The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has welcomed the support it has received from a number of MPs in tabling important amendments to the Agriculture Bill aimed to ensure tenant farmers are not left out from accessing new schemes post-Brexit.
The Agriculture Bill sets out both the framework for the transition from the Common Agricultural Policy schemes currently in place, towards new schemes focusing on public payments for public goods and productivity.
However, in many cases, tenant farmers may be precluded from taking advantage of these new arrangements due to clauses within their tenancy agreements.
Right to arbitration
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “With 30% of all farmland being tenanted, it is really important that all farmers have fair access to the new schemes being developed in both England and Wales.
Where tenants are restricted from entering into new schemes by the terms of their agreements, they must have the right to overturn those restrictions subject to landlords being able to make reasonable objections.
Shadow Agriculture Minister, David Drew has tabled an amendment, backed by several other MPs, enabling tenants to pursue any objection from a landlord to arbitration or expert determination.
“We have asked the Government to consider supporting this amendment at Report Stage of the Bill in the House of Commons," Dunn said.
Although DEFRA Ministers have acknowledged the issues, we have yet to receive any assurance that the amendment will be accepted or if the Government will come forward with its own amendment.
"This may be an issue that we will have to continue to pursue when the Bill heads to the House of Lords."
Active farmers amendment
Another important set of amendments has been tabled by Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman to ensure that any payments available through new schemes are only made to 'active farmers'.
“We have seen, in the past, that individuals farming land, often lose out to those who own the land when schemes are available to support agri-environment objectives, diversification and productivity.
"We want the assurance that payments can only be made to individuals who are in occupation of the land being used for the scheme, taking the entrepreneurial risk of the activities on that land and in day-to-day management control,” said Mr Dunn.