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Now may be time to broaden the definition of agriculture; Farm and Country edited by Andrew Forgrave.

TENANT farmers, among the hardest hit by the slump in farming's fortunes, often encounter difficulty in diversifying to generate additional cash.

That's not due to a lack of ideas but tenancy agreements that have failed to reflect the changing nature of farming and which specify that the occupancy of holdings must be solely for the practice of agriculture.

Even fixed-term tenancies, introduced to encourage more land to be let, remain prescriptive regarding the purpose for which it can be used.

Which has prompted a suggestion that it may be time for broadening the definition of agriculture.

One can understand why those who own the property wish to restrict an occupier from milking the land and devaluing the asset.

But tenants also want the freedom to set up new farm-based operations to tap new income sources with government policy encouraging non-food crops.

Delegates attending the NFU annual conference in London looked pretty grimed faced at the words which came from the lips of Sir Don Curry, a fellow farmer and chair of the Government's Food and Farming Commission.

He warned of the catastrophic consequences for British farming if proposals in the Commission's report were ignored.

Commenting on NFU criticism that switching cash from production to environmental support was a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, he said: "We are talking about taxpayers' money here.

"So it's the taxpayer that is providing the funds for Peter and for Paul."

The Commission's proposal is that the additional modulation should be used to benefit both Peter and Paul.

of Farmers heading a bid for farmers to acquire extra dairies, to give UK milk producers a major share in dairy processing.

He is not the only farmer to dislike the prospect of a British dairying business being snapped up by a buyer from mainland Europe.

But potential investors should heed the words of Dutch Rabobank director Gerard Van Empel when he addressed the Ulster Grasslands Society.

No business, he advised, should be processing commodity product unless it had a milk pool above a billion litres - and that in future that amount would be needed to compete with the world's biggest dairy players.

And he also suggested that there must be something flawed in any system which sees dairy farmers receiving the lowest prices in Europe, while consumers paid among the highest for dairy products.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2002
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