The Rock Review, published today (Thursday, October 13), is clear on the essential role of tenant farmers in delivering environmental targets, food security and a growing rural economy.

The review, which was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in January of this year, aimed to look at how to provide better support to tenant farmers.

It was produced by the Tenancy Working Group (TWG).

The review makes a series of recommendations to government to enable the tenanted sector to deliver sustainable food production, meet the challenges of climate change and improve and enhance biodiversity.

Baroness Kate Rock, who led the review, said that the report provides a clear vision for the agricultural tenanted sector in England that “Defra can and should adopt”.

Kate Rock said the review delved into the issues facing the tenanted sector, and surfaced the following concerns that need to be addressed:

  • Improving the tenant-landlord relationship;
  • Ensuring the growth and viability of businesses in the tenanted sector;
  • Preventing tenant farmers from going bankrupt;
  • Minismising the loss of land from the tenanted sector;
  • Reducing scheme complexity and ensuring flexibility and access for tenants;
  • And public support for permanent land use changes including tree planting, and the creation of habitats.

Advice to Defra

Rock said that the managing and coordinating of how land in England is used needs to be improved.

“We also want to highlight that tenant farmers have rights. They have the right to sanctity of contract, the covenant of quiet enjoyment of the rented land, they have the right to develop a viable business, and they have the right to a future livelihood,” she said.

“Our challenge, and the one that we now pass to Defra, has been to navigate the balance of rights and obligations from both the tenant and landlord.”

“Rights are not inherent, they are formed through decades of experience, cultural views, institutions, and legislation. They change over time to suit the needs of the present and future.”

“The recommendations, when taken together, actively move the sector towards a position where tenanted farmers operate resilient, successful and thriving businesses,” she said.

“Some recommendations can be more immediately delivered by Defra such as changes to scheme design that would expand the opportunities for tenant farmers to access support for improving the environment alongside producing food.”‘

Rock said that some of the other recommendations were more structural, and would put the tenanted sector on more resilient footing as it moves the the agricultural transition.

“They will encourage tenant farmers and landlords to collaborate and invest in productivity, improve the environment and drive growth in the rural economy,” she said.


Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena, thanked Rock and her team for “providing their analysis of the issues and opportunities facing tenant farmers in England”.

“The review is right to set out the importance of having a thrived tenanted sector if we are to deliver growth in our rural economy and unlock farmers’ potential to improve the environment,” he said.

Jayawardena said the department would be looking closely at the recommendations of the report.

“As we look at how we best deliver our environmental schemes, we will make sure that the needs of tenant farmers remain central to our plans,” he said.

The full review from the TWG can be found on the UK government’s website.