‘Warm words no substitute to affirmative action’ on farm tenancies

An organisation representing Britain’s tenant farmers has demanded the Government moves quickly to make what it describes as “much-needed changes” to the legislative framework for agricultural tenancies.

Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn said: “The Agriculture Bill was the obvious place to include the recommendations for legislative change presented to Government last autumn by the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG).

“Instead, frustratingly at this time, Defra officials have only promised a consultation on possible changes. The TFA is appealing for an absolute commitment from the Government for new legislation rather than further warm words.”

The TFA said its disappointment is “compounded” by the fact that Defra specifically asked for advice and recommendations on what changes would be needed to assist the tenanted sector of agriculture in the post-Brexit, economic environment.

“To ask for recommendations and then to do nothing with them is illogical. We must have Government amendments to the Agriculture Bill to plug this gap or a commitment to an early, agricultural tenancies Bill,” said Dunn.

The TFA is also submitting its representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in advance of this year’s autumn budget statement.

“The Government has challenged the farming industry to achieve greater levels of productivity. The tenanted sector of agriculture accepts that challenge but needs the Government to play its part by bringing forward essential changes to tenancy legislation and taxation of land,” said Dunn.

Ending short-term tenancies

One of the TFA’s keystone recommendations is to encourage landlords to offer longer-term farm business tenancies by restricting existing Inheritance Tax Agricultural Property Relief available for let agricultural land, only to those landlords prepared to let for 10 years or more.

The fact that 85% of all farm business tenancies are let for five years or less is no basis for a sustainable tenanted sector.

“The taxation system should not be rewarding landlords taking a short-term approach and providing little benefit to society.

‘More sustainable’

“Farm tenants need long-term security to meet the Government’s aspiration of ensuring a continuing supply of quality food produced to high animal welfare and environmental standards whilst, at the same time, delivering wider environmental and societal benefits.

“Our representations focus on the need for reform within the taxation environment to encourage longer and more sustainable farm tenancies.

“Again, for many years, there has been much talk about the need for taxation reform but very little action to effect real change. Reform in this area is considerably overdue.”