Campaigning on Behalf
of Britain's Family Farms
Osborne Newton, Aveton Gifford, Kingsbridge, Tel: 01548 852794,
This paper has been sent to three Defra Ministers and is being distributed among many people with influence.
The Family Farmers’ Association was inaugurated on the basis that smaller and family farms are valuable in terms of landscape, ecology and environment; for healthy, active communities, enjoyable work and the local economy. They produce large amounts of high quality food; their survival is important. Their numbers are reducing and they are in serious danger of disappearing. Believing in family farming, as we and, it seems, many other people do, we set out below how government policy could help smaller family farms to be prosperous, productive, and valuable to their communities.
1. A subsidy ceiling of no more than £150,000 is our basic policy, because the harm done by huge CAP payments becomes more and more obvious. Large payments give big farmers the wherewithal to buy more land, thus increasing their payments still further; or to buy bigger machines, thus enabling them to employ fewer people. They are a factor in the excessive price of land, which makes starting a farm almost impossible They are an anomaly in times of reduced spending on essential social services, many of which are being cut. The original purpose of the Basic Payment was to keep farmers alive in hard times. In fact, the subsidy often roughly equals, or even exceeds, the family income on small and medium sized farms. An income of £150,000 is surely enough? Where is the need for unlimited payments? Money saved by a ceiling should stay with farming, and be put to better use, helping starters and farmers with difficult land.
2. Proper support for all disadvantaged land is essential to prevent abandonment of areas such as moors, mountains and islands, with the consequent death of communities. There should be higher area payments for all difficult terrain, but coupled with ceilings and the obligation to produce food or other useful things such as tourist facilities. Some of the less productive parts of the EU have schemes for keeping difficult land in production. Such schemes should be studied. Where is the logic in unlimited subsidies for good land? They are essential on poor land where it is difficult to make a living.
3. There should be a proper study of fiscal measures that could be used to distribute land more equally among farmers. Many questions need answers. Is unlimited Inheritance Tax relief desirable, or should it be adjusted according to the time land has been in the family? Or by total value? How can farms be made available for all the keen young people anxious to be farmers? Should very short tenancies be allowed? What should be the ceiling on the basic payment? How should the money raised by modulation best be distributed?
4. Given the importance of food and farming, Defra is vital. It needs strengthening and bringing up to date. At present it has little actual contact with farmers and therefore has a serious lack of expertise about farming. A proper two way communication is essential so that farmers can contact Defra for advice and information. Defra should listen to the problems of all farmers, not just the largest ones, and consider how farms can be prosperous and assets to the community and countryside in many ways, while producing good food in quantity.
We believe that the success of farming is vitally important to the nation: that success should be judged by the quality and quantity of produce and also by the overall quality of rural Britain, of which it is the backbone. Farming provides the raw materials for the flourishing food industry. As tourism becomes more and more important economically, farming’s contribution to that must be recognized. As interest in ecology increases, farming’s contribution to a healthy environment should be rewarded. Agriculture plays a more important place in the hierarchy of Ministers than it has now. Farming needs a reformed Defra!
FFA, Osborne Newton, Kingsbridge, TQ7 4PE.
Phone: 01548 852794
cc Secretary of State, Minister of Agriculture