The Tenant Farmers Association in Wales (TFA Cymru) has responded to the Welsh Government consultation on proposals for reform of agricultural tenancies in Wales.
TFA Cymru Chairman, Dennis Matheson, said “This could be a truly historic moment for Welsh agriculture given that it marks the first major review of agricultural tenancies carried out by the Welsh Government since it took over responsibility for agricultural tenancies under the Devolution settlement. However, the Welsh Government must devote sufficient time, energy and resource to delivering the outcomes required”.
TFA Cymru has concerns about the extent to which the Welsh Government has the capacity to deliver real change for agricultural tenants, particularly, in light of its failure to date to bring forward relatively modest changes to model repairing obligations for agricultural landlords and tenants, despite a similar exercise having been completed in England four years ago.
“In all of our discussions with the Welsh Government there is an appreciation of the need to ensure that tenants are not left behind in the development of new policy areas, particularly as articulated through the Welsh Government policy statement, ‘Brexit and our land’. However, it needs to match its rhetoric with real action and given how long it has taken to enact relatively straightforward regulations on repairing obligations, we fear that it will find it even more difficult to make the necessary changes to primary legislation required by many of the proposals within the consultation document. With new support schemes planned for 2021 there is not much time to progress the necessary changes to tenancy legislation,” said Mr Matheson.
Specific consideration needs to be given to trees and woodlands in the context of farm tenancies. With the ambition to create a Welsh National Forest and with the aim to see the planting of 4000 ha of new woodland each year, the Welsh Government needs to understand that in most cases tenants are barred from planting trees on their holdings by their tenancy agreements and any trees which do exist, or are planted, are usually reserved to the landlord.
“Some landlords may seek to end secure tenancies to take advantage of tree planting particularly where grants are available. To this end, grants must not be made available to landlords for tree planting where a farm tenancy is in place or where a tenancy has been ended in the 12 months prior to any application for the grant being made. This should encourage landlords to be more willing to discuss tree planting schemes with their tenants rather than seeking to impose them. Equally, TFA Cymru understands why there need to be safeguards in place to prevent tenants from planting trees without restriction. However, the planting of trees by tenants should be considered as part of the proposal to allow tenants to question landlords’ unreasonable refusal of consent to carry out activities restricted within leases,” said Mr Matheson.