26 April 2000
Farm incomes lowest since EU entry
By FWi staff
FARM incomes have fallen to their lowest level since Britain joined the European Union, according to the Countryside Agencys second annual report.
The report, released by the governments rural advisors for England on Wednesday (26 April), will be grim reading for many of Britains farmers.
It says that total farm income has fallen to its lowest level since Britain entered the Common Agricultural Policy in 1973.
Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency, said the report showed that Englands rural communities were going through a period of great change.
“The facts speak for themselves. Some people in the countryside may enjoy the good life, but others suffer exclusion and isolation,” he said.
Areas designated to protect high-quality habitats and particular species have increased appreciably, but biodiversity in the countryside continues to fall.
The report shows that 2.2 million tonnes of soil are lost each year from a total of 26,300km2 of arable land in England through erosion by water.
Land in organic farming now accounts for 1.3% of all agricultural land. But it fails to meet demand for organic food, which is rising at 40% each year.
Although the amount of land in organic production is rising, organic food output in England accounts for only 25% the supply. The rest is imported.
The report, which also sets out the challenges facing the government, shows that many people in the countryside earn less than those working in towns.
However, more people are moving to the countryside which grew in population by 10.3%, compared with 5.3% for England as a whole between 1994 and 1998.
The report says that hidden unemployment in rural areas is running at 16.3%. A further 26.4% of people are dependent on part-time work and seasonal jobs.
Average weekly wages are lowest in Cornwall (297), Northumberland (315), Isle of Wight (323) and Shropshire (339).
Traffic is increasing faster on rural roads than elsewhere, although the report acknowledges that car ownership is essential in the countryside.
Rural people often have no public transport, it says. Low-income rural households are twice as likely to run a car as similar urban households.
Vehicle-related theft is rising at 24% per year in the countryside, much faster than the increase of 10% seen last year in inner city urban areas.
Rural homelessness is also rising. From 1992-96, it rose from 11.8% to 14.4%.