NFU President Meurig Raymond has called upon the government to support County Farm Estates which he said are vital in helping new entrants into the industry.
Speaking at the NFU Tenant Farmers’ Conference today, referring to the pending final decision on the sale of Hereford County Farm Estate, Meurig said the decisions from County Councils to sell County Farms are extremely worrying.
A recent scrutiny report as part of the Herefordshire Council’s review of its farms recommended a partial sale. The NFU has been urging the council to look at options to keep the farms as 45 are at under threat of being sold.
Mr Raymond warned: “When you sell the family silver there’s no more silver left to sell. Our members, especially those in Herefordshire, need the government to pressurise councils not to sell the County Farms.
“It’s good that we’ve had the sympathies of Farming Minister George Eustice at the conference today as he said it was a ‘tragedy they were thinking to sell,’ but what we need is government action at all levels on this.
“It’s clear that these measures from County Councils are incredibly short-sighted and they only serve to fix short-term cash flow problems. It’s frankly heart-breaking that the tenant farmers in Hereford are currently going through turmoil because of this.
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“County Farms serve an important role in allowing that first foot on the ladder for new entrants. Some very entrepreneurial farmers started their careers on a County Farm and without that first tenancy they would not be farming today.
“The industry urgently needs new entrants – these are the people who will be crucial in tackling the nation’s long-term food security needs.”
NFU rural surveyor Louise Staples added: “The NFU is urging the Herefordshire County Council to not sell these farms before the decision deadline in the first week of December.
“There has been a lot of focus in council discussions on the historic management of the County farm. But we must focus on the opportunities the farm could bring in the future.
“We are pleased to announce the ACES good practice guide has been launched at the conference today. It focuses on how to manage County Farm Estates and is available from the NFU.”