Members of the Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) dropped a banner over the entrance to the Treasury in protest of the 3,844 hectares (9,500 acres) of publicly owned farmland sold by local councils since 2010.
The LWA’s action took place as part of La Via Campesina’s ’International Day of Agrarian Struggle’, co-ordinating actions over more than 70 countries highlighting threats to the livelihoods of 200 million ecological and family farmers worldwide.
Since 2010, 219 working farms have been sold by local councils under pressure from the Government to raise capital and meet fiscal deficits.
George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) addressed the protest yesterday (April 17, 2016) which was attended by LWA members from across the UK.
Mr Dunn said: "Since the enactment of the Agriculture Act 1970, their focus [council owned farms] has been to create opportunities for individuals to be smallholder farmers in their own account.
"But over the past 30 years, the number of county council farm tenants has at least halved and over one-third of the acreage of council farmland has been lost to the sector."
The LWA said the sell-off of the public farmland estate is part of £37 billion of privatisation sales made by George Osborne since 2010 under which public good and farming assets have been regarded as ’any other commodity to be bought and sold’.
Humphrey Lloyd from the LWA highlighted the pivotal role council owned farms have played over generations.
Previous investigations by Farmers Guardian showed more than 1,000 council owned farms had been sold off between 2001 and 2011.
Mr Lloyd said: "Council owned farms have traditionally played a vital role in providing successive generations with a first step on the farming ladder.
"The loss of eight per cent of the public farm estate over the past five years has had a massive impact on new entrants into farming and has turned public resources for the many into private wealth for the few.
"Food and farming are not like ’any other commodity’ and should be protected as Public Land for Public Good."
George Dunn from the TFA said: "We now have just over 60,000 hectares (148,263 acres) of land and 1,500 tenants left, and this is falling."
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