Farming News - Local Nature Recovery & Landscape Recovery Schemes Leave Farm Tenants out in the Cold

Local Nature Recovery & Landscape Recovery Schemes Leave Farm Tenants out in the Cold

06 Jan 2022
Frontdesk / Finance

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has expressed its grave concerns about tenant farmers in England being both unable to access new farm environmental schemes and being pushed out by landlords wanting to participate themselves.

It follows today’s speech by DEFRA Secretary of State, Rt Hon George Eustice MP, to the virtual Oxford Farming Conference, which provided details on the Local Nature Recovery (LNR) and Landscape Recovery (LR) elements of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) being launched in England.

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “It is alarming that after more than three years of discussions with DEFRA, including through the debates which took place during the passage of the Agriculture Act 2020 through Parliament, that it has no clear plan on how tenant farmers, particularly those on Farm Business Tenancy (FBT) agreements, will be able to access these schemes. Payments under the Basic Payment Scheme are being removed from tenant farmers in real time while we have a vague commitment for further work to be undertaken on how tenants (and those who use common land) can access schemes. It does feel like we are pushing water uphill given that we have already provided DEFRA with solutions which we urgently need to see implemented”.

“We have been clear with DEFRA about our concerns on the extent to which FBT tenants will be both disenfranchised from accessing LNR and LR due to landlords refusing consent and also dislocated by landlords who may consider trying to access schemes themselves. We have said that the provisions in the Agriculture Act 2020 which allow tenants who occupy under Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 agreements to formally object to their landlord’s unreasonable refusal to allow access to ELMS to be extended to FBT tenants. We have also called for a ban on landlords accessing schemes for at least 12 months after they have served notices to quit on their tenants”.

The TFA had an hour-long meeting with DEFRA Minister Victoria Prentis towards the end of last year resulting in the following being agreed:-

• DEFRA would put the landlord community on notice that if it did not act reasonably in terms of allowing access to new Government assistance schemes for tenants occupying on FBT agreements, the Government would act to reconsider whether the provisions within the Agriculture Act 2020 (which allow tenants occupying on Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 tenancies to formally object to their landlords unreasonable refusal to allow access to schemes) should be extended to Farm Business Tenancies.
• Given the TFA report that a significant amount of the issues faced are as a result of the actions of landlords’ agents, DEFRA agreed to arrange a meeting with senior figures from the national firms of land agents to remind them of their responsibilities and to exhort them to show better practice.
• DEFRA also undertook to liaise with the Treasury in respect of the necessary tax changes needed to incentivise the longer tenancies needed for farm tenants to fully participate in the new schemes being developed and to be sustainable and resilient into the longer term.

“Since the meeting we have been chasing for progress on these points including through further meetings with officials,” said Mr Dunn.