Ag Bill must listen to tenant farmers' concerns, TFA says

The previous Agriculture Bill was deficient in providing a framework for full engagement by tenant farmers, the TFA says
The previous Agriculture Bill was deficient in providing a framework for full engagement by tenant farmers, the TFA says

The UK tenanted farming sector has urged the government to ensure the new Agriculture Bill listens to tenant farmers' concerns.

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has written to Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers in advance of the publication of the new bill.

The group stressed the new legislation must not lack provisions and ensure the full participation of the tenanted sector of agriculture.

The previous Agriculture Bill, which stalled after the House of Commons Committee Stage, was 'deficient' for tenant farmers, it added.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said: “With many tenant farmers restricted by their agreements to use their holdings for agricultural purposes only, they will need the consent of their landlords before entering schemes for the provision of public goods.

“Our experience is that whilst many landlords will engage positively with their tenants, there will be a significant number who will seek to frustrate tenants’ access to new arrangements.

“We will need legislative provisions to give tenant farmers the ability to participate in schemes where their landlords’ objections are unreasonable.”

The TFA is also calling for provisions that will ensure that all new support arrangements are targeted at active farmers.

These are the individuals who are in occupation of land, taking the entrepreneurial risk for the farming activities taking place on that land and who are in day-to-day management control.

Mr Dunn said: “In the past, landlords have had access to agri-environment funding by claiming management control through tenancy agreements.

“This denies essential support to the tenant farmers of those landlords who are carrying out the work to meet scheme requirements. This must not be allowed to continue.

“Only active farmers should be eligible for funding through any new public goods schemes,” he said.

Alongside these specific requirements to ensure the inclusivity of the new financial support arrangements, the TFA is also pressing the government to use the bill to progress wider agricultural tenancy reform.

This follows the recommendations made by the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) which advised the government on the legislative changes needed to allow the tenant farm sector to thrive post Brexit.

“It would be a major missed opportunity if the Bill did not address the recommendations for tenancy reform endorsed by TRIG,” added Mr Dunn.

“If we do not see these recommendations becoming law as part of the Agriculture Bill, it may be some years before we can expect to see new legislation in this area.

“It is essential that the tenanted sector can hit the ground running after the Brexit implementation period by having the right legislative framework in place from day one.”