The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has outlined four key priorities for the next Westminster government to support and strengthen the resilience of the tenanted agricultural sector.

TFA national chair, Robert Martin, emphasised the significance of a policy reset during a General Election and the opportunity to gauge candidates’ commitment to farming issues.

“In listening to the views of the TFA membership, we have identified four key areas of concern,” he said.

These areas include:

  • Implementing recommendations from the Rock Review into agricultural tenancies;
  • Ensuring fairness in food and agricultural supply chains;
  • Enhancing agricultural exports post-Brexit while reducing unnecessary regulation;
  • Balancing food, environmental, and energy security.

The Rock Review’s recommendations provide a comprehensive policy template for the next government, according to Martin.

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

A need for further progress

Martin noted the establishment of the Tenant Farming Commissioner as a positive step but highlighted the need for further progress, particularly in Agricultural Property Relief to encourage longer tenancies.

He also called for fair market returns for tenant farmers and growers.

“Farmers and growers are not subsidy junkies. There is enough evidence to show market failure in food supply chains in this country,” he 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.”

‘We need a bold government’

Martin said ‘”scant use” has been made of post-Brexit freedoms so far, including using them to enhance the country’s trading position as an exporting country and in removing “unnecessary regulations”.

“So far, 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,” he said.

“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.”

Lastly, Martin criticised policies that prioritise non-agricultural land use, such as tree planting, rewilding, and solar energy.

He emphasised the need for a balanced approach that recognises the dual role of farmers in producing high-quality 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.”