The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has once again called for Government intervention to break the long running pattern of short-term Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) in England and Wales.
As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 UN climate conference, tenant farmers are being stifled in pursuing climate friendly farming practices due to the short-term nature of the opportunities their landlords are providing. UK policymakers, not least within the Treasury, need to understand the benefit of longer-term tenancies to support farm resilience, environmental outcomes, carbon management and sustainable rural communities.
The recently published agricultural land occupation report from the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers found that the average length of term on all new FBTs was just under 3 ½ years and nearly 90% of all agreements were let for 5 years or less In addition, worryingly, the report also indicates a net loss in area within the tenanted sector of agriculture for the first time in eight years.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “The TFA has consistently made the case that, in the main, landlords have been poor custodians of FBTs. FBTs are too short in length, too restrictive and onerous in their terms and often let at unsustainable levels of rent. The solution comes through making changes to the taxation framework within which landlords make decisions about letting land to incentivise longer tenancies and penalise shorter ones. The taxation changes TFA proposes, and which should come at no additional Exchequer cost, have received support from other quarters, most recently from the Government’s own food Tzar, Henry Dimbleby, in his final report on the National Food Strategy delivered to DEFRA in the summer. However, with another Budget just behind us, we have yet again seen the failure of Government to act.”
“Climate friendly farming requires long-term investment in soils, pastures, hedgerows, trees, peatland, sustainable grazing systems and also the chance to use innovations such as agroforestry, regenerative techniques and integrated crop management. We need to get average lengths of term to at least 10 years. Short-term tenancies have their place for specialist crops, but they should not be the norm,” said Mr Dunn.
“The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues taking to the Glasgow stage will be full of rhetoric about the need for us all to take a long-term view. Tenant farmers in England and Wales are crying out for the opportunity to take that long-term view, but are denied that perspective by the short-term view of their landlords,” said Mr Dunn.