TFA warns that half of tenant farmers could be excluded from future schemes

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is warning that up to half of tenant farmers may be excluded from new government schemes developed to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and access to developing markets for carbon and biodiversity offsets.

TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said:

“Up to half of the tenanted sector of agriculture in England and Wales operates under Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) which are characterised both by very short lengths of term and restrictive clauses.

In many cases tenants are not allowed to enter government schemes for the improvement of the environment without their landlord’s consent and it is also often the case that landlords themselves reserve the right to take the benefit of new schemes themselves.

“It is also the case that landlords often reserve the right to the benefit of private arrangements for carbon and biodiversity offsetting.

“The TFA recognises the opportunity to develop new schemes targeting the environment and new markets for positive carbon and biodiversity management, which will replace funding under the CAP over time.

“However, we cannot support a situation where the funding is removed from tenant farmers and is received instead by their landlords.

“Landlords are entitled to receive rent in return for granting exclusive occupation of their land to active farmers.

“They should not be able to capitalise directly through government schemes and other arrangements,” added Dunn.

Despite the TFA’s strong lobbying, it is unfortunate that the government decided not to include provisions within the Agriculture Act which would have protected access to new schemes for tenants occupying under FBTs.

“The government must now address these issues through the way it designs schemes to protect access for tenant farmers,” said Dunn.

Attention to detail

Farm tenants must also pay particular attention to the detail of any new tenancy agreements they are asked to sign.

The TFA said that even where it seems that the agreements are allowing tenants to access schemes, they may end up restricting the tenant in other ways.

TFA’s recommended professional, Philip Meade, from Davis Meade Property Consultants, said:

We are becoming increasingly concerned about some of the clauses being used in the development of standard ‘template’ FBTs which insist on the tenant obtaining and maintaining maximum rights and entitlements under any new government schemes.

“Davis Meade Property Consultants is part of a consortium that is working on some ground-breaking proposals for farming, involving private sector funding which could be far more lucrative and flexible than some of the proposed government schemes.

“It would be a lost opportunity (for both landlords and tenants) to see tenancies restricted to government schemes only precluding prospects for working with the private sector,” Meade concluded.