The Tenant Farmers Association in Wales (TFA Cymru) has urged that the particular challenges likely to be encountered by those who rent farm land post Brexit are fully addressed.
Whilst commending the Welsh Government for taking early steps to plan its strategy for the agricultural industry in Wales post Brexit, TFA Cymru argues that tenant farmers, who are responsible for farming over a quarter of all agricultural land in Wales, are not inadvertently excluded from access to new policies, programmes and initiatives developed for the post Brexit era.
TFA Cymru chairman Dennis Matheson said “The date for leaving the EU is now less than 18 months away and there is no doubt that we will see this time eaten up quickly. There is much to do both at a UK level and in Wales. There is no doubt that the Welsh Government is streets ahead of Westminster and the assurance of continuing support for agriculture in Wales is indeed welcome. However, we need the architects of whatever new schemes replace the current CAP arrangements to understand and facilitate easy access for tenant farmers.”
The strictures of agricultural tenancy legislation and the restrictions of tenancy agreements themselves need to be borne in mind when developing new schemes and initiatives.
“Typically tenanted land can only be used for agricultural purposes unless prior written consent is gained from the landlord and such consent is not always easy to achieve. This can be an issue where a tenant wishes to participate in an agri-environment scheme or take advantage of a Rural Development initiative as they might find themselves in breach of their tenancy agreements and subject to possible enforcement by their landlords.” said Mr Matheson.
“Either we need scheme rules to be drawn up to reflect these issues or we will need to see changes to tenancy legislation to provide reasonable access to new initiatives. I would encourage the Welsh Government to look at some of the ideas for this which have been discussed within the Tenancy Reform Industry Group,” said Mr Matheson.
“Additionally with the average length of FBTs now only four and a half years against a minimum requirement for agri-environment schemes of five years or more, some tenants could be excluded from these scheme,” said Mr Matheson.
“Also, to date the Welsh Government has been good at ensuring that schemes and initiatives targeted at active farmers are not hijacked by landlords as happens across the border in England with so-called “dual use” where landlords are able to directly apply for agri-environment funding over the heads of their tenant farmers. The Welsh Government must continue its stance on this when it develops its new arrangements,” said Mr Matheson.
“There has been much talk about diversification as a way for farmers to supplement their farming income. That again usually requires the prior written consent of the landlord. Even when consent is granted, tenants often have to pay a price for this either as a licence fee or in an enhanced level of rent which can render the proposed venture uneconomic,” said Mr Matheson.
“When developing policy, Government needs simply to build into its thinking the unique circumstances faced by tenant farmers and TFA Cymru will continue to work closely with Government to that end” said Mr Matheson.