Welsh tenant farmers ponder Government proposals – and consequences

A special event was held by NFU Cymru for tenant farmers to consider the potential implications of the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation proposals.

These consultation documents – published in July – focus on farmers who do not own the land that they farm.

Proposals

The proposals contained within the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation set out how a policy centred around two large flexible schemes of economic resilience and public goods will replace the Basic Payment Scheme, which is to be phased out by 2025.

Aled Jones, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Cymru deputy president chaired the event.

He said: “The Welsh Government, in its consultation, states it needs to ensure that different ownership, landlord and tenancy models do not constrain its ability to deliver the outcomes and realise its vision for Welsh land.

“It is currently consulting on whether devolved policy change is needed.

It is clear from discussions that for some tenants there will be difficulties or barriers to accessing both the proposed Economic Resilience and Public Goods Schemes.

Regarding the Economic Resilience Scheme, the deputy president stressed that it is important to recognise that securing the landlord’s consent to take forward investment proposals is not straightforward in all cases.

“Diversification activities may also be precluded by the terms of the tenancy,” Jones explained.

“In the case of Public Goods Scheme, the fundamental question of who – the person who owns the land or the person who farms the land (where they are different) – will receive the payment for the delivery of public goods in future is not clear, nor is the extent to which public goods delivery is reliant upon and directly linked to agricultural activity.”

Some tenancy agreements specify what the land can be used for and prevent participation in public goods delivery if they are not deemed to be agricultural activity, Jones said.

“The Welsh Government is right to consult on whether there is a need to take action to ensure tenants can access new schemes; specifically whether devolved policy change is needed.”

‘Practicality far from clear’

The deputy president acknowledged that stakeholders have been engaged in discussions and made recommendations on tenancy reform via the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG).

However, the practicality of Welsh Government delivering tenancy reform at the rate and scale required – so tenant farmers are not disadvantaged as a result of Welsh Government proposals – is far from clear, he said.

“That is why it is vital that future policy and investment must support those active farmers who take the financial risks associated with food production going forward.”

‘Most significant consultation in a generation’

Elwyn Evans, NFU Cymru representative on the NFU Tenants Forum, also commented on the meeting.

“I was very pleased with the levels of interest and attendance at this meeting.

“Moving forward to the future, NFU Cymru will build on the foundations of this event with further meetings on tenant related issues. ‘Brexit and Our Land’ is the most significant consultation for Welsh farming in a generation.

We urge all farmers to consider the proposals and get involved in the consultation process.

During the meeting, specialist advice was available from Louise Staples, NFU senior rural surveyor and Eleanor Griggs, NFU land management advisor.

Representatives from NFU Legal and Rural Survey Panel firms were also present.