Under section 59 of the Agriculture Act 1970, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is required to present an annual report to Parliament summarising for each financial year his/her proceedings and those of local authorities in relation to smallholdings in England. This continues the similar obligations imposed on the Minister of Agriculture by the Agriculture Act 1947. The report, for the year 1 April 2008 to 31 March 2009, is the fifty ninth annual report.
Statutory smallholdings or county farms as they are more commonly known are administered under Part III of the 1970 Act. Under this legislation smallholdings authorities are required to make it their general aim to provide opportunities for persons with sufficient experience to be farmers on their own account. The smallholdings must be capable of providing full-time employment for not more than two people.
County farms play a valuable role in helping new entrants get a foothold on the farming ladder. They also provide opportunities and benefits to the wider public through educational visits, agri-environment measures, and local food in addition to building a link between town and country.