Tenant farmers 'gravely concerned' over new ELM schemes

There is concern that tenant farmers could be excluded from the new schemes, especially those on FBT agreements
There is concern that tenant farmers could be excluded from the new schemes, especially those on FBT agreements

Tenant farmers have expressed 'grave concerns' in being unable to access new environmental schemes after the government announced new information on them today.

It follows today's speech by Defra Secretary George Eustice to the Oxford Farming Conference, providing new details on the Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery elements of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme.

But there is concern among the industry that tenant farmers could be excluded from the schemes, especially those on Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) agreements.

The Tenant Farmers' Association (TFA) said it was 'alarming' that after more than three years of discussions with Defra, there was 'still no clear plan'.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn said: "Payments under the Basic Payment Scheme are being removed from tenant farmers in real time while we have a vague commitment for further work to be undertaken on how tenants can access schemes.

"It does feel like we are pushing water uphill given that we have already provided Defra with solutions which we urgently need to see implemented.”

There is concern on the extent to which FBT tenants will be disenfranchised from accessing LNR and LR due to landlords refusing consent, as well as by landlords who may consider trying to access schemes themselves.

The TFA has called for a ban on landlords accessing schemes for at least 12 months after they have served notices to quit on their tenants.

The body also had a meeting with Defra farming minister Victoria Prentis last week, resulting in numerous points being agreed upon.

These include putting the landlord community on notice that if it did not act reasonably in terms of allowing access to new schemes for tenants occupying on FBT agreements, the government could act to reconsider whether the provisions within the Agriculture Act 2020 should be extended to FBTs.

Defra also agreed to arrange a meeting with senior figures from the national firms of land agents to remind them of their responsibilities and to exhort them to show better practice.

“Since the meeting we have been chasing for progress on these points including through further meetings with officials,” added Mr Dunn.