The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is seeking crucial amendments to the Agriculture Bill as it enters its final Parliamentary stages.
This week, members of the House of Lords will begin debating the Report Stage of the Agriculture Bill, before it heads back to the House of Commons for sign off prior to Royal assent. The new legislation will provide the foundation upon which future policy for agriculture and the farmed environment will be built in the years ahead.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “We need this new legislation as it will provide the powers that Government Ministers in England need to implement new policies for farming, as we leave behind those we have known as part of the EU. It also has wider implications for the whole of the UK in those areas where Westminster retains responsibility within the Devolution settlement, including on trade and the regulation of food supply chains”.
“Much of the policy detail will be set out in Regulations, but it is essential that the primary legislation underpinning those Regulations is robust. Whilst we welcome the provisions within the Bill focusing on farm tenants, there are significant weaknesses which need to be addressed. The TFA is encouraging their lordships to ensure that these shortcomings are addressed before the Bill receives Royal Assent,” said Mr Dunn.
Without their landlord’s consent, a significant number of farm tenants will struggle to take part in the flagship ‘public payments for public goods’ policy to be created under the new legislation. Whilst the Bill provides a good framework for some farm tenants to appeal against the refusal of their landlords to let them take part in schemes, newer tenants occupying on Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs) are excluded from the appeal process. The Government argues that as FBTs are normally let for shorter terms and therefore renegotiated more often, tenants should be able to negotiate the terms that they need to take part in new schemes.
“With FBTs representing nearly half the land in the tenanted sector of agriculture in England, it makes no sense that they should be excluded from the appeal process. The Government’s argument misunderstands the way in which the let land market operates. With many more people seeking than providing opportunities to farm, landlords are routinely able to dictate the terms under which farms are let. Without an adequate appeals process, many FBT tenants will be locked out of future schemes,” said Mr Dunn.