Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
UK farmers 'struggling to survive'
64% of farmers have borrowed money just to stay afloat
Farmers are "barely holding on to survival by their fingertips", according to a report published by the National Farmers' Union.
The NFU audit of 5,000 farmers across the UK found falling incomes and spiralling costs in all areas of farming.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they had no confidence in the future of farming, and 66% of farmers' children did not intend to take over the family business.
Famers are earning an average of £8,000 a year, according to the NFU.
NFU President Ben Gill said: "Our report shows an industry shattered to the core.
"This is no way for an important sector of the UK economy to be forced to exist at the close of the 20th century."
"A reduction in the overvalued pound and the stripping away of the over-regulation and bureaucracy choking the industry would have a huge impact," he said.
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said the new government aid package would relieve the regulatory burden.
"The government has responded positively to absolutely everything that has been put to us by farmers," he said.
However, farmers themselves seemed unimpressed.
Ken Bolton, who rents a 250-acre dairy and beef farm in Westbury-on-Severn in the Forest of Dean, told BBC News: "I can't see any difference to last year.
Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said the £150m package was too little, too late.
"But the fact is that the amount of new cash going to help British farmers after two years of unprecedented crisis and collapse in their incomes is very small.
"And it mostly goes to burdens which have been added in the last two years by this government," he said.