The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has welcomed the promotion of George Eustice to become the new DEFRA Secretary of State.
TFA chief executive, George Dunn, said “It’s good to see that the Prime Minister has appointed someone who actually wanted the role rather than it being used either as a stepping-stone to something else or a demotion as has previously been the case. His many years of service on the DEFRA brief, both in opposition and Government should stand him in good stead for the work ahead”.
There are many work streams in active progress, not least those which have their focus within the Agriculture Bill currently progressing through Parliament.
“Not only is the TFA concerned to ensure that the new legislation will provide a beneficial framework for the future success of UK agriculture, but that it does so in a way which ensures full participation by the tenanted sector. George Eustice has shown his understanding of the particular issues facing the tenanted sector during his time at DEFRA. I am therefore encouraged that he will take this concern and knowledge into his new, overarching role,” said Mr Dunn.
“A major concern of the TFA has been about extending security of tenure on Farm Business Tenancies which is abominably low. 90% of new Farm Business Tenancies are now let for 5 years or less. Mr Eustice has previously indicated his belief that changes to the taxation framework within which landlords make decisions are required. We hope, as a member of the Cabinet, he will have some influence in this respect with his new colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak,” said Mr Dunn.
Another area that the TFA is encouraging the new Secretary of State to take forward is reform of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) which, to date, DEFRA has not been able to take forward since calling for views last year.
“The TFA believes that AHDB requires significant reform if it is to be a catalyst for resilience, development and growth in our sector. Whilst it is already doing some good work in terms of market development, the TFA believes that this should be its principal focus, leaving behind its traditional knowledge transfer role. We are keen to hear from the Secretary of State as to what his plans are to reinvigorate the review process, said Mr Dunn”.
More immediately, the TFA is asking for an early decision from the new Secretary of State on a wet weather derogation for the Basic payment scheme.
“The Secretary of State has always been clear that DEFRA needs to be able to respond in a practical way to issues as they arise, rather than having to be tied by a rigid regulatory framework. For such a time as this, we need the Secretary of State to use the flexibility available to him to provide a derogation from the Greening rules, particularly crop diversification, under the Basic Payment Scheme for the current year,” said Mr Dunn.