The Tenant Farmers Association in Wales (TFA Cymru) has called on the Welsh Government to secure vital changes to the UK Agriculture Bill, currently proceeding through the House of Commons, to protect farm tenants in Wales.
The First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, has announced that he will not be bringing forward a Welsh Agriculture Bill until after the next Welsh Assembly elections in 2021. Yet, the Welsh Government will be proceeding with its new farm policy framework which will see the removal of the Basic Payment Scheme to give way to a new sustainable land management scheme.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “We have pointed out to the Welsh Government that many farm tenants in Wales will be unable to participate in new schemes due to restrictive terms within their farm tenancy agreements. We need new legislation to provide tenants with the opportunity of overturning these restrictive clauses where landlords do not have a reasonable objection. If the Welsh Government will not be bringing forward its own legislation to achieve this before new schemes get underway, then they must secure the necessary changes within the UK Agriculture Bill”.
The Welsh Government has secured a Schedule within the UK Agriculture Bill (Schedule 3) which provides it with the cover it needs to run new schemes in Wales pending specific, made in Wales legislation. However, the Schedule is in need of amendment to ensure that farm tenants will not be disenfranchised when new schemes are introduced and that payments under those new schemes go to active farmers.
“Amendments to the Welsh Schedule to accommodate the needs of farm tenants have been tabled by Shadow Agriculture Minister, David Drew MP, the Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, Neil Parish MP and by the MP for Bishop Auckland, Helen Goodman. However, these amendments have not been taken up by the Government. Welsh Government needs to put pressure on DEFRA ministers to accept those amendments to ensure that tenant farmers will not be left out in the cold when new schemes are launched in 2021,” said Mr Dunn.
TFA Cymru welcomes the focus given to the issues affecting farm tenants in the recently issued consultation from the Welsh Government “Sustainable Farming and Our Land”. However, actions speak louder than words. For example, Welsh Government has failed to put in place new regulations covering statutory repairing clauses and end of tenancy compensation which England introduced in 2015.
“The delay in getting these regulatory changes in place is unacceptable. We cannot allow this pattern to be repeated for the new policy environment. The Welsh Government must act now to secure the necessary changes to the UK Agriculture Bill,” said Mr Dunn.