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Milk Quotas (Tenant Farmers)

Volume 81: debated on Thursday 20 June 1985

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the steps he has taken to protect tenant farmers from the effects of the imposition of milk quotas.

Tenant farmers were given the same rights as owner-occupiers to apply to the quota tribunal for extra quota. Tenant farmers will also benefit, like other milk producers, from the increased flexibility which I negotiated for the management of quotas, and from the recently announced allocation of extra quota to small producers.

Does the Minister recognise that tenant farmers and small and family farmers have had to bear the major burden of the milk quota scheme? Does he think it right that the tenant farmer should have no rights over the milk quota, which his investment and hard work have helped to create, and that it should be completely at the disposal of the landlord? Does the Minister see the injustice of the position, and will he think of further steps to correct it?

Under the Community's regulations, quota is not owned by either the tenant or the landlord, but attaches to the land for the use of the occupier of that land. The hon. Gentleman will understand that while tenant farmers may have contributed to the build-up of production on the farm, they will have benefited from the resultant increase in income. I acknowledge that tenants have an interest in the quota, but so do landlords.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for saying that tenants, as occupiers, will now be able to take advantage of the outgoers scheme, rather than landlords who are not occupiers. It is good of him to clarify that point.

With respect to my hon. Friend, I did not say that. He may be interested to know that until recently the percentage of dairy farmers who were tenants who took advantage of the outgoers scheme was no less than 28 per cent.

The dairy quota scheme has been a botched job from the start. In view of the fact that it is particularly difficult for tenant dairy farmers to buy in transfer quota at the inflated prices which now apply, will the Minister offer special help to them by giving reasonable priority to them in the allocation of the latest tranche of outgoers quota?

We take all applicants for the outgoers scheme in the order in which they come. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the scheme has been reopened, and that is the basis on which we are at present working.