result of the wider context of farming". She added: "I dont have simple or easy answers for you. I think the kind of steps you are taking are the steps we need." &#42

&#8226 For more on tenants, see page 16.