Herefordshire Council has been accused of ‘pulling the ladder’ from under the next generation of farmers and stripping the county’s assets for short-term gain.
The NFU has said it is devastated for its members who will lose their livelihoods after the authority’s Cabinet agreed to the sale of their tenant farms at a meeting yesterday (Thursday).
The move came despite a recommendation from the council’s general, overview and scrutiny committee ofonly a partial sale of the estate – along with the reorganisation of the remaining farms into a “more progressive and commercial entity”.
A total of 45 farming families will be affected across the estate which comprises of around 4,800 acres.
The NFU has continually lobbied the council to retain as much of the estate as possible since a review started. We have repeatedly asked councillors to work with tenants, to improve estate management and not view the farms as a balance sheet asset.
Clare Greener, NFU Herefordshire county adviser, said: “We gained widespread support when the estate’s future came into question, so to see the council farms axed is a devastating blow.
“Herefordshire farming families have faced serious upheaval throughout this process, unable to plan for the future, and they will be inconsolable that they are losing their businesses.
“The NFU will continue to support them through this difficult process and we will now see what options are left on the table.
“The union, together with the Herefordshire Tenants’ Association, offered to help the authority develop a strategic plan for the estate’s future, this has not been taken up and it appears a report from Fisher German on the estate and thescrutiny committee recommendations have been side-stepped.
“Farms like these bring many benefits in terms of quality food, their contribution to the county economy, jobs and so much more.
“We understand there are pressures on council budgets but they are a valuable resource and properly managed can provide sustainable long term income; we remain convinced that they should not just be cashed in.”