1 November 2001
Minister admits ignoring tenant farms

By Adrienne Francis

THE plight of tenant farmers has provoked Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett to admit that the government has overlooked the sector.

Julie Thomas from the Womens Food and Farming Union told Mrs Beckett that the government had not heeded the special needs of tenant farmers.

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 a conference on Thursday (1 November): 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 over looked, said Mrs Beckett, who told the audience that the government recognised the contribution of farming to the economy.

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.

But Mrs Beckett declined to provide any further advice, preferring to say that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was the way forward.

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