The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is calling for urgent action from the Government to make necessary changes to the legislative and fiscal frameworks within which agricultural tenancies operate.
At least one third of the agricultural area of England and Wales is farmed by those who rent their land. Although there are many good landlord tenant relationships, too often farm tenants are operating under restrictive agreements on short lengths of term at rents which are too high.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn said “DEFRA Secretary of State, Michael Gove talks about the ‘unfrozen moment’ afforded by Brexit allowing the UK Governments to produce domestically designed agricultural policy, free from the shackles of EU constraints. However, DEFRA and the other devolved administrations have never been constrained by the EU in respect of agricultural tenancy legislation, or the taxation environment within which it operates and yet they have failed to respond to the changes that have been called for over the last 10 to 15 years.”
In the summer of 2017 DEFRA asked the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) to set out a framework of recommendations which would allow the tenanted sector of agriculture to be both sustainable and resilient for the post Brexit era. Collectively, the group provided its recommendations to Government around five headings which were legislative changes required to the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, legislative changes required to the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995, taxation changes, reform of county council smallholding estates and Government policy for new entrants and retirement.
“Over a year has passed since TRIG reported to DEFRA, and it was fully anticipated that many of its recommendations would have made their way into the Agriculture Bill currently in the Committee stage within the House of Commons. However, the Government failed to deliver anything in the Bill. The TFA is therefore pressing for a Government amendment or a firm commitment to new legislation before the end of the current Parliamentary year,” said Mr Dunn.
Minister of State, George Eustice, is meeting with members of TRIG and other stakeholders on 12 November with the expectation that DEFRA is about to announce a consultation exercise around the recommendations made by TRIG.
“Whilst we have got to be encouraged that DEFRA has not forgotten the need to address issues impacting the tenanted sector of agriculture, the TFA is concerned that a further period of consultation will merely push important issues into the long grass. We need a clear commitment to legislation from Government and a firm steer from the Treasury that it will seriously look at the fiscal changes which both TRIG and the TFA have proposed. This is a must if we are to set the right economic framework for long-term, sustainable and productive farm tenancies,” said Mr Dunn