Short-term tenancies do not help climate crisis, farmers warn

The average length of term on all new FBTs is just under three and a half years
The average length of term on all new FBTs is just under three and a half years

Tenant farmers are unable pursue climate friendly farming practices due to the short-term nature of farm business tenancies (FBTs), an industry group has warned.

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said farmers were being 'stifled' in undertaking sustainable practices due to short-term opportunities their landlords were providing.

It has urged the government to develop new policies to encourage longer-term tenancies to support environmental outcomes and better carbon management.

According to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV), the average length of term on all new FBTs is just under three and a half years, and nearly 90% of all agreements are let for 5 years or less.

In addition, the CAAV indicates a net loss in area within the tenanted sector of agriculture for the first time in eight years.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn explained that, in the main, landlords had been 'poor custodians of FBTs'.

"FBTs are too short in length, too restrictive and onerous in their terms and often let at unsustainable levels of rent," he said.

"The solution comes through making changes to the taxation framework within which landlords make decisions about letting land to incentivise longer tenancies and penalise shorter ones."

The taxation changes TFA proposes have received support from other quarters, most recently from the government’s own food tsar Henry Dimbleby, who delivered his final National Food Strategy report to Defra earlier this year.

However, with another Budget just passed, the government has been accused of failing to act again.

Mr Dunn said that because climate friendly farming required long-term investment in soils, trees and peatland, the average length of an FBT term must be increased to a minimum of 10 years.

"Short-term tenancies have their place for specialist crops, but they should not be the norm,” he explained.

“The prime minister and his colleagues taking to the Glasgow stage will be full of rhetoric about the need for us all to take a long-term view.

"Tenant farmers in England and Wales are crying out for the opportunity to take that long-term view, but are denied that perspective by the short-term view of their landlords."