28 March 2000
Tenant farmers want early retirement

By FWi staff

TENANT farmers facing uncertain old-age want Tony Blair to come up with an early retirement scheme so that they can leave the industry with dignity.

The demand forms the central part of a wish-list that the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) will present to the Prime Minister on Thursday (30 March).

Reg Haydon, TFA national chairman, warned that the Downing Street summit between industry leaders and the prime minister must produce results fast.

Low stock prices and rising property prices mean tenant farmers, who have few assets, are contemplating retirement with increased uncertainty, he said.

The TFA is proposing that an early retirement scheme should be means-tested according to the value of individual farmers available capital.

“It is important that the summit produces more than words and that direct action will flow on a number of fronts,” said Mr Haydon.

“We cannot wait any longer, time has run out.”

The TFA also wants immediate government action to secure compensation to offset the strength of Sterling, which has reduced the value of farm subsidies.

It believes short-term help could also come by forcing the Bank of England to set interest rates after considering their impact on industry as well as on inflation.

In the longer term, the TFA wants encouragement with restructuring and greater producer co-operation for Britains farmers.

Furthermore, the association is calling for a commitment from the Competition Commission not to interfere in agricultural co-operative ventures.

Supermarkets, currently the subject of a Competition Commission inquiry, should be bound by a code of practice regulating their relationship with farmers, it says.

The TFA will also ask Mr Blair to radically reduce regulation and give farmers a commitment to keep all future regulation under continual review.

It wants the prime minister to clarify his direction for farming, especially his call for farmers to be more market-oriented, aggressive and lean.

A market-oriented approach is difficult when higher animal-welfare, environmental and social outputs add costs to the production process, it claims.

“The government must provide a clear steer in its objective for the UKs agricultural industry,” insisted Mr Haydon.