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County Council reaffirms commitment to county farm estate

Hampshire County Council has set out plans that will maximise the environmental, community and economic benefits from its 1,900-acre farm estate – including using the publicly-owned agricultural land to provide an affordable first step on the farming ladder for aspiring farmers.

Approving the plans at his decision day meeting today (19 March) Councillor Edward Heron, Executive Member for Recreation, Heritage, Countryside and Rural Affairs, said: “Hampshire County Council’s farm estate has helped hundreds of talented new entrants into farming, and it makes a significant contribution to the rural economy.

“At a time when the agricultural industry is facing significant change, we have re-examined how our farm estate can best support existing and future tenants, whilst delivering maximum environmental, social and economic benefits. As part of this review, I’ve seen first-hand how the enterprise and expertise of our tenants is producing great quality food and promoting high standards of land management.

“Our new blueprint for county farms in Hampshire sets out a clear direction for how we can effectively manage these public assets in the coming years and decades. Central to this is ensuring the farm estate continues to offer start-up opportunities for aspiring farmers as well as ploughing back a whole host of positive contributions to the wider community.”

Hampshire County Council’s farm estate comprises around 1,900 hectares and features a range of equipped units (this means the site includes farm buildings and a house) that support dairy, arable, horticultural and livestock farming businesses.

The new County Farms policy ‘2021 Towards 2050 – A Vision for a Better Farming Future’ was approved by Councillor Heron at his Decision Day meeting on Friday 19 March.

The new framework set out by the policy comes as the agricultural industry faces significant change following the exit from the EU, the Agriculture Act 2020 and Defra’s publication of its Path to Sustainable Farming. Land management and agricultural practice can also play an important role in tackling climate change.

The key features of the new policy include:

  • Continuing to support new entrants into farming to build sustainable farming businesses and offer progression opportunities for existing tenants where possible.

  • Delivering sustainable, high standard, land management and farming systems, to promote the optimum animal welfare and soil health, better air and water quality, a network of thriving wildlife habitats within the landscape and contribute towards the County Council’s climate change targets. The Authority declared a climate emergency in June 2019 and has pledged to bring carbon emissions in Hampshire down to net zero by 2050.

  • Maintaining the scale and diversity of the County Farms estate - encouraging innovation and farm diversification where this brings benefits to the tenants and the surrounding rural communities.

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