Tenant farmers 'concerned' over accessibility to new schemes

It is feared many tenant farmers could be excluded from participating in future agri schemes
It is feared many tenant farmers could be excluded from participating in future agri schemes

Most tenant farmers hold concerns over accessibility to future agri-environment schemes, according to a survey by the Tenant Farmers' Association.

Around 200 tenants and other producers who do not own the land they farm, including those using rights on common land, responded to the body's new survey.

It showed that the principal concern regarding new schemes developed through the Environmental Land Management (ELM) model is accessibility.

This will see farmers paid for work that enhances the environment, such as tree or hedge planting, river management to mitigate flooding, or creating habitats.

Moving away from a system that pays farmers for the total amount of land farmed, the scheme will instead pay for ‘public goods’.

But in many cases, tenants are not allowed to enter schemes for the improvement of the environment without their landlord’s consent.

Many farm tenants in England and Wales operate under Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs), characterised both by very short lengths of term and restrictive clauses.

Because of this, tenant farmers are 'concerned' that Defra does not 'fully understand or appreciate' the diversity of land management models that exists within UK agriculture, the TFA said.

The group's farm policy adviser, Lynette Steel said: "It is vital that the development of new schemes ensures that payments are made only to those taking the entrepreneurial risk for the activities taking place on land in schemes."

The results of the survey also showed that only 8% of respondents had submitted an Expression of Interest for the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) pilot.

A further quarter stated that they were interested in SFI but required more information prior to committing to the scheme.

Ms Steel said the low uptake from tenant farmers was 'concerning' as the pilot may not be able to fully test out the implications of the scheme for the tenanted sector.

"The TFA is also waiting for Defra to confirm the makeup, by land occupation, of those who have submitted an expression of interest for the SFI pilot.

"It will be vital to ensure the pilot is tested thoroughly for all holding types,” she added.

The TFA's agri-environment survey captured the opinions of approximately 200 farmers, 90% of whom were reliant wholly or predominantly on tenanted land.