22 January 1999

Oxon farming under threat

FARMING in Oxfordshire is in crisis and the industry is undergoing a period of dramatic restructuring, a major study commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council concludes.

The study, released at a conference in Abingdon earlier this week, warns that large sections of the countys farmland could become "arable deserts", with retirements leading to farm amalgamations.

Almost half the 500 farmers who responded to a survey last summer indicated that they expected to retire within the next 10 years. And 52% said they did not expect a family member to take on the farm.

Martin Stott, social and economic development manager at Oxfordshire County Council, said there were important implications for the rural economy, rural communities and the landscape diversity of Oxfordshires countryside.

The purpose of the report and the conference was to bring all the relevant parties together "to enable us to formulate appropriate responses".