Tenant farmers urge next government to better support sector

The Tenant Farmers' Association (TFA) has outlined the significance of a policy reset following the election
The Tenant Farmers' Association (TFA) has outlined the significance of a policy reset following the election

The tenanted farming sector has urged the next government to better support those farmers who do not own their land, as it outlines four key asks.

The Tenant Farmers' Association (TFA) has announced its key priorities ahead of the next generation election, due to take place on 4 July.

TFA national chair, Robert Martin outlined the significance of a policy reset and the opportunity to scrutinise candidates' commitment to agricultural issues.

Mr Martin said: “In listening to the views of the TFA membership, we have identified four key areas of concern."

These areas include implementing recommendations from the Rock Review into agricultural tenancies, and ensuring fairness in food and agricultural supply chains.

The other two asks are enhancing agricultural exports post-Brexit while reducing unnecessary regulation, and balancing food, environmental, and energy security.

Mr Martin said the Rock Review’s recommendations provided "a comprehensive policy template" for the next government.

This included designing new government schemes, legislative changes, taxation adjustments, and improved dispute handling mechanisms.

He said the establishment of the Tenant Farming Commissioner was a positive step, but urged the need for further progress, specifically in Agricultural Property Relief to encourage longer tenancies.

He also called for fair market returns for tenant farmers and growers, adding that farmers and growers "are not subsidy junkies."

"There is enough evidence to show market failure in food supply chains in this country," Mr Martin said.

“There is enough evidence to show that there is market failure in food supply chains in this country and we need a government that is committed to ensuring that those market failures are addressed.

“Up to now, we have been tinkering around the edges. A more fundamental regulatory approach, focusing on an expanded role for the Groceries Code Adjudicator is needed.”

Mr Martin said 'scant use' had been made of post-Brexit freedoms so far, including using them to enhance the UK's trading position as an exporting country and in removing 'unnecessary regulations'.

He said: “We have only scratched the surface of the benefits that could be achieved from taking full control of the levers that influence our trade, policy and domestic legislation,"

“We need a bold government willing to set aside old EU playbooks, that seem to dog much of the Whitehall approach, to achieve much, much more.”

Mr Martin also criticised policies that prioritised non-agricultural land use, such as tree planting, rewilding, and solar energy.

He called for a more balanced approach that recognised the dual role of farmers in producing food and delivering environmental benefits, including carbon sequestration.

“We have seen too much emphasis on taking land out of agricultural production for tree planting, rewilding, solar energy, biodiversity net gain and schemes to achieve nutrient neutrality for housebuilders,” he said.

“Farmers and growers have a unique ability to deliver high quality food and significant benefits for the environment, including the sequestration and storage of vast amounts of carbon.”