The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) and DEFRA have joined forces to hold two discussion groups on DEFRA’s consultation on reforms to agricultural tenancies open for responses until 02 July.
The events were held at Scotch Corner, North Yorkshire on 03 June and at the Kent Showground, near Maidstone on 17 June. The events gave tenant farmers the opportunity to present their views directly to the officials responsible for drawing up the consultation.
TFA Adviser, Caroline Foot, who gave a summary of the TFA’s initial views on the consultation proposals at each meeting, said “Both events were very well attended, and everyone involved agreed that the discussions were useful and interesting. The direct engagement from DEFRA, who proposed the meetings, was very much welcomed. It gave our members the opportunity to get more information on the proposals within the consultation straight from the horse’s mouth, and likewise, it gave DEFRA representatives the opportunity to hear some tenants’ views first-hand, which will feed straight back into their analysis of the consultation”.
The proposals generally received positive feedback from tenants, though naturally there were some concerns, including:
“There was worry about the apparent emphasis on ‘ousting’ the older generation and the view that older farmers shouldn’t be assumed to be less productive or able. There was also concern that the proposals almost exclusively relate to Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies, when Farm Business Tenancies need to be addressed too; particularly unaffordable rents in some areas and short lengths of term,” said Caroline.
A major disappointment, shared by the TFA, was the lack of any proposals relating to taxation measures – a key influence on behaviour within the let sector.
“Whilst DEFRA explained it was unable to make proposals on tax as it is a matter for the Treasury, this lack of a holistic approach from Government, with Departments seemingly unable to work together on these cross-Government issues, was criticised by TFA members at the meetings. DEFRA did point out that if there was a clear line from the consultation responses on Tax then it would be prepared to approach the Treasury on this issue,” said Caroline.
The TFA will be using the comments collated at the meetings to aid its formal response to the consultation and would encourage any tenant farmers to review the proposals and submit their own responses. It is important that anyone potentially affected by the proposals takes the opportunity to have their say.