‘Grave concern’ for England’s tenant farmers in new schemes

The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) has expressed its grave concerns about tenant farmers in England being both unable to access new farm environmental schemes and being “pushed out” by landlords wanting to participate themselves.

Th association’s comments come after Secretary of State, Rt Hon George Eustice MP spoke at the virtual Oxford Farming Conference today (Thursday, January 6) providing details on the Local Nature Recovery (LNR) and Landscape Recovery (LR) elements of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) being launched in England.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said “it is alarming that after more than three years of discussions with Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), including through the debates which took place during the passage of the Agriculture Act 2020 through Parliament, that it has no clear plan on how tenant farmers, particularly those on Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) agreements, will be able to access these schemes”.

“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 (and those who use common land) can access schemes,” he continued.

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.

“We have been clear with Defra about our concerns on the extent to which FBT tenants will be both disenfranchised from accessing LNR and LR due to landlords refusing consent and also dislocated by landlords who may consider trying to access schemes themselves.

“We have said that the provisions in the Agriculture Act 2020 which allow tenants who occupy under Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 agreements to formally object to their landlord’s unreasonable refusal to allow access to ELMS to be extended to FBT tenants.

We have also called for a ban on landlords accessing schemes for at least 12 months after they have served notices to quit on their tenants.”

Dunn said the association is “chasing” for progress on agreements made between TFA and Minister Victoria Prentis last year.