The government has been warned not to use the establishment of a new Tenant Farming Forum to push real change into the long grass.
The establishment of a new Tenant Farming Forum is the central plank of the government's response to the independent Rock Review.
Commissioned in January 2022, Baroness Kate Rock's review called for tenant voices to be better heard by the government.
Late last year, the review provided Defra with 74 recommendations to bring about change in the tenanted farming sector.
Defra's official response, announced on Wednesday (24 May), explained that a new Tenant Farming Forum would meet regularly and consider how the sector is progressing through the agricultural transition.
The Forum will be co-chaired by Julian Sayers and will provide regular feedback to government, Defra said.
However, the Tenant Farmers' Association (TFA) responded by saying "the last thing we need is a review of the review".
TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said: "If the 74 answers provided to government by this expert group don’t add up to the right approach for government to take, I fail to understand what will.”
“From the outset, the new Forum must be about implementation rather than going over the arguments already considered by the Rock Review.
"It needs to oversee the route to establishing a Tenant Farming Commissioner, informing the terms of reference for a Law Commission investigation into changes in legislation and making sure that in Defra’s design of new environmental land management schemes, tenant farmers have fair access."
He said it was 'disappointing' that Defra had "backed away from taking the radical but proportionate approach set out by the Rock Review to truly revitalise the tenanted sector of agriculture."
"However, much will now depend on the strength, focus, purpose and acumen of the new Tenant Farming Forum," Mr Dunn added.
"Careful consideration will need to be given to its membership to avoid it simply being a rerun of the old Tenancy Reform Industry Group that it will replace.
"It must combine members who are there to represent the interests of landlords and tenants within the sector and add to that specific practitioners with a willingness to engage to deliver real change in the sector rather than just the perpetuation of the status quo”.
Responding to Defra's announcement, NFU said it was 'essential' for the new forum to be up and running as quickly as possible.
“There are challenges ahead and more work to do to support our farming tenant members," said the union's vice president, David Exwood.
“Ultimately, these reforms must enable us to grow a more vibrant, accessible and resilient tenanted farming sector.”