HC Deb 07 July 1965 vol 715 cc1566-7
9. Mr. Kitson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assistance he is now considering to help marginal farmers.

Mr. Peart

The Government's policy towards marginal farmers was given in the White Paper on this year's Annual Review. It is to tackle the fundamental problems of low income farmers by advice and assistance in improving their farm business, by voluntary improvement of farm structure, by special measures for the hills and uplands, and by improving agricultural co-operative and group activity.

Mr. Kitson

Has not the Minister said on several occasions recently that he recognises the very special problems of marginal farmers? Although hill farmers at the last Price Review came out rather better than they did on some previous occasions, the position of the marginal farmer is even more difficult than it was before the last Price Review. Will the Minister have another look at this and see what can be done to help small farmers?

Mr. Peart

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman pays me the tribute of saying that my Price Review has helped hill farmers. I recognise that there is a problem here, not so much with what the hon. Gentleman terms marginal farmers. I think what the hon. Gentleman means is farmers who are on marginal land. The committees which I have set up to consider the long-term policy for agriculture affecting many of our small farmers in upland areas will take this into account.

Mr. George Y. Mackie

Is the Minister aware that one of the main trends in efficient farming today is simplification and that many marginal grants—I am talking about winter keep—stipulate that a farmer may produce only a certain amount of his gross income from, say, milk or fat cattle? Will the Minister ensure that restrictions of this type, for instance, on the upland dairy farmer and on the producer of fat cattle, are considered very seriously with a view to allowing these people to streamline their production?

Mr. Peart

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that we are trying to do this. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary reminds me of the announcement we have made in relation to the payment of a subsidy on a headage instead of on an acreage basis. We think that this was the right decision to make, certainly for England and Wales. The whole procedure of simplification is one that I am always studying. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, if rationalisation can be achieved, so much the better. This is what my Department and the committees I have set up are examining.