DECEMBER 2, 2010: A quarter of farm households in England are living in poverty, according to figures released by Defra.

Responding to a Parliamentary Question about the number of farmers who live in poverty, Farming Minister Jim Fitzpatrick said 25 per cent of farm households were ‘below the modified low income threshold’.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Jim Paice, who tabled the question, said the figures showed ‘how tough life is for many farmers’. He blamed excessive Government regulation for the plight many farmers are suffering.

“Despite welcome increases in incomes large numbers of farm businesses are barely breaking even as the costs and regulatory burdens imposed by Government increase,” he said.  

“In recent years thousands of farmers have quit the industry, weakening our supply base and leaving us more reliant on imports of food we could produce ourselves.

“Our agricultural industry is a national asset but too often under the current Government farmers have been undervalued and undermined.”

Defra hit back, pointing out that farm incomes are on the up.

“Farm households estimated to be below the modified low income threshold have decreased from 30 per cent in 2006/07 to 25 per cent in 2007/08,” a Department spokesperson said.

She added that the latest estimates of farm income for 2008/09, which show a 6 per cent on the previous year, ‘show the resilience of Britain’s farm businesses in a difficult economic climate’.