The UK government has today (Wednesday, May 24) established a Farm Tenancy Forum in response to recommendations in the Rock Review, which it said aims to support tenant farmers and the “unique challenges” they face.
The Rock Review was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in January 2022 with the aim of looking at how to provide better support to tenant farmers.
It was published in October of 2022 by Baroness Kate Rock and the Tenancy Working Group, and made 74 main recommendations to the government on how to best support tenant farmers and the sector as a whole.
Farm Tenancy Forum
The Farm Tenancy Forum is a joint industry and Defra group that will have the primary role of supporting the implementation of the government response to the Rock Review.
It will explore all issues relating to the tenant farming sector in England and provide engagement and feedback between Defra and the tenanted sector, the UK government said.
The forum is made up of members of industry organisations which represent tenant farmers, landlords and professional advisors working in the sector.
Organisations representing tenant farmers will be:
- Tenant Farmers Association (TFA);
- National Farmers Union (NFU);
- National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs ( NFYFC).
Organisations representing landlords will be:
- Country Land and Business Association (CLA);
- Association of Chief Estates Surveyors (local authorities with tenant farming estates);
- Institutional Landowners Group.
Organisations representing professional advisors will be the Agricultural Law Association (ALA); the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV); and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Government officials will be Defra officials (officials to provide policy support) and Welsh government officials (when agricultural legislation is being discussed).
The forum has seven main objectives. These include to:
- Support the implementation of the government response to the Rock Review, feeding back real-world experience and insight on progress;
- Meet quarterly – the Defra Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries to attend, to provide updates, feedback, and insights on how the tenanted sector is progressing and adapting through the agricultural transition period and beyond;
- Provide regular feedback on trends in tenant/landlord agreements and report any emerging issues that may need addressing;
- Feed in evidence and insights to Defra on farming policy and environmental land management scheme design and delivery, and how they are accessible to, and impacting on, the tenanted sector;
- Feed in evidence and insights to Defra on matters relating to agricultural tenancy legislation in England and Wales;
- Develop and disseminate industry codes of good practice, guidance and standards of conduct and behaviour that will be help encourage collaborative relationships and uptake, and access to new schemes by the tenanted sector;
- Provide balanced feedback from the perspectives of all interests in the tenanted sector including tenant farmers, landlords and professional advisors.
Baroness Rock has welcomed today’s announcement of the Farm Tenancy Forum, but said she would have liked the government’s response to “fully recognise all the findings of the review”.
“Whilst I welcome the new Farm Tenancy Forum, this must be focused on implementing the findings of the review to be successful,” she said.
Chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), George Dunn, agreed with Baroness Rock and said that the forum must focus on implementation rather than “going over the arguments already considered by the Rock Review”.
“The last thing we need is a review of the review. The Rock Review report with its 74 main recommendations hangs together as a coherent narrative,” he said.
“The report comprehensively addresses the issues identified by government at the time it called the Rock Review together including in respect of productivity, resilience, enhancing natural capital, food security and providing opportunities for new entrants.
“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.”
Dunn said that, overall, it was “disappointing” that Defra 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,” he said.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) reiterated the sentiments of both Baroness Rock and Dunn, with its vice-president David Exwood declaring that the forum must be “up and running as quickly as possible”.
“There are challenges ahead and more work to do to support our farming tenant members and the NFU will be working closely with government to take all their considerations forward including the proposed Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Code of Practice,” he said.
“Ultimately, these reforms must enable us to grow a more vibrant, accessible and resilient tenanted farming sector.”
Exwood said the NFU welcomes much of what Defra announced today and appreciates that the forum would “meet regularly and consider how the sector is progressing throughout the agricultural transition”.
“As we said last October when Baroness Kate Rock published her independent review, agricultural tenants have a vital role in delivering this government’s food production and environmental ambitions, and in growing our rural economies, with landlords and tenants working together to achieve this,” he said.