11 May 2001
Keep out of free market, say tenants

By Isabel Davies

THE Tenant Farmers Association has launched its election manifesto, urging the government to stop pushing the industry towards a free market.

The document, which sets out eight specific challenges for the new government, says as far as agriculture is concerned the free market is unattainable and undesirable.

“Policies which push agriculture in a free-market direction are ill-founded,” it says.

This is because the agricultural industry is a clear target to fall prey to a small number of large firms, both supplying inputs and taking outputs.

The document stresses that agriculture must continue to hold it special status and needs public support.

“As consumers experience increases in their incomes, they will spend less and less as a proportion of their total income on food products coming from farms.”

“Farmers will therefore continue to lag behind in terms of benefiting from economic growth,” it says.

The manifesto calls for the urgent introduction of a retirement scheme to allow tenant farmers to make rational choices about their future.

It also calls government to help tenants take full advantage of rural development and agri-environmental schemes.

The TFA says it is concerned that more tenants are not involved in diversified activity but points out they are often prevented from doing so by their tenancy agreements.

The organisation is also seeking a fundamental reform of the CAP so that it provides more benefits to agricultural producers.

It says although around 3 billion is spent through CAP related schemes very little of this remains with the farmer.

The TFA suggests a simple but radical solution to this would be to remove all current forms of support and introduce a single bond scheme instead.

A bond would give a stream of guaranteed payments to individual producers based on a historical reference period.

Meanwhile, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has issued a checklist of 10 key questions it suggests members should ask prospective MPs.

The questions spotlight the associations plea for parties to adopt an integrated programme of policies custom-designed for the countryside.